The UCI World Tour peloton first got to know Team Katusha in 2009. The team began riding using a Russian racing licence, but switched to a Swiss licence in 2017. The team has a range of strengths, both in the sprint stages as well as being strong enough to contend the general classification battle in major stage races. These are the team’s main contenders.
The key riders at Team Katusha: Marcel Kittel
Marcel Kittel is one of the best sprinters of his generation. The German rider has 13 Tour de France victories to his name, as well as four stage wins in the Giro d’Italia. When he first burst onto the scene, he rode for the forerunners of Team Sunweb. In 2016, he then transferred to Quick-Step, and in 2018 he moved over to Team Katusha. The most recent marriage has yet to be very happy. In 2018 Kittel won one stage in the Tirreno–Adriatico. That was it. His 2019 season has begun positively with a victory in the minor race Trofeo Palma, but he hopes to be at the front again during the 2019 Tour de France.
Russian rider Inur Zakarin is Team Katusha’s rider with the best chances of ranking highly in the general classification of Grand Tours. In 2015 he won the Tour of Romandie and he was 3rd overall in the Tour of Spain in 2017. He was also 5th in the Giro d’Italia in that same year. His main aim in 2019 is to be a contender in Italy’s biggest race: the Giro. In preparation he rode Paris–Nice, in which he finished 10th in the GC.
Simon Spilak had ridden for Team Katusha since 2012. During that period he has won the Tour of Switzerland twice. Before he joined Katusha, he rode for the Lampre team when he won the Tour of Romandie. Spilak is also a rider who performs best during the shorter stage races of around a week long. He has ridden five Grand Tours in total, but without much success. In 2019 he will also go for the shorter stage races, with the Tour of Switzerland as his main goal.
Jens Debusschere is a Belgian rider who has spent his entire career up until 2019 riding for the Lotto–Soudal team. His move to Katusha means the team now has an important rider for the Flanders Classics. In the past, Debusschere has ridden decent results in the Flemish and northern France classics, but as yet no victories. Perhaps his change of role this year will have a positive effect. His most significant win up until now was the Dwars door Vlaanderen in 2016, and in 2015 he won a stage in the Tirreno–Adriatico.
For the past three years, Enrico Battaglin rode for Team LottoNL–Jumbo and that included a stage win in the Giro d’Italia. He also won a stage in that race in 2013 and 2014 when riding for the Bardiani team. Battaglin is at his best when there is a sprint up a modest incline. (He doesn’t quite have enough raw power for a flat sprint.) He will have a dual role at Katusha: protecting Marcel Kittel in the sprint lead-out and going for his own victories if circumstances are right.