Former Giro d’Italia and Vuelta winner Denis Menchov has signed for Katusha, the UCI ProTeam registered in his native Russia but based in Italy. The rider nicknamed the 'Silent Assassin’ had been left in limbo following the collapse of the Geox-TMC team earlier this month after it failed to secure a replacement sponsor.
Team owner Igor Makarov said in a statement: “This agreement is a logical step in further realisation of the Russian Global Cycling Project which is aimed at uniting the most competitive Russian riders within one structure.
“I consider it as one of the necessary conditions for successful development of Russian cycling and for enhancing its international prestige,” continued Makarov, who is also president of the Russian cycling federation, a member of the UCI management committee, and chairman of the Itera oil and gas business.
“I am sincerely glad that from 2012 Menchov will join Katusha team and the Russian Global Cycling Project,” he added, “and I strongly believe that he will show some high results in the upcoming season.”
Menchov, aged 33, was awarded the 2005 Vuelta title when Roberto Heras was stripped of his overall victory after failing a drugs test, and won the race outright in 2007. In 2009, he won the centenary Giro d’Italia despite crashing in the rain inside the final kilometre of the closing day’s individual time trial in Rome.
After six years with Rabobank, he signed for Geox-TMC ahead of the 2011 season, but despite team member Juan Jose Cobo winning the Vuelta, the Italian footwear brand pulled the plug on its sponsorship in October, in a move that could not have come at a worse time for the team as the registration process for the 2012 season opened.
“I am very glad to join Katusha,” said Menchov, originally from Oryol, a small city some 360km southwest of Moscow.
“I have been looking forward to it for a long time, and I always regarded it as the right step for me and my career.
“I very much appreciate what Mr. Makarov is doing for Russian cycling,” he continued.
“In my turn, I’d like to contribute as much as I can to the Russian global cycling project,” he added, concluding that he also wanted to help return his country to a leading position in world sport."
The name Katusha itself, sometimes rendered in English as Katyusha, is the diminiutive of the name Yekatarina and also the title of a patriotic Russian song from World War II, known in Russia as the Great Patriotic War. It was first sung by female students bidding farewell to soldiers heading off to the war.
That song, the tune of which will probably already be familiar to you - it's lbeen used in songs in languages including, most famously, Hebrew - also lent its name to the rocket launcher that was also nicknamed the Stalin Organ by German soldiers on the Eastern Front.