Katyusha ready to storm cycling stardom

Russian cycling team Katyusha have officially named their squad for the 2010 season. After last year's debut, hopes are high that the country's first ever Pro Tour Team can challenge the world's best.

Katyusha have certainly picked a picturesque home, by Lake Garda in the North of Italy. However, the team isn’t there to enjoy the scenery, but to try to beat the best in some of world sport’s most prestigious races, like the Tour de France, and the Giro d’Italia.

Twenty-seven riders from seven different countries, all under the guidance of team manager Andrey Chmil, will try to achieve the task.

“Cycling is a year-long sport, and you have to show good results from January when the season starts, to when it finishes in December. Our aims this year, like almost any sportsmen, are to put in front of ourselves goals, which are almost impossible to reach. So therefore we will always keep on trying to improve,” Andrey Chmil said.

Team Katyusha may only be competing in their second season on the Pro Tour. However, the Russian outfit have already managed to turn a few heads, including a stage win for Sergey Ivanov at last year’s Tour de France.

Igor Makarov, former cyclist and now one of the team’s sponsors, is very impressed with the team’s development.

“During the first couple of years, our main aim was the development of the team, and the team’s management has carried out this task brilliantly. In terms of technology, we are the best team in the world – and this gives our riders the best possible platform to achieve the best possible results,” Igor Makarov said.

Financial backing won't be a problem. Russia's first Pro-Tour team can name the likes of Gazprom amongst their sponsors.

They may have millions at their disposal, but the management hasn't looked to sign the world’s best riders. Instead, they have gone for a combination of Russian youth, with some experienced riders like Robbie McEwen from abroad.

Setting up a pro tour team certainly doesn't come cheap. Each bike costs in the region of €5,000 euros, and with a squad of 27 riders, plenty are needed.

During competitions, the riders certainly will be able to relax in comfort. The team buses – which have showers, kitchens and relaxation areas – look more like hotel suites.

Team Katyusha not only have the riders and the facilities needed to challenge the world’s best teams, but they will also have a fan from an unlikely source – the Prime Minister of Belgium.

Sergey Ivanov continues the Belgian connection as he, along with Robbie McEwen, now lives there. However, Russia's national champion says it is a dream come true to be able to compete for a team from his home country.

“I started cycling professionally in 1997, and then I didn't think it would ever be possible for me to cycle with a Russian team. Times change, and this dream has come true. New people have come into the sport, like Andrey Chmil and Igor Makarov – I'm really happy to be riding for Katyusha,” Sergey Ivanov said.

The season may only be a few weeks old, but things are already looking bright for Katyusha, as they sit second in the pro-tour table at the moment.

If they continue their early good form, they could turn a few heads when the Tour de France gets underway.