October 20, 2011

Lots of chatter on the airwaves about Hans-Michael Holczer going to Katusha. “How can a guy responsible at Gerolsteiner for Rebellin, Kohl, Schumacher and Levi (the latter according to statements in his own book at least) come back to cycling?” That sort of stuff.

I see it a little differently. Holczer has been trying to get back into the sport since Gerolsteiner collapsed at the end of 2008. Of all the ways that could happen, him going to Katusha is probably not so bad, isn’t it?

  1. Sure, Holczer was asleep at the wheel at Gerolsteiner when it came to the positive tests they scored in 2008, and according to his book did nothing when he was made aware of “suspicious values” from Levi. He famously remarked that an internal testing program was not necessary because he trusted his riders. But I personally don’t think he had any bad intentions (note: this is based on absolutely nothing but gut feel).
  2. At any rate, does a swap from Tchmil to Holczer really change the balance at Katusha dramatically?
  3. The cycling world wasn’t relying on Katusha to solve the doping issue anyway. The most memorable anti-doping moves from the team have been a completely unenforceable 5-year-salary penalty amendment to their rider contracts and the shipping of Kolobnev to the doping goulag without any form of process. I don’t think either are a meaningful contribution.
  4. It keeps things nice and tidy for fans. White helmet and black helmet teams so to speak. There was never much reason to like Katusha, now there still isn’t. I mean, has anybody every seen the words “Katusha fan” being used without them referring to the air-conditioning unit in their team bus?
I’d say black helmet riders and staff going to black helmet teams is a good thing, it’s a form of containment. It’s much more problematic to have white helmet riders and staff go to black helmet teams, which unfortunately happens a lot too. After all, especially for many riders there aren’t many options when picking a team, so they end up in an environment that is a terrible match with their own values.

This problem is as old as cycling itself. Remember Willy Voet’s book about the Festina affair? To me the remarkable part was not that half the team did everything the cycling Gods had forbidden, but that the other half didn’t.

16 Responses to “Katushteiner”

  1. Fair points, all pragmatic – which, in my opinion, are much more preferable to a lot of the vitriol which flows around.

    I’d love to hear the Freakonomics authors on how they would put right the wrongs of the World Tour.

    So Gerard, in the spirit of the pragmatic sharing of opinion, would you comment further on the ‘white/black’ helmet line – I’d love to hear the thoughts of an insider as to who the heroes and villains are

  2. Brilliant line “I mean, has anybody every seen the words “Katusha fan” being used without them referring to the air-conditioning unit in their team bus?”!

  3. How do you define a Black Hat rider? Is Allan Peiper Black Hat after his confessions in his book?

    • I don’t define a black helmet rider, but I think many people do for themselves. As fans, or in whatever role, we consider some people doing good in the sport and some, not so much. It wouldn’t be my style to simplify and say “here’s the checklist to determine black vs white helmet”.

      I also didn’t invent this black helmet idea so that we can go group the whole cycling world, but more to illustrate a point.

      • Understood. But you are in a position of knowledge, whereas we, as fans, don’t have access to the same connections or information. C’mon, tell us your opinions on riders/teams!

      • Fair point and *I* wouldn’t class Peiper as black hat for what he did in the past. What he’s doing in the present is more important. Still, pity a guy like him can’t get a gig at Team Sky, stay with Cav, because of their confused and confusing approach to what people did in the past.

        Gets more confusing when we come to names like Kim Andersen tho …

  4. […] It’s a mixed bag at Katusha — mostly Russian, part Spanish and distinctly German. Hans-Michael Holczer, last seen in 2008 watching his Gerolsteiner go down in blizzard of doping positives, is back in the sport to steer the Cycling Shindig. Cervelo’s Gerard Vroomen calls the team Katushteiner. […]

  5. MadPat Says:

    I don’t want to oversimplify but this does sound a bit defeatist more than pragmatic.

    Cycling needs to set a high bar and start moving forward with a new generation rather than recycling the past. inrng.com has a good piece on this as well

  6. I’ve commented on this and feel it’s an odd choice. Not so much for the helmet / short colour (nice metaphor) but more because he didn’t stand out as a great leader.

    If you’re a big team hunting for a new manager, why this guy? Why not offer, say, Dave Brailsford or Patrick Lefevere crazy money? Or if you don’t care about being seen to fight doping then why not hire Manolo Saiz instead? You’d be sure to win more races.

    We’ll see. I think Ekimov is going and Highroad’s Valerio Piva too. Given the money, they can surely only improve in 2012.

    But a note of caution, the team had the only doping case in the Tour de France. Any more bad news and the likes of ASO are going to get very annoyed.

    • Interesting. I agree he doesn’t stand out as a great leader, but your alternatives are strange too. The guy who underwhelmed with one of the biggest budgets in cycling or the guy who is now, in 2012, shelling out the big bucks to hire Levi instead of just going for success with Tony Martin and the like?

      • Ok, imperfect examples but Brailsford was the methodical coach who is all about details and improving processes and there are others in this mould; Lefevere is the guy who’s been in the team car for years and “won” almost every classic going, again there are others.

        But both examples are about a manager imposing a method on the team to achieve results, a form of leadership. We’ll see what Holczer does and maybe he has the budget to put in place a masterplan this time.

  7. Dan Connelly Says:

    How about white socks versus black socks?

    • Anonymous Says:

      As a fan, I cant help admiring black sock wearers even if they’re from a black helmet team.

      It’s an ethical conundrum I wrestle with every day.

  8. Chris Little Says:

    Incidental comment here, but that subscribe pop-up isn’t helping. I can’t get rid of it (using Opera mini), so can’t read all the blog.

  9. Mike Persellin Says:

    that may or may not be rational as to Katushteiner. the big bogey in the room, however, is Bruyneel. the damage to the major tours that he responsible for is historical, equivalent to throwing a dozen baseball world series. so long as he is allowed to be a part of cycling, cycling is a surreal joke.

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