Tinker, tailor, cyclist, spy

The Katusha team has yet to deliver the results that match its ambitions and its budget. Joaquim Rodriguez and Denis Galimzyanov have had some good wins but for me the most fascinating aspect of the team is the network of people who stand behind the squad.

This is a tale of secret agents, oligarchs, oil and gas, presidents and prime ministers as well as pro cycling. It is like no other team.

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The Kolobnev case

Kolobnev police

Flashback to July and Alexander Kolobnev tested positive in the Tour de France. It was the only doping scandal of the 2011 race and the media besieged the Ch√Ęteau de Salles, the Katusha team’s overnight accommodation. Some riders and team staff went to police station, adding to the tension.

Except now the verdict has fallen and it’s far less dramatic: a warning and a fine of 1,500 Swiss Francs (US$1,700). We will get further details of the case in two weeks when the Russian authorities publish their verdict in full. But this is the lightest option possible, a small fine and no suspension. This suggests Kolobnev presented satisfactory evidence to prove he accidentally ingested the banned substance. But the case highlights a lot more.

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Relegation tales

Amir Zagari
Most valuable players

Ag2r-La Mondiale are in the UCI World Tour. This status guarantees the French team entry to all the big races. But this position is under review given their low rankings.

To summarise, any team sitting in 14-18th place in the UCI’s internal rankings sees the position in the top flight under review. Right now Ag2r, the new Lotto-Ridley team, Katusha and Geox sit in this “relegation zone”. Dropping down to Pro Continental status is not automatic, simply the position reviewed and set against the arrival of new applicants.

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Who is Andrei Tchmil?


Last week La Gazzetta Dello Sport said Andrei Tchmil is going to run for the top job at cycling’s governing body the UCI. But where is he from, what has he done and where is he going?

Born in Khabarovsk, a town so far to the east of Russia it is within sight of China and just 1400km from Tokyo. With the iron curtain falling away, he joined the Russo-Italian Alfa Lum team and became a successful rider in the mid-1990s. His style was forceful, he often seemed to sit awkwardly on the bike but he took wins in Paris-Roubaix, Milan-Sanremo and the Tour of Flanders amongst others.

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