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The management behind the Israel Cycling Academy team announced on its Facebook page Wednesday that it will buy the WorldTour license of Katusha-Alpecin, following talks that extended through the world championships last week.
The deal involves a complete buyout of Katusha’s existing management company, which owns the team’s WorldTour license, but retains Katusha as a sponsor. As the new owner of the license, Israel Cycling Academy management can give existing Katusha management as much or as little power to set the team’s direction as it sees fit.
The new team will combine staff and riders from both teams. It will ride in jerseys featuring the blue and white of Israel Cycling Academy. Those kits will be made by Katusha, which expanded into clothing sales a few years ago.
ICA is co-owned by Canadian billionaire Sylvan Adams, who was instrumental in pushing forward the Giro d’Italia’s Israel start in 2018, and by Israeli businessman Ron Baron. The team’s intention to move into the WorldTour was has been well-known for some time. Katusha is owned by Russian billionaire Igor Makarov.
“I have stated for some time that ICA would be in the World Tour, sooner or later,” Adams said in the team’s press release. “I am excited that it is happening right away for next year’s season.”
The deal is now in the hands of the UCI for approval.
Details of the merger remain sparse, and ICA’s announcement via Facebook took some Katusha staffers by surprise.
Speaking from the world championships in Harrogate last Friday, a member of Katusha’s public relations team indicated that a deal was close and that Katusha owner Igor Makarov’s primary goal was to protect the team’s current riders and staff. The deal was wrapped up over the weekend after both parties came to an agreement on the value of Katusha’s WorldTour license, which extends through 2022.
That WorldTour license guarantees Israel Cycling Academy entrance to the Tour de France for the next three years.
The UCI’s cap of 30 riders doesn’t leave room for every rider from both teams. Current Katusha rider Ilnur Zakarin is headed to CCC and Nathan Haas is off to Cofidis. Eleven current Katusha riders have contracts for 2020, but some could be released to other teams. ICA raced with a full 30-rider roster in 2019, which means that a number of those riders will be forced to find new teams to make way for incoming Katusha riders.
ICA announced in August that it had signed Dan Martin for next season, and Katusha’s Nils Politt, whose contract extends through 2020, appears set to remain with the team as well.
ICA has long stated its intention to maintain an Israeli identity and serve as a means of developing the sport of cycling in Israel. That would suggest it will retain Guy Sagiv, the first Israeli to finish a Grand Tour, as well as Israeli riders Roy Goldstein, Omer Goldstein, and Guy Niv.
Though ICA will be the new owner of the WorldTour license, the Katusha staff member understood that Katusha would retain partial naming rights for 2020, as well as provide the team’s clothing. The new team would be co-branded Israel Cycling Academy-Katusha.
CyclingTips understands that Katusha and Makarov are planning to partner with an existing women’s team for the 2020 season as well, joining as clothing and co-title sponsor. Details of that merger have not yet been released.
A quote from Adams in ICA’s press release seems to suggest some version of the same: “Igor’s contribution to our sport has been impressive, and he will continue to support our sport,” Adams said.