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Can You Love Katusha?

Alexander Porsev Katusha
Katusha team owner Igor Makarov might be one of the wealthiest men in the world but even he’s said he can’t fund the team forever. He’s helped to bankroll the team with support from Itera, the gas giant he founded in the 1990s, since he bought out Oleg Tinkov in 2008. There’s been open talk for that he’s thinking of stepping back from the team once he’s funded Russian cycling’s journey to Rio. He’s right to question the spending given the team’s best results have come from foreigners and Russian recruits like Denis Galimzyanov and Denis Menchov have been disastrous.

Faced with this the team is setting out to woo fans and improve on the squad’s unloved image.

We have respect in the worldwide peloton but what we need is more identity. From next year we’re going to change the conception a little, we’re going to be unique, get more sponsors and become a more international team.

That’s Katusha’s general manager Viatcheslav Ekimov talking to Cyclingnews. Here’s team PR officer Philippe Maertens in the same piece:

We’re not a sexy team… …Everybody is afraid of the Russians but there is really no need because they are nice guys…but they have the kind of image that the East Europe guys are a bit closed.”

What’s in a name?
With many teams it’s hard to get excited about suppliers of laminate flooring or national lotteries but at least you know what you’re getting. Katusha has been more nebulous with many thinking the team is named after a rocket launcher and the implicit associations of Russian military assertion. However that weapon system was itself named after a folk song called Katusha about a girl called Katyusha  – the diminutive of Catherine, ie Cathy or Katie – missing a man away fighting the Nazis. So instead of a weapon system our cycling team is named after a love song, albeit with laden patriotic pride. Team Cathy if you like.

Team Kremlin
But no matter what the name or its meaning the team is obviously Russian with its red and white kit, the “Russian Cycling Project” strapline, sponsorship from Kremlin companies and team presentations complete with Red Square photoshoots. From the start Katusha hasn’t just been Russian, it’s been Team Kremlin with a board of officials close to President Putin (the full story on the team’s origins and web of komanda connections in Tinker, Tailor, Cyclist, Spy from 2011). When the UCI tried to take away the team’s licence in 2012 the team’s press release response used the word “Russian” five times, a patriotic ploy. Given all this the team’s identity is linked to perceptions of Russia, Moscow and Putin.

Back to cycling and the pachyderm in the parlour: doping. If you ignore geo-politics chances are you’ve still caught the bad news about the apparent collusion in Russian athletics. We know that Rusvelo was the first ever team to self-suspend under the MPCC rules and U23 feeder team Itera-Katusha has just had two riders stopped. Of course other countries have problems but they’re not in the headlines as much. This year Astana have been the pantomime villains aided by the Bond villain imagery of Sacha Vinokourov but there’s a strong case that Katusha score worse:

  • the UCI’s Licence Commission stripped the team of its World Tour licence leading to legal battle at the Court of Arbitration of Sport where the team won back its licence, an escalation above and beyond the Astana case
  • Katusha employ a convicted criminal as their head doctor, Andrei Mikhailov was busted for his role with the TVM team in 1998 in the wake of the Festina scandal. A long time ago but of all the doctors in the world they have the one who’s been to prison for doping
  • Ekimov himself was a long-standing US Postal and Discovery rider who probably wasn’t surprised by the revelations of USADA’s Reasoned Decision but he continues in the sport in the same way Bjarne Riis, Neil Stephens and many others do, it’s their right. But it’s just not that endearing
  • It’s not all old news, we’ve had Galimzyanov, Menchov and more. For 2015 Luca Paolini and Giampaolo Caruso, stopped this year following an EPO sample from 2012, both have open cases

If the team announced a steam clean of these Augean stables many fans would probably say “great, good news and we’ll judge you in three years’ time“.

Another image issue with Katusha is the semblance of teams with the team. There’s the Spanish stage race crew with Joaquim Rodriguez; the classics component with Alexander Kristoff where his success is regularly attributed to home training riders and coaching by his stepfather Stein Ørn, an implicit if involuntary statement that success is down to Norwegian efforts; plus a rump of Russian riders. Somehow it doesn’t seem to fit together. Not that there’s bickering between the groups, just the sense of a team split in different ways. The good news is that some storytelling can go a long way, for example how Alexey Tsatevich closed a gap to set up the win for Rodriguez or Kristoff.

The Russian Cycling Project has yet to have a star Russian rider and even if they did there’s a big language barrier. Maertens says the Russian riders “are a bit closed“. Of course there are Eastern Bloc riders who are amusing and informative to follow on Twitter, for example Ilia Koshevoy… of Lampre-Merida who has good English and Italian.

Špilak explodes with joy

Katusha’s Slovenian iceman Simon Špilak has won big but remains a mystery to many. Interviews are hard to find as is personality and even victory celebrations look bad. Now some people are like that but Katusha appears to have an oversupply of stony faced stoics with the media profile of a Dutch mountain stage.

Ilnur Zakarin

“A riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma”

Take Ilnur Zakarin, arguably the revelation of 2015 but the Stork of Tartarstan isn’t hot property. How come the media aren’t chasing them for interviews or are they only to find monosyllabic answers that are barely worth transcribing? When Zakarin won a stage of the Giro we got an interview with team svengali Sergei Outshakov. Could language lessons help? Perhaps, Zakarin for example only speaks Russian. It feels arrogant to demand foreigners adopt a European language in order to engage with the English, French, Italian, Spanish and Dutch language that makes up the bulk of the sport’s coverage.

One idea would be to use their bike sponsor better. The Cervelo Test Team had a natural following with Cervelo owners, something Trek Factory Racing and Cannondale-Garmin exploit today. Canyon bikes seem to be everywhere in Europe, their low-cost distribution model sees wide ownership and sales are soaring. But as readily as people buy Canyon bikes they’re unlikely to sport Team Kremlin jerseys. But design some fashionable kit and even bundle it with the bike sales and there’s an avenue to expand the fan base beyond Russia.

Indeed this fan aspect seems to be what’s coming. A website has been set up at katusha-sports.com and according to French website VeloPro said to be the start of a new marketing project where the team will continue under the Katusha identity but aim for new revenue sources with direct clothing sales and even “Katusha Events”. All this and more is going to be unveiled in a presentation in Calpe, Spain on 12 December.

PR Case Studies
Stepping away from the sport there’s no shortage of PR advice around for individuals, companies and even nations that are unloved. It’s hard to think of a pro team that’s gone from ugly duckling to swan though.

What does Katusha mean? They’ve topped the world rankings before and have some of the world’s best riders like Alexander Kristoff and Joaquim Rodriguez today. But they’re an unloved team and the managers want this to change. They’re right to be concerned given even the most successful teams don’t win that often so perceptive matters like popularity and public image matter.

Stepping away from the Team Kremlin image could help but it’s hard to escape the source of their funding. Management is part of the problem too, some of the staff have a dubious past and a steady drip of doping stories which keep making it hard to forget the past. They’re the only active team that’s had their licence stripped. Given this even if they get everything right in 2016 it’ll take more time to polish up their image.

But there’s more than PR here, the team wants to continue with a new model that goes beyond naming rights, to retain the Katusha name as a permanent feature rather than subverting its identity every few years as sponsors come and go. The team will get more international, it has to given the Russian consumer market and TV audience alone isn’t big enough to support it. This is an interesting project and worth following.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • J Evans Saturday, 28 November 2015, 3:04 pm

    No. Because I strongly suspect – given the evidence – that a lot of them are cheating. And that’s before you factor in any political aspects. Both are also true of Astana.

    • Chris Saturday, 28 November 2015, 3:33 pm

      You can’t say that!! We all suspect it, but apparently you can’t say it or do anything about it.

      • J Evans Saturday, 28 November 2015, 6:22 pm

        Yup, I don’t think their unpopularity has anything to do with surliness or their kit (my favourite in the peloton, I think), it’s because we all suspect what they’re about. Presumably, journalists haven’t bothered to interview Zakarin because they only have one question.

        • Anonymous Sunday, 29 November 2015, 3:28 pm


          EVERY team has dopers. Cycling has NEVER been a clean sport.

      • Anonymous Sunday, 29 November 2015, 4:01 pm

        Where were you when the money behind this team of so-called cheaters was funding the campaign of a brainless milk toast and a smear campaign targeting the only UCI president to actually do anything about doping?

        Everybody’s chance for a cleaner sport came and went with the last administration..

        • Sam Sunday, 29 November 2015, 5:16 pm

          Afternoon, LM, How you been?

          • J Evans Sunday, 29 November 2015, 7:07 pm

            Been mental by the sounds of it. I’m far from Cookson’s biggest fan, but it’s rare to find a McQuaid fan.
            (I’m so intrigued – who is LM?)

          • Andrew Tuesday, 1 December 2015, 4:00 pm

            LM is a McQuaid apologist (although that hardly does justice to the vehemence of his defence) who popped up at every opportunity to criticise the new UCI regime even before it took shape, but has been quiet in recent months.

          • sam Tuesday, 1 December 2015, 4:09 pm

            What Andrew says. McQuaid family friend, I believe. Whose shining moments have included erroneously trying to ‘out’ a critic of McQuaid’s of having been a member of the IRA when a student (got the name confused, see)

          • J Evans Tuesday, 1 December 2015, 6:11 pm

            Crikey. There are no other words.

    • Neuron1 Saturday, 28 November 2015, 9:03 pm

      Every single mountain stage in which Team Sky domestiques destroy the peloton and cause the best climbers from each and every team to get dropped, I just wonder. Qunitana, Contador, Nibali, Hesjedal, Rodriguez, Bardet, Pinot, etc just getting spit out the back while the Sky train rolls on relentlessly . Then I wonder how the fans can be so delusional as to think that because a rider hails from an English speaking land or wears a certain team kit, he or she couldn’t possibly be doing what everyone else is accused of.

      • J Evans Saturday, 28 November 2015, 11:40 pm

        Firstly, I didn’t say – and have never said – that Sky are clean.
        I mentioned Katusha and Astana because there’s a lot more evidence about them. They’re also mentioned in the article, whereas Sky are not.
        Secondly, in what race were Quintana, Contador and Nibali being dropped by Team Sky domestiques? Was it just Stage 10 of the TdF? (Where one Team Sky domestique – Porte, who had taken it very easy in the early stages – beat Quintana by 5 seconds. Rolland beat Nibali by well over 2 minutes on that stage – what does that prove?)
        Also, I seem to remember Quintana dropping Froome in the last two mountain stages of the Tour.
        I think I might start keeping a tally of the number of times I get called pro-Sky and anti-Sky – must be about even.

        • Neuron1 Sunday, 29 November 2015, 3:58 am

          Froome had bronchitis (at least by his own reckoning) the last couple of stages at this years TDF and still was able to nearly keep up with Qunitana on the last two stages. Stage 10 was certainly a climbing clinic by Sky. Stage 12, Porte rode down attacks by Contador, Nibali, and Valverde with nonchalance. After whittling down the peloton to only 8 or 9 top riders Froome attacked and was able to follow other’s attacks. Thomas then rapidly caught up with with the elite group and lead it until the end. On stage 19 Nibali took 1:50 into the beginning of the final climb while Froome gained 35 seconds, on the climb (net loss of 1:15). Stage 20 was again classic Sky. The Dauphine, was more of the same. I have a similar perspective to you regarding Sky, I am neither pro or con. I just wish equal skepticism was applied to all amazing team performances. Regarding Astana, I realize they have a very tainted past. But a great deal of that was prior to the current crop of riders. The Iglinsky brothers, because there are two of them to test positive magnifies the problem. However, they are eastern bloc riders, who reside there, where, from what I read, continue to have easy access to myriad doping products. Just look at the recent WADA report. The ISSUL report regarding Astana specifically identified that exact point. As far as the minor leaguers doping, I’m guessing that is endemic in Russian sports, also as identified by the WADA report.

          I have come to believe that since most stages are so close, and the top riders so evenly matched that they are all using the same program or the peloton is dramatically cleaner. I’m hoping it is the latter.

          Sorry to come on so strong, but the level of cognitive dissonance amongst cycling fans can be overwhelming, while your comments are much more evenly applied.

          • Curious Oranj Sunday, 29 November 2015, 12:03 pm

            So, wait, SKY must be doping because they can blow off riders like Quintana etc, but also everyone must be doping (or not) because the races are so close? Hang on a second….

          • MikeF Sunday, 29 November 2015, 12:07 pm

            Team Sky clearly buy riders who would be (and have been) leaders on less rich teams, so why is it a huge surprise that these riders can keep up with the leaders of less rich teams, particularly if they don’t have to every stage and can sit up and roll in with the grupetto if they get gapped by the front group?

            The blatant ‘doping’ is financial, not pharmaceutical.

            They’re not going to have a salary cap, so that won’t solve the imbalance, but having smaller teams at the Grand Tours would make it harder for Sky to operate a rotation of domestiques.

          • Dour Scot Sunday, 29 November 2015, 12:40 pm

            The problem is evidence – Katusha have been caught doping, Sky as yet haven’t bar one rider who did it before joining them (Tiernan-Locke).

            Meanwhile, Russian sport has been accused of widespread state-led doping on a systematic way.

            It’s meaningless to talk about Katusha as being like any other team when the evidence points the other way.

          • DMC Monday, 30 November 2015, 8:08 pm

            Agreed 1000% with Neuron1 – people’s willingness to ignore indications and rumours of other top teams doping astounds me, specifically teams with a better public perception.

            There is very little objective evidence that Team Sky, Tinkoff or other top teams are using less than ethical methods to succeed, and if you suggest they aren’t being completely open/honest, the commenter gets destroyed. However, when the topic is Katusha, people are very quick to take rumours the next step and say “the team is doping” because of a handful of cases.

            Example, Viatcheslov Ekimov has a heavy cloud of suspicion over his head as the current DS of Katusha, but what of Brian Holm or Rolf Aldag at Quickstep? Or, how about Dario Cioni, Servais Knaven, Kurt Asle-Arvesen, or Nicolas Portal from Team Sky? All of these men raced on teams with heavy doping programs, and successfully too.

            These last 4 men also work for a team with a zero-tolerance policy that means anyone with a doping history cannot work for the team. So if these men work for the team, they never doped, but they all raced on teams with heavy doping programs, so am I the only one who is confused by this?

            Oh, one last thing, Viatcheslov Ekimov’s team is arguably the least successful of the teams I listed above. So, the logic continues that if Ekimov is doping his riders, why do they lose to the other teams?

          • J Evans Monday, 30 November 2015, 8:34 pm

            For me, it’s simple: with Katusha there is evidence – failed tests. With Sky or Tinkoff-Saxo, there isn’t (JTL being before his time at Sky; T-S’s various ex-dopers/suspicious parties being prior to their time at T-S).
            I comment when there is evidence – hence I am suspcious about Katusha. That doesn’t mean I believe that others are clean: it means I don’t know.
            What people tend to respond to is when people say ‘I know X are doping’ and have no evidence to back this up.
            Others tend to respond to any criticism of Katusha/Astana by saying that those making these criticisms are anglo-centric. I know I’m not and I’d have thought that was fairly obvious.

          • DMC Monday, 30 November 2015, 9:55 pm

            For me it’s the opposite of simple.

            With that being said it seems simple to conclude that something is going on in Russian sports. Ever since Russia finished 1-2-3 on the 2014 Sochi Olympics podium for the men’s 50km cross-country race, it was obvious that The Economist’s xenon gas article was bang on the money!

        • Dour Scot Sunday, 29 November 2015, 12:45 pm

          Journalists apparently ask riders what they think about Katusha, strictly off the record.

          The answers either damn them with cold praise or are not printable. I think that says a lot.

    • Anonymous Sunday, 29 November 2015, 1:16 am

      By “a lot of them are cheating” you mean cyclists, right?

    • Anonymous Sunday, 29 November 2015, 3:54 pm

      Given what evidence? Pray tell..

      • Anonymous Monday, 30 November 2015, 10:18 am

        Do you mean the failed doping tests?

    • Anonymous Monday, 30 November 2015, 4:07 pm

      HA! J Evans starting a message string saying that he strongly suspects one team is cheating… last time someone mentioned suspicions that a team was cheating J Evans lost his mind. haha.

      • Anonymous Monday, 30 November 2015, 6:04 pm

        Difference being that there is a history of this team cheating, with many being caught – including their feeder team. So, it’s not just gossip.

        • Anonymous Monday, 30 November 2015, 6:30 pm

          I’m not even going to comment, haha. Enjoy

          • Anonymous Monday, 30 November 2015, 7:36 pm

            You are commenting – pointlessly.
            And laughing at your own comments.

  • Kjetil Saturday, 28 November 2015, 3:36 pm

    With my fellow countrymen Kristoff, Bystrøm and Kristoffs step father Ørn on the team I catch myself asking “What are they doing there?” again and again.
    Oh those Russians.

    • The Inner Ring Saturday, 28 November 2015, 4:58 pm

      It’s one of those team within a team parts of it, even with Kristoff having Ørn as his trainer outside the team.

    • Eskorrik Asko Saturday, 28 November 2015, 6:41 pm

      Don’t let it get to you. If someone uses a guilt by association argument against Kristoff, you can be certain that you couldn’t turn his heaf around even if Kristoff raced for the instead of Katusha. It’s a professional sport and pro riders have every right to pursue a better contract or just a bigger paycheck if that is their main goal.

      I wonder though why for instance One Way chose to partner with Katusha, they cannot have been ignorant of the team’s reputation and the risk they took. But maybe the dirt doesn’t stick – and the French cross-country skiers and biathletes bring a multiple of good publicity…

      • The Inner Ring Sunday, 29 November 2015, 12:21 pm

        One Way are sponsoring Ag2r next year. Whether it is as well or instead of Katusha remains to be seen.

    • Dour Scot Sunday, 29 November 2015, 12:36 pm

      Kristoff needs to get the hell out of Katusha for the sake of his own reputation.

      Beyond Norway where I’m sure he’s loved, admiration is often privately tempered by deep scepticism. If he really is a clean rider, that’s tragic. Cycling in the long run is all about reputation.

      • Adam Tuesday, 1 December 2015, 2:11 pm

        Everyone said the same thing about Nibali when he joined Astana.

        At the end of the day, both Nibali and Kristoff have won some massive races under their respective teams and are getting paid a lot more than they would elsewhere. Skepticism of these teams might be higher than average, but noone is immune in cycling. If you win too many races, you must be doping.

  • Kevin Saturday, 28 November 2015, 3:45 pm

    I wouldn’t call them unloved. People will continue to cheer for Katyusha because they have some of the most beloved riders.

    Everyone seem to like Joaquim Rodriguez. Both riders and fans. He is probably one of the nicest guys in the peloton and has that special glow in his eyes. And Kristoff is a national treasure in Norway.

    You could say the same thing about Astana and Tinkoff. Their main riders are generally well-liked but the Russians/Kazakhstanians are not. They are just viewed as machines.

    I think it’s kinda a shame. We shouldn’t judge a rider’s character based on his nationality.

    • Othersteve Saturday, 28 November 2015, 6:10 pm

      Kevin I agree, although one has to be aware of the instinct of guilt by association.

      Please excuse in advance the political or national sentiments withstanding, as an American every time I see Donald Trump open his mouth I cringe as I ponder what the free world must think.

      Katusha like it or not is an extension of Russian political machine.

      I would imagine that some ex-pat Russian cycling fans will provide us with interesting perspectives.

      • J Evans Saturday, 28 November 2015, 6:24 pm

        We think ‘Please don’t make that bigoted imbecile the most powerful man on Earth’ and ‘He’s like Hitler, but with worse hair’.

        • Joel Sunday, 29 November 2015, 1:45 pm

          When put like that, yes Trump is way more of a problem than Katusha. Judging by my facebook feed I would say that Trump’s support in the rest of the world is 0%, if that.

  • Sam Saturday, 28 November 2015, 3:55 pm

    I like their kits and bikes.

    • XNight Saturday, 28 November 2015, 11:02 pm

      The down tube..**shivers**

  • Anonymous Saturday, 28 November 2015, 4:13 pm

    The media I was with were laughing at Zakarin’s Giro win and wondering when it would be taken away

    • StevenmichaelSperling Sunday, 29 November 2015, 9:23 am

      care to say the above with a link or even pseudonym attached!?!?!?

      • The Inner Ring Sunday, 29 November 2015, 12:23 pm

        Everyone was perplexed by Zakarin’s sudden leap to the top. You can read between the lines in pieces like this http://velonews.competitor.com/2015/05/news/ilnur-zakarins-swiss-surprise_368969 (“wings”, “raised eyebrows” etc, etc)

        • Joel Sunday, 29 November 2015, 1:48 pm

          I’m still waiting to read a report/article about Zakarin that doesn’t mention his ban in the very next sentence to mentioning his name. It tends to go something like this. ‘Zakarin, who served a 2 year ban for steroid abuse when he was just 20…’

        • Thesteve4761@yahoo.com Monday, 30 November 2015, 9:12 am

          Same guy as original commenter above.

          Point is, how can you make the above comment from “anonymous” and not feel a bit off about it?

          • Joel Monday, 30 November 2015, 4:08 pm

            Me? I didn’t make that post above.

  • Larry T. Saturday, 28 November 2015, 6:14 pm

    Another consequence of pro cycling’s short-sighted approach to doping. Other than Menchov (and we know a bit about how he got up there) none of their stars would be on this team if there was a viable alternative, especially one from their home country. This team has also gained from the austerity measures imposed on traditional cycling countries, but as the going price for their natural resources drops, how long can “Team Kremlin” keep this up? Same with “Team Kazakstan”? Would anyone not a “rich chamois-sniffer/corrupt government/bike industry risk attaching their name to either of these teams?

    • thesteve4761 Sunday, 29 November 2015, 9:25 am

      So, are you saying that Kristoff and Purito are 100% dirty?

      • Anonymous Sunday, 29 November 2015, 11:09 am

        Where does he say anything like that?

        • thesteve4761 Sunday, 29 November 2015, 5:57 pm

          Nowhere. I completely and totally misread the first two sentences. Sorry.

          • J Evans Sunday, 29 November 2015, 6:00 pm

            Fair play to you for admitting it (and apologies for my unintentional anonymity).

    • DMC Tuesday, 1 December 2015, 5:39 pm

      And that highlights the precariousness of this sport. Katusha and Astana are 2 of the highest budget teams in the WT. I can’t see a sponsor coming in if the current sponsors choose not to continue bankrolling them.

  • Anton Saturday, 28 November 2015, 7:00 pm

    If we want heroes in sport then we need villains. Katusha guys play the bad guy roles well, not evil but just that bit rough on the edge. If they linked up with a charity like Qhubeka I’d just see it as a cynical move, like Astana pretending to support the MPCC for a while.

    • J Evans Saturday, 28 November 2015, 7:12 pm

      Or, indeed, Katusha being in the MPCC.
      Or RusVelo.
      Or the myriad of other teams who have been done for doping whilst being members.

      • Neuron1 Saturday, 28 November 2015, 8:27 pm

        Funny thing is, that Team Sky never joined MPCC and Froomey was popping corticosteroid like candy prior to the 2014 Tour. If they had, he wouldn’t have even have won the Dauphine or started the Tour. That would have been a rather dreadful season for the boys in black and blue. And each time I see Vasil Kiryienka toiling stoically for a prolonged duration, while keeping a highly motivated breakaway from gaining any time on the peloton, I think to myself, Eastern Bloc. The uniforms may change but the past doesn’t.

        • J Evans Saturday, 28 November 2015, 11:45 pm

          This article is about Katusha (including their history as regards doping). If you want to bring it all back to Sky, I’ll leave you to it.

        • Joel Sunday, 29 November 2015, 11:38 am

          Neuron1, correct me if I’m wrong but Sky haven’t had a doping case with the exception of JTL. They even reported on Henao when his blood values looked odd. It is a little different than a team that consistently has doping cases.

        • Sam Sunday, 29 November 2015, 12:37 pm

          Think you can manage to stick to the topic for a while? that topic being ‘Can you love Katusha’

          • Neuron1 Sunday, 29 November 2015, 9:15 pm

            The point I’m trying to make is that: How can one team be so dominant from top to bottom level rider and not be questioned as to it’s purity while another, with limited wins, be totally suspect. Regarding Katusha’s positives, Paolini’s was for cocaine, not a very effective sport enhancing drug, unless he snorted it just prior to the sprint (the metabolite continues to be excreted for up to 14 days depending on the sensitivity of the test), and the other was from a couple of seasons ago. I’m not defending them but asking why no cynicism regarding Contador and Rogers? Nico Roche rode for Riis, Kiryienka for Movistar, Hanaeo had is “atypical” blood values, the issue of which seems to have disappeared. Can I love Katusha? Not necessarily, but I can like some of their riders, just like I do for multiple other teams and I can root for them based on the tactical racing situation. Can I be skeptical of them, certainly, just like many other riders and teams. But overall, I believe, that until proven otherwise, the peloton is dramatically cleaner than it was even a few years ago.

          • Nick Monday, 30 November 2015, 8:09 pm

            Do you really think Sky’s performances haven’t been questioned?

    • Simon Sunday, 29 November 2015, 1:37 pm

      I feel a bit cynical about MTN Qhubeka / Dimension Data. I wonder what they are trying to hide behind the charity image.

  • Richard S Saturday, 28 November 2015, 8:53 pm

    Personally I just can’t be arsed with any team or event in any sport that is an attempt at promoting the image of a fairly sinister regime. Rodriguez and Kristoff (who with that name must be of Russian extraction?) are two of my favourite riders but I cheer them rather than their faceless team. To be honest I don’t really cheer any team, it’s not what cycling is about. I preferred it when there were a lot of teams with national identities rather than all these international collections. They had character.

    • Kjetil Saturday, 28 November 2015, 9:37 pm

      Kristoff is not of Russian ancestry, it just sounds so. (And he’s from Stavanger, but doesn’t sound so. Rolls his Rs, you see.)

  • Joel Saturday, 28 November 2015, 9:28 pm

    As athletics has shown the governing body(ies) have a large role to play in how much a team can get away with. My own view is that Zakarin is untrustworthy and Kristoff, with his beer belly, manages to beat all and sundry. Still plenty of ways around the testing, albeit I believe with reduced margins of enhancement.

    • Theis Sunday, 29 November 2015, 12:30 pm

      Quoting his coach here:

      “Kristoff has a fairly sway back. Which means that his stomach will bulge out a bit when on the bike. The advantage of it is that he gets very large lung volume. So really, he has quite perfect bicycle body.”

      • GTGTGT Monday, 30 November 2015, 4:40 am

        Ah that’s it…

        I’m not fat at all, I just have a ‘sway back’… Makes my stomach bulge.

        That goodness for that. Here was me thinking I was ‘carrying some timber’ all this time. ;o)

      • BenW Monday, 30 November 2015, 5:06 pm

        It is surprising just how much of a belly some pro cyclists appear to have when on the bike. Most people look fat when sitting down.

        • The Inner Ring Monday, 30 November 2015, 5:17 pm

          True and those that appear big on TV/in photos are often much smaller and thinner when you see them for real.

          • BenW Tuesday, 1 December 2015, 12:32 pm

            Precisely this 🙂 “fat for a cyclist” is by no means fat in general terms, seeing as it’s all about relativity and perception – one tends to compare based on who surrounds. The trend towards wearing what’s effectively a skinsuit all the time doesn’t help with this perception either. Rouleur was interesting the other issue, regarding eating disorders and mental health. Admittedly it was all first-person anecdotal and single-source, but it does deserve further investigation.

        • geirwerner Tuesday, 1 December 2015, 7:50 am

          All cyclists in the pro-peloton wants this “belly; as mentioned before, your oxygen intake get´s better and you get to “refresh” all of your air. Most of us only breathe in the upper half of the stomach, but the ideal is to breath as deep as possible.

  • XNight Saturday, 28 November 2015, 10:21 pm

    I’m afraid that world events might make the Katusha PR battle just that *little* bit harder to succeed.

    • Anonymous Sunday, 29 November 2015, 1:22 am

      don’t be silly

      • XNight Sunday, 29 November 2015, 11:58 am

        The Russians as a whole do have a certain image in Western eyes, largely gained through events on the world stage and in history.
        It can be difficult for us to shed those preconceptions, particularly as Russia’s actions very often seem to be at odds with the West’s interests. And recent events – in the Ukraine, Chechnya, and now in Syria – do nothing to dispel these preconceptions.

        This is translated in to the sporting theatre and we nod our heads knowingly when our thoughts are confirmed as in the Athletics situation. Of course, as BC below points out, the ‘West’ is hardly guiltless in this regard but, somehow, the Russian examples strike a deeper chord in our psyche.

        For Katusha to be branded as a ‘Team Russia’ inevitably means that they come with all the negative wider press. The language, the team colours of the Mother Country flag reinforces this.
        To answer Inrng’s question ; the answer is, for me at least, a clear ‘No’.

        • gabriele Sunday, 29 November 2015, 8:54 pm

          Geopolitics… o__O
          Apparently propaganda works darn well in nations with a *democratic* press.

        • Adam Monday, 30 November 2015, 2:04 am

          I had no pre conceived opinion of Russian athletes until Rocky 4. Its all Stallone’s Fault !

          • gabriele Monday, 30 November 2015, 11:38 am

            Hats off, Adam!
            If you like that Stallone guy’s movies, I strongly recommend you Rambo 3, just in case people still don’t get straight if We the West – along with our officially branded good-arab good-islamist allies (the Saudis, Qatar, Erdogan and so on, that is, democracy and human rights at their best) – should *really* support (or avoid to fight) the ISIS-Daesh-whatever mujahideens OR the ruthless Russian.

          • XNight Monday, 30 November 2015, 1:17 pm

            Children of the Cold War

  • BC Saturday, 28 November 2015, 11:24 pm

    That yet another excellent post by our host should has produced bucket loads of unproven innuendo, directed at certain teams is to be much regretted. Of course there are grounds for concern, but the present anti-doping procedures have not as yet produced any evidence of guilt. After the revelations around the LA affair, that might not mean too much, but I would suggest that even the most cynical amongst us should keep our views to ourselves. Brandishing unfounded accusations around on the web does nobody any favours.

    If you have a suspicion, and it is subsequently proven to be correct, you will have every reason to feel smug that you have avoided being fooled. Until then, it is probably wise to keep your own council.

    Be careful not to consider that all pro cyclists or teams today are cheats.

    • Anonymous Sunday, 29 November 2015, 1:03 am

      No one is saying all riders are doping, but the testing clearly isn’t infallible, far from it. And with their management, their history, the fact they are Russian, with (ex) dopers in their ranks, Katusha are up there with Astana as the most likely to turn a blind eye

    • The Inner Ring Sunday, 29 November 2015, 12:25 pm

      I think these comments highlight the hard work ahead, especially if the team want to appeal to cycling fans as opposed to Russian TV viewers.

    • Dour Scot Sunday, 29 November 2015, 12:33 pm

      But the doping controls HAVE produced evidence of cheating both in Katusha and in Russian sport as a whole.

      It’s not about being cynical or not being cynical. It’s about facing up to what has been going on. Fans let themselves be hoodwinked by the Armstrong circus – let’s not fall into the same naive, optimistic state over Katusha. We can all sense it’s dubious and it’s simply grown-up to accept that.

    • Therapy Sunday, 29 November 2015, 4:05 pm

      Unfortunately, for way too many cycling ‘fans’ on the internet, a motto of “The world is fucked. And so am I” is all so depressingly appropriate.

    • Larry T. Sunday, 29 November 2015, 4:24 pm

      Excellent point. Questions and doubts are one thing but unless you were there watching the guy with a needle in his arm, claiming rider X is dirty (or rider Y clean) is a waste of time. The idea that “everybody does it” is a big reason the sport’s in this current mess. I say the same to those who gloat over the IAAF situation and say “Look, cycling’s not as bad as this!” Cookson’s efforts may have kept the sport “off the rocks” for now, but the massive ship is still steaming ahead into choppy waters. With just 12 teams in the top-tier, UCI could be a LOT more selective and put a lot more pressure on dodgy teams to clean up their acts.

  • j. de vico Sunday, 29 November 2015, 1:04 am

    Say what you will about Paolini, at least he’s trying to get his nose cleaned up in that last photo.

    • PT Sunday, 29 November 2015, 10:41 am

      One too many cinnamon & sugar donuts at the coffee break, still had some sugar on his moustache….

  • John Cattrall Sunday, 29 November 2015, 8:09 am

    Possibly time to rebrand, it’s what most other businesses do when they have a PR nightmare.

  • Chris E Dub Sunday, 29 November 2015, 10:52 am

    Guilty. I own a Katusha replica kit. It’s an Italian Champ version from 2009 with Pozzato’s name on. Doubly cursed then? At the time it was very much bought because of the rider and his nationality rather than anything to do with the team. Which probably confirms much of what the article supposes.

    • Othersteve Sunday, 29 November 2015, 8:03 pm

      don’t feel guilty, I buy cheap x-team kit here because they are cheaper, close outs less sought after.

      I have a wonderful Festina Jersey that I still get kidded about. I just retort I bought it for
      1/2 the rack price. although I did pass on US Postal kit, a man has to have moral values!

      Remember cyclist are cheap!

      • Eskorrik Asko Monday, 30 November 2015, 11:04 am

        *Some* cyclists are cheap, at least when their kit is concerned (and after their spouses have found out how much their bikes *really* cost). But here’s to all cheap cyclists everywhere, I am one of you, too! I ride in the circa 2011 colours of the erstwhile Team Skil-Shimano because I once bought a ton of their replica kit at a closeout sale,

        FWIW I have seen more than a couple of a riders in Katusha kit here in Finland. Some of them are Purito fans, some ride Canyon bikes – and one works in the Russian embassy. (Sky, Movistar and FDJ kits are more popular, though, in that order.) BTW although there are plenty of Russian toursits (even under the current politico-financial situation) here, according to the “Katusha riders” i have met the jerseus are apparently not recognized and certainly noty acknowledged by Russian motorists. The only friendly toots of the horn they have recieved came from cars with Belgian or French registration plates!

  • PT Sunday, 29 November 2015, 11:51 am
  • Dour Scot Sunday, 29 November 2015, 12:27 pm

    Ever wonder why nobody throws urine at Katusha riders during the Tour de France?

    Ironically, it’s because it’s just widely assumed they are cheating. It’s obvious something is deeply wrong with this team. Fans just put an invisible asterisk beside any good Katusha result and forget about it.

    Of course they cheat. It’s just ingrained in that country’s culture to see sport as an extension of the collective political ego. Unlike the Chinese, the Russians don’t seem to have grasped that it is better to have clean losers than dirty winners.

    • XNight Sunday, 29 November 2015, 1:01 pm

      The would-be urine throwers are secretly taken out by SMERSH agents with poisoned umbrella ends and spiked shoe tips?

    • Anonymous Sunday, 29 November 2015, 1:09 pm

      “Unlike the Chinese”?

      • Joel Sunday, 29 November 2015, 1:51 pm

        Mick Rogers Chinese perhaps.

        • Joel Sunday, 29 November 2015, 1:51 pm



    • Larry T. Sunday, 29 November 2015, 7:08 pm

      Dour Scot -reminds me of the American cycling fans who used to call the Italians cheaters – and it was blamed on the country’s “culture”. I bit my tongue, waiting for the first big American cycling star to be caught and what they’d say then. But of course, when it’s YOUR country, cheaters are just rogue individuals not representative of the culture. Stereotypes don’t help.

      • Othersteve Sunday, 29 November 2015, 8:06 pm

        Yeah but Larry as a Yank, I don’t think that US Postal officials “persuaded” LA and team to cheat!

        Can the same be said of Russian Cycling officials?

        • Anonymous Monday, 30 November 2015, 4:45 am

          except that US cycling officials did…

          • Othersteve Monday, 30 November 2015, 8:34 pm

            If I recall Tagert, the original whistler blowers that brought down the “US Postal team
            was running an American sporting watch dog group ( funded by the US) And many would say his work has been the tip of the spear to helping to shed light on WT PED use practices.
            Can the same be said of any Russian sport agencies?

            Anoy, Do you have proof that a USA Cycling executive contacted US postal Executives and promoted the us of PED’s to help promote US postal services as a enterprise?

            I would be suprised

      • Vitus Tuesday, 1 December 2015, 3:15 am

        “Stereotypes don’t help.”
        Thanks, Larry. They only help the small-minded with simple world views.

    • Anonymous Sunday, 29 November 2015, 9:12 pm

      It’s all “in their nature”, the genes, you know. Never ever happen in honest western countries. Can you imagine systematic doping in Spanish, US-American or Gereman teams? Of course not. Totaaly against “their” nature. Someone shpuld measure some skulls…

      • Chris Monday, 30 November 2015, 7:48 am

        “Can you imagine systematic doping in Spanish… teams?”

        Yes. Totally, absolutely. They’re the other nation heavily under suspicion all the time, remember? Because of all that doping.

        • Anonymous Monday, 30 November 2015, 9:04 am

          He was being sarcastic….

    • Anonymous Monday, 30 November 2015, 11:51 am

      You have got to be kidding, to post up this bigoted trash.

  • Sam Sunday, 29 November 2015, 12:41 pm

    Don’t like Katusha, ambivalent about Kristoff, love Purito

    In a nutshell

  • noel Sunday, 29 November 2015, 5:33 pm

    what is it about Spillak that he turns up at a week long stage race once in a while, torches one and all, and then disappears again?

    • Finn Sunday, 29 November 2015, 7:08 pm

      Porte is a bit like that as well, except he actually gets used in GT’s. it’s a mystery why Katusha never bring Spilak to help Purito out

      • Sam Sunday, 29 November 2015, 7:17 pm

        Tbf to Porte, if you look at his 2013 results plus his results this year up till the Giro, it would be wrong to include him in a category labelled ”turning up at a week long stage race once in a while’

        2 out of the last 3 years, he’s been amongst the most successful one week stage racers

        • Finn Sunday, 29 November 2015, 9:35 pm

          True, i didn’t mean he just turned up every now and then but like Spilak he does best in one week races, but Porte’s best is better than Spilak’s (i think)

          • Sam Sunday, 29 November 2015, 9:40 pm

            Yeah. I’m unconvinced he’ll crack GTs as a genuine contender through the entire 3 week duration, irrespective of the team he’s on. But plenty to be said for being a good 1 week racer.

  • Mickey McMook Sunday, 29 November 2015, 10:56 pm

    One person Inner Ring didn’t mention regarding Katusha is the team’s business manager,
    Geert “Duffy” Duffeleer. Not to mention the team’s head soigneur is Ryszard “Richie” Kielpinski,
    both former USPS. In his role as General Manager-Johan Bruyneel Sports (USPS) management and Director of Operations-Radio Shack Pro Cycling Team, Gert Duffeleer was totaly involved with the logistics and management of organized doping for Lance Armstrong, who has been banned for life by
    the UCI, and Johan Bruyneel, who has also been banned for life by the UCI.

    Duffy,also known as “Other3” in the USADA Reasoned Decision, was from 1999-2004 JB assistant, 2007 Disco employee involved in transporting and administering doping , also part of Radioshack in 2011 and threatened Levi, told Floyd team bikes were sold to fund doping. Former Astana team rider Levi Leipheimer claimed “Other-3 (the code name for Duffeleer in the USADA Affadavit) was then very aggressive towards me. As I passed him, he said things like ‘I’ll never forget. On a good day I’ll pay you back’, as Leipheimer swore in his USADA Affadavit. He’s also named as a defendant in the Qui Tam case.

    Just having a creep like Duffy associated with Katusha shows Igor Makarov isn’t serious about dealing with doping on the team.
    Geert Duffeleer, alias ‘Duffy’, werkt als manager voor de Russische wielerploeg Katusha. Duffeleer werd in het beruchte Usada-rapport genoemd als assistent voor de dopingpraktijken van Lance Armstrong en Johan Bruyneel. http://www.demorgen.be/plus/-dopingchef-armstrong-werkt-nu-voor-katusha-a-1412190106097/

    • channel_zero Monday, 30 November 2015, 11:50 pm

      Thom Wiesel is just as serious as Makarov about doping and both still operate national federations.

      • Mickey McMook Tuesday, 1 December 2015, 9:37 am

        Would have to disagree with you on this one, channel_zero. Makarov is much more in control of RCF
        than Wiesel is of USAC. Although Bob Stapleton is still saddled by Wiesel’s rich-guy shills Matt Barger, John Bucksbaum and Michael E. Patterson of USA Cycling Development Foundation, his replacement of the oxic Steve Johnson with Derek Bouchard-Hall as USA Cycling President & Chief Executive Officer has already made a difference. Certainly USA Cycling has it’s challenges, with a recent projected loss of $1 million, but Bouchard-Hall and Stapleton are diligently trying to eradicate the culture established by Wiesel and USA Cycling Development Foundation since 2000.

        • Sam Tuesday, 1 December 2015, 9:58 am

          Nice one, Mickey, was just about to write something about Bouchard-Hall. Hopefully will prove to have been an inspired appointment.

  • Mickey McMook Sunday, 29 November 2015, 11:09 pm

    More on Duffy: from SECOND AMENDED COMPLAINT FOR VIOLATIONS OF FEDERAL FALSE CLAIMS ACT: “In approximately April 2004, after the Paris-Roubaix race, Mr. Landis attended dinner at a restaurant in France, with defendant Bart Knaggs, Geert Dueffler, and others. During the meal, Mr. Landis expressed concern about a shortage of equipment that was resulting from team management selling the bikes that were being provided by sponsors for the riders. In the heated conversation that ensued, Mr. Landis commented to the effect that, while Mr. Armstrong was flying around in his own jet, the other riders should not be facing problems just obtaining the proper bike. 114. In response to Mr. Landis’ complaint, Mr. Duffeleer explained that the team management needed to sell the bikes to finance the doping program, as they needed cash for the doping program, and the team could not just list doping as a cost item on standard expense reports.” Good luck getting a new raft of sponsors with doping creeps like Duffy running the show.

  • Sam Monday, 30 November 2015, 6:48 am

    With Eki as the manager, it’s all part & parcel

    • Anonymous Tuesday, 1 December 2015, 3:35 am

      Ekimov has been caught or suspended? What about Vaughters? I would much prefer he and Garmin get thrown under the bus.

      I am so sick of the witch hunt of the month. There isn’t a team that doesn’t have some connection to doping. The sport was founded on doping. And, if anyone really, seriously wanted to do something about it, they would.

      When we talk about the individual players we despise, whether it’s Makarov, Weisel, LA, Pantani, Ricco, Coppi, Schleck, Danielson or Choppy Warburton, or blame the UCI (which I do), or point fingers and guilty by association innuendos at the country that we don’t live in that’s getting the bad press this year, we’re missing the point and have lost the bigger picture.

      Isn’t it the IOC and WADA that make the rules that are so easily circumvented? All the bit players just read the rules and determine where the holes are. That is pro sports; if you’re not cheating, you’re not trying hard enough. An honest loser is a loser.

      What about all those little cogs in the testing chain of command that LA was supposed to be paying off? Why hasn’t even one of them been exposed?

      And, isn’t using Blood Passport to sanction athletes really just saying “Here are the guidelines. As long as an athlete stays within them, dope away.”? Do you think the doctors and the DSs and the managers go home thinking “We better not cheat.”? Or, do they go home thinking “How can I give my athletes an edge without raising their hematocrit?”?

      There is more money than ever in cheating in sport. The UCI, the IOC and WADA all know this. Doping has moved WAY beyond what LA was never caught doing. And, because LA is now a cautionary tale in the business of doping, the cheaters are more careful than ever before. How they are cheating may not even be illegal.

      So, while articles like this are useful, when we write our comments let’s not forget who is really responsible for the cheating, the entities that create the rules that are easily gamed.

      • noel Tuesday, 1 December 2015, 10:34 am

        ultimately it’s the cheats who are responsible for cheating… not the governing bodies or whatever… let’s take a bit of personal responsibility here!

        • Anonymous Tuesday, 1 December 2015, 1:47 pm

          In some cultures being the best cheater, liar or thief is admirable.

          But, to the point of my comment above, the top cheaters today are probably, technically, not cheating. Because the science of catching is further behind the science of cheating than ever before.

  • channel_zero Monday, 30 November 2015, 11:48 pm

    I like Team Vino4ever more than Katusha. Way more.

    There is no telling what surprises await us in 2016 regarding Katusha and the UCI. That’s why I love reading about the sport.

  • Ian Tuesday, 1 December 2015, 2:33 pm

    For me one of the interesting things about pro cycling is that I don’t tend to support a team in the same way as I do with perhaps more place based teams in other sports. I tend to be more interested in a rider than the team (who tend to change to chop and change regularly depending on sponsors) so I don’t see much point in putting my emotional attachment to a cycling team. Euskatel were perhaps the only team I wanted to consistently do well, but then I liked Sammy Sanchez. So I don’t have any problem wanting Purito to do well while not having any interest in his particular team.

  • fan Sunday, 6 December 2015, 5:24 pm

    This article in Russian in Astana fan site 🙂


    • J Evans Sunday, 6 December 2015, 11:55 pm

      You’re done for now, Inner Ring: Putin will be after you.