Katusha-Alpecin after 11 years at the top and victories in Monuments and Grand Tours, will come to an end. Israel Cycling Academy will take over the team's WorldTour licence and its riders contracted for 2020.
Belgian news outlet Het Nieuwsblad reported the news today that had been rumoured for some time. The Russia-backed team after several difficult years are forced to close and left to negotiate a deal with the Israelis on the way out of cycling.
The newspaper reported that the confirmation came yesterday while Australian Rohan Dennis (Bahrain-Merida) raced for the World Championships gold medal and that the two teams will confirm the deal in the coming days.
Brit Alex Dowsett, who placed fifth yesterday, is one of the 11 cyclists still under contract with Katusha for 2020. The group also includes Brit Harry Tanfield, Enrico Battaglin and Rick Zabel.
Israel team boss Kjell Carlström will announce the news but will need to trim his team heading towards the new season due to cycling's rules on the maximum number of cyclists for a WorldTour team. The team already did most of their work for 2020 and put together 27 riders, so that adding 11 would cause some problems. Some side deals will likely be made to allow some riders out of their Katusha or Israel contracts to free space.
Teams Arkéa and Corendon-Circus had been reportedly interested in a deal with Katusha. Amid those rumours, manager José Azevedo said that he and the Katusha staff were working to keeping the team going, but indicators were that it was coming to an end.
Igor Makarov, a billionaire petrol businessman from Russia, had begun Katusha for the 2009 season. Joaquím Rodríguez and Alexander Kristoff propelled the team. In 2015, Kristoff helped it to several wins, including Ghent-Wevelgem and the Tour of Flanders.
Recently, wins have been hard to come by. It had not helped that Marcel Kittel decided to stop cycling, drying up a source of sprint victories for the Russian team.
Israel Cycling Academy make a huge leap ahead from their origins as a small continental team in 2015. Over the years, they have squeezed their way into Grand Tours via wildcard invitations while co-owner Sylvan Adam made big money deals with Giro d'Italia organiser to have its 2018 race start in Jerusalem.
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