Menchov dons Katusha jersey for first time at team training camp
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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Menchov dons Katusha jersey for first time at team training camp

by VeloNation Press at 11:10 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling
Russian’s path to 2012 Tour de France outlined

Denis MenchovAlthough team contracts normally dictate that a rider shouldn’t be seen in the colours of a new squad prior to the start of a new calendar year, Denis Menchov today donned a Katusha jersey for the first time at the team training camp in Tuscany, thus starting the next phase of his career.

The 33 year old Russian has finally moved to the squad, three years after negotiations first began, and will be its number one rider for the Tour de France and several other races next year. He has finished third, fourth and fifth in previous editions of the race and this plus his Grand Tour successes in the Vuelta a España (two) and the Giro d’Italia (one) mean that he could take another podium next July.

Although he’ll be 34 when that race takes place, the fact that there is almost 100 kilometers of time trials should work in his favour; a solid climber, his previous Grand Tour victories have also owed much to his ability to take time out of the specialist mountain riders against the clock.

Speaking this week about his move, he confirmed that he believed the 2012 Tour should suit his characteristics. “Especially this year as it is pretty balanced,” he told Biciciclismo. “There are time trials and mountains, as always, but there are certainly more time trial kilometres, which for me is more attractive. I won’t deny that.”

Menchov finished third in the 2010 Tour de France, two minutes and one second off the yellow jersey of Alberto Contador. Depending on the outcome of the latter’s CAS hearing, the Russian could yet be elevated to second, but either way the result was his best to date in the event.

He would normally have returned to the race determined to continue his progression, but his Geox TMC team missed out on a UCI ProTeam licence and was not given a wildcard place in the event. 2012 will consequently be a chance to take up where he left off, providing he can reach the same form as he had a year and a half ago.

In order to do that, he and his team have come up with a racing programme which they feel will get him to the race start in the best possible condition. He will begin in the Vuelta a Andalucia and then go on to compete in Paris-Nice, the Vuelta a Catalunya, the Circuit de la Sarthe, the Tour de Romandie and the Critérium du Dauphiné.

One plus is that the Katusha team has UCI ProTeam status and consequently doesn’t need to rely on wildcard invites. This means that Menchov can concentrate fully on the Tour, not facing any uncertainty and not needing to chase results in other races in order to impress the Tour organisers.

The situation was very different with Geox TMC. The loss of its main sponsor now means that the team could well stop, although its sporting manager Joxean Fernández Matxin today confirmed to VeloNation that he planned to keep searching until the year’s end for a new backer.

Menchov suggests that things never really clicked there due to the situation. “It's been a tough and strange year, we all know that,” he said. “The team started with doubts at first and had a hard time setting up the group.” He said that the squad reached the required level by the second half of the season, winning the Vuelta a España, but then fell apart.

There shouldn’t be the same problems with Katusha. “The team looks good,” he admitted. “If all goes well, on the right track, I think it can be a very good option to finish my career here.”


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