2017 WorldTour teams preview: Katusha-Alpecin
Dec 29 2016 09:34 pm CET

2017 WorldTour teams preview: Katusha-Alpecin

On day three of our WorldTour team preview series, we take a look at an increasingly international Katusha-Alpecin.

Big changes have taken place at Katusha-Alpecin ahead of the 2017 season. Not only did they sign several key riders including World Time Trial champion Tony Martin, they also changed nationalities (from Russian to Swiss) and attracted a new co-sponsor.

The Russian atmosphere still exists at the team, which was evident at the team presentation in Spain on December 3rd, but the international mood is slowly beginning to take over. Many Russian riders departed the formation since the end of the 2016 campaign and new signings are all from different countries. In addition, general manager Viatcheslav Ekimov stepped down in favor of Portuguese former rider Jose Azevedo.

Katusha-Alpecin presented itself as four different sub-teams, so to speak: The Grand Tour racers led by Ilnur Zakarin, the classics and sprinters team led by Alexander Kristoff, the time trialists led by Tony Martin and a group of all-rounders, not visibly led by anyone.

Zakarin continues to be the principal Russian bet for the team although he will skip the Tour de France this year in order to fight for the general classification at both the Giro d'Italia and the Vuelta a España. This looks like a logical step for the 27-year-old who finished 25th in this year's Tour de France but impressed by finishing in the top five of shorter stage races such as Paris-Nice and the Tour de Romandie.

With the arrival of Tony Martin, coming from Etixx-Quick Step, Katusha-Alpecin is putting an emphasis on its time trial capacities. This is further confirmed by the arrival of the two most recent World Under-23 Time Trial champions; Marco Mathis and Mads Wurtz Schmidt.

Martin is set to focus on spring classics like the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix and the World Time Trial Championships in Norway later in the year, but his principal target may well be the conquest of the first Yellow Jersey of the Tour de France. Taking place in his home country, the start of the Tour de France will be particularly special to Martin. He is careful to put too much pressure on himself however.

"It doesn't happen so often that the Tour de France comes to Germany and even with a prologue, which is already a short time trial. I don't want to put too much pressure on myself because there are still Rohan Denis and Tom Dumoulin who will also be really strong and motivated for this day but after the classics for sure I will be focused 100 percent on this day. With Alpecin being a German sponsor it's even more important. I know this and I will prepared the best way I can," he told journalists at the presentation.

The final member of the team's trio of stars, Norway's Alexander Kristoff, will aim to repeat his Milano-San Remo victory of 2014 and the Tour of Flanders win of 2015 and plans to make an appearance in all spring classics up to Paris-Roubaix.

The season is likely to be an interesting challenge for Kristoff as he continues to find a balance between sprinting and classics. The Scandinavian himself believes that while he is losing the explosive qualities of a sprinter as he gets older, he is now capable of longer and stronger intervals. This would suit him for classics and other tough races.

The many changes and new faces at the team can always cause some issues but Azevedo believes that things are going surprisingly well. "Things have come together faster than I expected especially with all of the new people. We have 40 percent new people in the team for the riders and we also have changes on the staffing side. It can take time for the new people to integrate into the system and understand how things work," he explained

Whatever happens this season, Katusha-Alpecin has shown that it wants to be international, all-round and capable of competing for the victory in any race. It will be interesting to see whether their results match their expectations.

The complete roster

Maxim Belkov (RUS)
Jenthe Biermans (BEL)
Sven Erik Bystrøm (NOR)
José Gonçalves (POR)
Marco Haller (AUT)
Reto Hollenstein (SUI)
Robert Kišerlovski (CRO)
Pavel Kochetkov (RUS)
Alexander Kristoff (NOR)
Viacheslav Kuznetsov (RUS)
Maurits Lammertink (HOL)
Alberto Losada (ESP)
Tiago Machado (POR)
Matvey Mamykin (RUS)
Tony Martin (GER)
Marco Mathis (GER)
Michael Mørkøv (DEN)
Baptiste Planckaert (BEL)
Nils Politt (GER)
Jhonatan Restrepo (COL)
Simon Špilak (SLO)
Rein Taaramäe (EST)
Ángel Vicioso (ESP)
Mads Würtz Schmidt (DEN)
Rick Zabel (GER)
Ilnur Zakarin (RUS)

By Jonathan Roorda
Image: Team Katusha-Alpecin logo





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