PEZ On The Road With Katusha
Roadside PEZ: The Alicante region of Spain is rammed full of professional cyclists at this time of year and our man down there, Alastair Hamilton, has been receiving his annual invitations to team press days and presentations. First up was the Russian Katusha team presentation in Calpe.
This is the second year that the Katusha team have held their press day and team presentation in Calpe on the Costa Blanca, Spain. The Astana team had also been staying in the Hotel Diamante, but they took the team back to Kazakhstan for their big night, whereas Katusha flew all the top men behind the team out to Spain. But that was in the evening, I should start with the morning.
It’s always a good idea to get to the Hotel early, you just never know who you might bump into. The Diamante has been the No. 1 base for pro team training camps for a few years, it used to be the Esmerelda across the road, but ever since someone booked the Diamante by mistake a few years ago, everyone comes to the modern and sleek Diamante.
It is now so popular it looks like they might have to extend the car park for all the team trucks and busses. Astana had just left, but their place had been taken by Giant-Alpecin, next to them were the Katusha trucks along with the Irish AN Post team, the women’s Wiggle-Honda van was in one corner along with Continental teams; Roth-Skoda and Wallonie-Bruxelles. The previous week cyclocross riders from Telenet-Fidea and Vastgoedservice-Golden Palace, also in the hotel was the National team from Gabon, they had Abraham Olano looking after them.
Not all teams stay in Calpe, BMC were up the road in Denia, Etixx – Quick-Step in Oliva and Androni in Benidorm. FDJ were in Calpe, but used the more central Hotel Sol y Mar and the other French team AG2R-La Mondiale were in Gandia further up the coast. There are many other riders around, but you do get a bit blasé about seeing pro riders on the local roads at this time of year.
The plan was to follow some of the riders on their training ride, but unlike last year there were no team cars, they were at the airport to collect the team dignitaries coming in from Russia. Two film crews and two photographers needed transport, so I volunteered to take the Norwegian sports TV guys and ex-pro rider turned photographer, Léon van Bon, took the others. There were also a group of Russian photographers, but they either went back to bed or got lost.
The group we were to follow were the sprinter/Classic group, it included Alexander Kristoff, Marco Haller and Katusha’s new signing, Michael Mørkøv (interview coming soon on PEZ). As you might have guessed; Norwegian TV were here to see Kristoff and had set up an interview on the beach for later, but they needed some action shots and as it turned out, film of the group having coffee.
The ride was short, one and a half hours. They followed the coast for a while and took in a short climb inland before dropping back to the Med for coffee in the town of Moraira, you might remember the area from the Vuelta a España stage finish at the top of the Cumbre del Sol, you can see Moraira from there, well, you can see most of the Costa Blanca from up there.
As I said before there are a lot of teams in the area at the moment and many of them use this climb for testing, we spotted this soon-to-be FDJ rider doing a V02 test, he was either Daniel Hoelgaard or Odd Christian Eiking from the Norwegian Team Joker, but with the mask, helmet and glasses it could have been anyone. The plan didn’t work as he punctured.
Not far behind him were BMC riders doing some power training in big gears. Philippe Gilbert and Greg Van Avermaet seemed to be having fun, but Tejay van Garderen had his serious face on as he pushed the pedals round. At the top of the climb the team car was waiting with Allan Peiper, Marco Pinotti and Fabio Baldato, it looked like they were performing lactic tests.
From there the group headed down to the coast for coffee and an easy ride back to the hotel and I had to show the TV guys where to meet up with Kristoff for his interview and for me to wait for my interviewees: Michael Mørkøv, Jacopo Guarnieri and Sergey Lagutin.
Interviews done and it was time for the team presentation. This year was a little different as apart from presenting the new and returning riders and showing off the new jersey, the team were also presenting the new cars and the Katusha Sport range of non-race bike clothing.
Speeches were made: General Manager Viacheslav Ekimov lamented losing the WorldTour by only 13 points to Movistar: “We only missed a few points to be the number one team in the world and this gives us motivation to strive for more. We know we can do even better in 2016, in particular improving our Team Time Trial skills. We are working on this by setting a clear target for 2016 – to be top 5 TTT at the World Championships. We are again ambitious for Overall podiums in GT races, having guys like Rodríguez, Van den Broeck and Taaramäe. And of course we have a super train for our absolute leader Alexander Kristoff, hopefully resulting in more wins in one-day WorldTour races or stages.”
Alexander Kristoff was next up, he was pleased to announce that the team will compete in the USA for the first time and will race in the Amgen Tour of California as preparation for the Tour de France. The man who makes the whole team possible, Igor Makarov, was presented with a Canyon race bike and 2016 team jersey by Joaquim Rodríguez. Makarov was convinced that 2016 would be even better than this year, saying: “I am sure that our team has not reached its maximum yet. We all, of course, are waiting for new highs in the new season.”
There was a big dinner with dancing for invited guests, not for me or the other journalists, but we were invited to an informal buffet with drinks, the riders mingled as the cheese, ham and of course the caviar was disappearing as fast as the champagne. All in all a great day out.
BMC and Etixx – Quick-Step have a lot to live up to on their press days later in December and in mid January.