Well, it’s a long way from sunny Spain to the cold steppes of Russian, but aging sprinter Oscar Friere is making the trip. He’s signed a one year contract with Katusha, the Russian Global Cycling Shindig! Leaving Spain for Russia is sort of like skipping Hawaii for a month in Antarctica.
Friere apparently turned down offers from Omega Pharma-Quick Step, Lotto-Ridley and Geox. Twisted Spoke questions the move — never let your brother function as agent! — but thinks he’ll feel at home with the other Spanish transplants.
He’s hooking up with pocket rocket Joaquim Rodríguez, Dani Moreno, Joan Horrach, Alberto Losada, Xavier Florencio and Ángel Vicioso. Apparently they are sharing a Rosetta Stone Russian language CD between the group to save euros. On the flip side, the Russian fold dancing classes are provided by the team free of charge.
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.
We’re guessing former team manager Andre Tchmil wants a Teutonic management style — hey, if Andre’s Russian insults don’t motivate, bring in the Germans with the leather jackets and bullwhips. Pozzato escaped just in time.
Oscar the Cat has always been the kind of rider who seems capable of functioning in a foreign environment. He’s ridden for Rabobank for nine years and always managed to deliver goods. With a bottomless oil well of cash, Katusha rolls the dice on Friere, hoping for a few more wins — the kind a guy like Filippo Pozzatto failed to deliver.
Of course, he will have to contend with the young, fast and restless Denis Galimzyanov. The 2011 season was a breakout year for the young Russian sprinter. Still, he ain’t ready to win Milan-San Remo and the World Championship road race — two goals that Freire still hopes to reach.
He’s won those races three times each but four sounds better when you’re retired and drinking sangria with friends. He will also have the expertise of Eric Zabel but with all Freire’s experience, there’s not much for the German to improve.
Twisted Spoke wishes Oscar the best of luck and buddy, be sure to pack your fur-lined shoe covers.