Ekimov in, Holczer out as general manager of Katusha team
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Monday, October 08, 2012

Ekimov in, Holczer out as general manager of Katusha team

by Shane Stokes at 8:52 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling
 
Changes come after rumblings of discontent

Viatcheslav EkimovIn the wake of rumours at a change at the top, the Katusha team has confirmed today that Hans-Michael Holczer’s position as general manager of the Katusha team has come to an end, with the German to be replaced by retired pro Viatcheslav Ekimov.

Holczer was himself a replacement following a change last year, the former Gerolsteiner manager taking over from Andrei Tchmil following suggestions of discontent.

Holczer has been the subject of similar rumblings recently, with the team’s top rider Joaquim Rodriguez unhappy at a refusal to increase his salary following a very strong season. He has won the UCI WorldTour for the second time, that success coming after results such as victory in Flèche Wallonne and the Giro di Lombardia, plus second in the Giro d’Italia and third in the Vuelta a España.

Rodriguez’s agent Angel Edo said that he considered breaking his contract over the issue, but had decided to stay as it would be too complicated to do so. He told Biciciclismo that Rodriguez would continue ‘very reluctantly’, that his 2013 contract didn’t match up to the level of the rider, and that the Catalan would not continue with the team in 2014.

Edo pointed to Holczer’s arrival as marking the start of the problem, but also blamed Igor Marakov, who is president of the Itera Group which owns the team. “With Andrei (Tchmil) this did not happen, he was a just person,” he said, adding that Holczer and Marakov blamed each other.

It is unclear if Rodriguez’s dispute is a major factor in today’s announced change, or just a symptom of a wider discord on the team.

One year ago it was announced that Ekimov had been appointed by Marakov to oversee the development of Russian cycling within the Russian Global Cycling Project, an overall umbrella group looking after riders of all levels.

As a rider he was one of Russia’s most successful, clocking up stage wins in the Vuelta a España and Tour de France, beating Jan Ullrich and Lance Armstrong to win the time trial at the 2000 Olympics, being part of the successful Russian team pursuit squad twelve years earlier, and also winning stages in the Critérium du Dauphiné Libéré and the Tour de Suisse.

Since his retirement he worked as directeur sportif with the Discovery Channel, Astana and RadioShack teams. Now he’s taking up a bigger position with more responsibility.

The team announced the change a short while ago. “Following the purpose of further dynamic development of the Russian professional cycling, the management of the Russian Global Cycling Project made changes in the management of World Tour Katusha team,” it said.

“The known Russian specialist, the three times Olympic champion Vyacheslav Ekimov who is also the adviser of Igor Makarov, president of Russian Cycling Federation and the chairman of Board of Directors of MGK “ITERA”, is appointed to the post of general manager of Katusha Team as well as youth teams Itera-Katusha.”

Ekimov’s appointment will generate controversy for some. Last year he criticised Tyler Hamilton’s statements about doping on the US Postal Service team, and said that the American was lying when he stated that Lance Armstrong had doped.

“I think it's just money,” he told AP, saying Hamilton wanted to earn from making such claims. “It seems to me like somebody really wants to kill Lance and put him down. There's all this interest to find people who will say something.”

Armstrong has opted not to contest the US Anti Doping Agency’s charges of doping and has been handed a lifetime ban as a result. His results since 1998 have also been removed. The UCI and WADA are due to receive USADA's reasoned decision in the next week or so; they can either appeal it to CAS or accept it.

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