If Daniel Craig forged a new era for 007, then Team Katusha has certainly reshaped the image of Russian Cycling. Repeated triumphs by the team and team leader, Joaquim ‘El Purito’ Rodriguez, has catapulted Katusha to the premier league in what is possibly their most successful year to date.
Nonetheless, on Monday 10 December, the world number 2 team, with the world’s number 1 ranked cyclist was given the very unpleasant news of being refused a license to race on the eve of 2013. Only this time the Russian’s are biting back.
An official statement on Katusha’s website declares the organisation’s determination to contest the International Cycling Union (UCI) decision. In fact on the 19th of December, they plan to present their complete team to the world, ready for the first GT of the year down-under.
What’s the reason?
The License Commission based in Switzerland grants team places according to a strict criterion based on 4 main categories. These include: sporting, ethical, admin, and financial practices. It is the latter category of finance that is supposedly delaying, if not permanently stopping Katusha from racing.
An excellent in-depth look is made on the insightful inrng.com, which is further accompanied by a copy of the fax-response by Katusha to the UCI. From what we can gather, it isn’t all about the money, or in this case lack of it. Like businesses on the high street, accountancy practices need to stand up to scrutiny and in the current state of cycling, it’s integrity need to be as clean as their riders.
Why so late in the year?
You would be forgiven to think that after the scandalous year we’ve been having that the UCI would have aided Katusha before this incident became so public. If we are to believe what the UCI says, each team is guided through the process so as to avoid such shortcomings. Still, the backlash from social media sites are a testimony to the outrage voiced by fans, and quite notably, the support offered to Katusha by other cycling governing bodies should make the UCI sit up and listen.
Despite mounting pressure, the UCI seems resolute that every team, not just Katusha, need to meet all standards, no matter how late in the year.
Has this happened before?
If it sounds all too familiar, then you wouldn’t be wrong. Just 3 years ago, Team Astana also faced a similar threat. With both Contador and Armstrong making the headlines as rivals within the same team, the drama came on the financial front as well. The difference here is that Astana was not paying its employees, whereas Katusha have the funds, but not necessarily a complete record to back the contents of its ledger. The short of it is, the ‘ins’ and ‘outs’ need to satisfy financial integrity.
Where do we go from here?
Katusha are taking a confident stance, refusing to budge an inch. It seems likely that horns are about to be locked. However, both parties stake to lose a lot if the matter isn’t cleared up soon. For Katusha, it is accountable to each tier of its team of talent, known as the Russian Global Cycling Project. From the youth in its development teams to the pros, mechanics, and managers, there is a personnel element to consider. On the other hand, like Glasgow Rangers in the Scottish Football League, sponsors and fans would be devastated if Katusha were to plunge to the bottom of the tables – effectively erasing a year of achievement.
Katusha have responded in this way: “The Russian Katusha is preparing for one of the most important and exciting team events and is determined to fight until the very end and use all available means to defend its legitimate right to be a part of the first division. Besides Katusha hopes to obtain a correct and reasonable response from the UCI License Committee concerning the true reasons of their decision in the nearest few days.”
As for the UCI, how much can it weather before all faith is washed out? To be fair, they are upholding the law, but once again their method of communication is under fire. If alarm bells had been going off throughout the year, interventions should have been put into action long before December’s deadline.
Katusha and UCI are not the only people to lose out here. Ultimately, we do too. The fans who want to see what Katusha can do with their success, and for every team in the pro-peloton, particularly Team Sky, who want to see if they can still rule the Tour. Without Katusha in the race, there is no race.