Interesting team, that Katusha and an interesting pick-up on their part, picking Joaquin Rodriguez from Caisse d'Epargne. For CN today comes word on the race schedule for J-Rod next year and it's much like in previous years, with two exceptions: there's Tour de France for the first time and there's no Alejandro Valverde to support. Here's his early season (up to the Tour) schedule:
warm-up: Volta a Mallorca then Volta ao Algarve
Tirreno-Adriatico which has the Wolf Mountain stage again
Spain and the Basque Country: Volta a Catalunya then Pais Vasco
The Ardennes Trio: Amstel Gold, Fleche Wallonne, and Liege-Bastogne-Liege
Tour prep: Luxembourg and Suisse Tours
Tour de France
On the flip, a look at his new teammates and wild-eyed speculation on how he'll do.
So all speculation on how well he'l do has to take into account on what effect his new team will have on him. Look at that Katusha roster.
BUT FIRST-BREAKING NEWS!!! NEW DESIGNER SNUGGIES!!!!! WHAT COULD BE SEXIER THAN A WOMAN IN A LEOPARD PRINT SNUGGIE!!!????
Okay back to reality. Barring Robbie McEwen finding the fountain of youth and the odd Grand Tour stage win (which will come) and Pippo Pozzato's cobbles exploits (no small thing) this team is built for small stage races and the Ardennes. Adding J-Rod and Kim Kirchen to Serguei Ivanov literally screams Ardennes, plus small stage races. Those three plus the likes of Pavel Brutt, Al Botcharov, Vlad Karpets, Mikhail Ignatiev (among others) in support of the Big Three also says that they are prepared to take the repeated attacks of Saxo Bank in the Ardennes and return the favor.
On paper, that is. The question is how will J-Rod, Kirchen, and Ivanov interact? Ivanov is notorious for striking out on his own. Many of their main supporters, like Brutt, Botcharov, and Ignatiev have spent most of their careers in breakaways. Can they learn some discipline and support their leaders? Will J-Rod, a lifetime supporter, find himself pushed aside by freelancing teammates?
My guess is sort of. This team has the depth of Saxo Bank or Shack or Columbia or Liquigas to compete in the Ardennes but the urge to break out will be too much at times. But otherwise the individual abilities of these guys will bring them a win or two I think. I have a feeling that Kirchen + J-Rod will work quite well and I have them on a short list for an Ardennes title. La Fleche? L-B-L? One of 'em.