On the Barloworld thread below this one, gavia made the comment,
most of the major teams have announced their official rosters now. feel free to start exploring ;-)"
Well that fits me to a T, so I now resolve to explore new territory! Onward ho! I must confess that I haven't paid much attention to the Russian Rockets this summer so what follows is my first impression of their roster as shown on the CQ transfers page. Here goes...
What stands out the most?
Just to be contrarian here, there's no GC hope for an Grand Tour and only some hope for any week long stage race. Potentially there some decent support for a GC rider: Colom, Karpets, Gusev, Botcharov, Ivanov, Pfannberger- all could be of help- but there's no leader here.
That said, this team fairly explodes with breakaway guys: they truly are Tiinkoff on steroids. In addition to most of the riders in the last paragraph, you can add Brutt and Trussov, both holdovers from Tinkoff. In fact I can't wait to see this team enliven the Giro.
What will be interesting then will be how they race tactically. They do have a rider or two who have a history of success in week-long stage races (stand up Karpets!) so will they have the discipline for contending for the overall in places like the Swiss Tour?
But seriously, give us a type of race they could do well in.
In general this team should be a significant force on any one day Classic race but clearly to me this team has the numbers to seriously compete in the Ardennes and any hilly one day race- Lombardia and MSR included. Just look at the resumes from last year:
- Pfannberger: 6th Amstel, 9th La Fleche, 5th LBL, 23rd Olympic RR, 8th Worlds RR, 20th Emilia, 5th Lazio, 11th Sabatini, and 12th Lombardia. Wow! The only thing missing is a win, but he's a major force in every major hilly Classic there is that doesn't have cobbles. He's in his prime so I see no reason why he won't snag a major win or two over the next couple of years.
- Ivanov: 7th Amstel, then not allowed into Fleche and LBL due to ASO/Astana tiff.
-Pozzato: 2nd MSR, 6th Flanders. Plus we know his history.
But what about the cobbles?
Pozzato I just mentioned. Add to him an aging McEwen, Steegmans, plus up and coming Kenny DeHaes, and you have a decent front line for all types of cobbles races. I even like the prospects of Gusev at Paris-Roubaix as his body seems made to order for that race, but...
Yes? What's the catch?
It's basically a brand new team and the parts (riders) are coming form all sorts of teams meaning they are all used to different types of coaching. So how they come together will be telling. Clearly this is a team for the spring but can they gel in time? And by "gel" I mean their support riders. Who's gonna support Pozzato effectively? Will Pfannberger and Ivanov be on their own in the Ardennes? I can see Karpets, Botcharov, and Colom working well in the small stage races but who else can help?
Then you have the problem of so many nationalities and languages being spoken. I count at least 11 Russians, 4 Belgians (5 if you count McEwen), 2 Spaniards, 2 Italians, 1 English guy, that aforementioned Aussie... that seems way too ecumenical to me.
On the other hand, this team is pretty young. Yes, McEwen is older than the hills and Ivanov and Horrach are no spring chickens but almost all of the rest of the team is either in their prime or younger. That includes Pozzato, Pfannberger, Dehaes, Steegmans, and Gusev. Many of their support riders are also young- 85s, 86's, and an 87 to develop shows that they are not just trying to buy their way to championships.
Maybe a clue on how well this team is working will be in the time trials. They have some good chronomen here so we'll see if the coaching staff can mold them into a decent TTT come the Giro.
To sum up
Given that they had an enormous pile of money to work with I think they started very well. They'll be relevant in the spring and fall and my guess is that they understand that building a major team takes multiple years of shrewd buying. The GC races in the Grand Tours can wait; meanwhile they will make some noise on breakaways. It will be fun to watch their development and I expect this team to be a force for years.
There ya go: my first take on Katyusha. Anything you see that I missed?