The 2019 season was “a lost year” for the riders in Katusha-Alpecin, says Steff Cras, who is leaving for Lotto-Soudal. Other riders, like Britain’s Harry Tanfield, say they are still in the dark over their future despite remaining under contract.
Israel Cycling Academy announced in September they would take over the team and their licence, but still many riders do not know if they will have a contract with the new WorldTour formation for 2020.
The uncertainty now, and the entire season, has caused problems for the long-running team.
“I was lucky that I could look for something else,” Belgian Cras said. “I go to Lotto-Soudal next year, so it’s actually a nice move. I’m happy to go to that team and make a new step in my development.
“This year was like a lost year, for the team and me. We also had a problem with two less riders and we had to fill up gaps, if you were sick or injured, you still had to go to races and could not recover properly.
“Now, I’m happy that I can move on. I hope next year will be a better year. I’m looking forward to it.”
The Russia-backed team had been racing since 2009. They used to win Grand Tour stages and Monuments – Milan-San Remo, the Tour of Flanders, and Il Lombardia. Their star riders included Marcel Kittel, who retired early this year.
The team only counts only five victories this year, with the last being Alex Dowsett’s win in the British National Championships time trial and Portugal’s José Gonçalves pulling off the same at home.
“It wasn’t a nice situation, already from the start of the year. We all had the feeling that something wasn’t right in the team,” added Cras.
“It was just about guessing what was going to happen, then Israel came up. I was at the end of contract, so I wasn’t in the position as the other guys who were under contract and had to wait and wait.”
Katusha had 11 riders still under contract for 2020. Israel, along with the WorldTour licence, also took on the responsibility of those riders. The riders include Nils Politt and Alex Dowsett as well as Harry Tanfield. Despite the official announcement of the new team, they still do not know about their future.
“God knows [what will happen for 2020]. We have nothing, absolutely nothing,” Tanfield said. “I can’t answer it, until we get an e-mail or something official. The only official thing we had was in July saying the team was stopping.
“I had started to talk with other teams at the end of September but being in contract, we can’t ask. I just hope something comes up because if not, I’m f**ked. That’s the situation.”
Tanfield is racing along with Cras this week in China’s Tour of Guangxi. He is waiting for a call or e-mail from Israel Cycling Academy Manager Kjell Carlström.
“I’m in contract, so I can’t look for a team. I am just going along the lines that everything will be OK,” Tanfield added.
“I hope to be in the team next year. I’m still in the dark, like everyone else.”