inrng : tinker, tailor, cyclist, spy
The “Russian global cycling project” wording on the jersey, team bus and website is not a slogan, it is a statement of fact. These billionaire oligarchs, with vast wealth and power, curiously run a cycling team. Just as the Soviet Union once sought sporting success, Moscow is today aiming for similar glory. Cycling is a chosen sport but there are others, the 2014 Winter Olympics are another part of this impressive spend and Katusha even sponsors a sailing team, making it surely the first cycling team to be a sponsor, rather than sponsored. And note the overlap between the state and sport, for example the Russian intelligence services knew a week in advance of the announcement that Russia would host soccer’s 2018 FIFA World Cup.
The pro team is just one part of Russia’s spending on cycling, there is the Rusvelo development team (previously Itera-Katusha). With a man in the UCI it can only be a matter of time until Moscow gets a World Tour race and if the Putin kommanda retains power for long enough, we can probably expect the World Championships there before 2020.
Some teams sell flooring, banking or satellite television. Katusha sells Russia. This is a team like no other.