Russia plans major tour with Red Square finish

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MOSCOW, Feb 27, 2013 (AFP) – Russia is planning a world-class velodrome on the site of the 2014 Winter Olympics and hopes to create a Tour of Russia with a Red Square finish to promote the sport, its cycling federation chief said on Wednesday.

The head of Russia’s cycling body, Igor Makarov, told reporters that the federation’s plans to renovate the country’s cycling infrastructure, with a view to staging major events, had received full backing from the government.

He said that Russia’s cycling ambitions would be centred around the 2014 Winter Olympics host city Sochi, a resort on the Black Sea with a temperate climate and surrounded by huge mountains.

“We decided to transform one of the skating rinks which are now under construction in Sochi into a top-class cycling racing track after the end of 2014 Olympics,” he said.

“We need it desperately, as none of the existing racing tracks in Russia fit the strict demands for the Olympic cycling track.

“Besides, we’re going to create a great cycling centre in the city using the classy highways which are currently being constructed there for the Games.”

Russia has made little impact in track cycling in recent years, as advances in technology and training by the likes of Britain and Australia left other nations with less funding trailing in their wake.

Some racers like Denis Menchov have made an impact in road racing, however, while Russia also has its own Katusha road racing team. But the country has never been considered a great force in the big European tours.

Makarov also revealed that he was also planning to stage a professional Tour of Russia — an annual multiple-stage race.

Sochi, the western city of Saint Petersburg and the capital Moscow would be ready to host the stages of any race soon after the 2014 Sochi Games end, he added.

“I believe a professional race with its overall finish in Red Square in front of Moscow’s ancient Kremlin would attract the attention of millions of sport lovers everywhere,” he said.

“I believe such a race will also seriously boost cycling’s popularity in Russia,” said Makarov, a former Soviet champion-turned-businessman who is an influential figure in cycling.

Makarov said he wanted to concentrate on the development of cycling in Russia, adding there was much to do to revive the winning traditions of the Soviet era.

“After the fall of Soviet Union, the cycling infrastructure in the country fell into decay,” he said.

“It’s a miracle that Russian cyclists managed to win medals at the Olympic Games, the world and European championships under the existing situation. We need to work out a plan of cycling revival in Russia and put it into practice day by day.”

Makarov meanwhile dismissed the rumours that he was set to run for the post of the International Cycling Union (UCI) president.

“It’s not true. I have no intention to run for the post of UCI boss,” said Makarov, who is also the head of the Russian gas company ITERA.

“I’m too busy and already hold too many posts to stand for this chair also.”