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Katusha to continue backing of UCI WorldTour outfit, set for women’s team deal

Swiss apparel brand Katusha Sports has confirmed it will continue to back the men’s UCI WorldTour cycling team of which it was previously the title sponsor and manager, and will become the co-title sponsor of an existing women’s professional team in 2020 as part of a switch in strategy.

The announcement comes after Israel Cycling Academy (ICA) and Katusha management on Wednesday signed an agreement that will see the Israeli team race in the WorldTour starting in January 2020. According to the agreement, the Israeli team is set to race in the WorldTour under the existing Katusha license, which is being renewed for the next three years.

Katusha has served as the main sponsor and manager of the Swiss-based team for 10 years, with the squad having been known as Team Katusha Alpecin since 2017 under a sponsorship deal with the German hair products manufacturer.

In a statement, Katusha said: “Katusha and Israel Cycling Academy (ICA) have concluded an agreement for the next three cycling seasons. ICA will be managing the team which will include a majority of riders and staff currently under contract with Team Katusha Alpecin. Katusha will remain a partner of the new team and as such will continue to provide high-end quality clothing to pro riders as it did for the last three years.

“In addition, Katusha will shortly announce an exciting partnership with a professional women’s cycling team. These 2020 partnerships afford Katusha Sports an opportunity to continue developing its range, using the pro teams as a focus for research and development.

“With the pro team as a research ‘lab’ the goal of Katusha Sports will be to be able to offer the best in cutting edge technology, function and style for both the men’s and women’s market.”

Katusha conceded that the past two seasons have been disappointing for the team from a sporting perspective, adding that this has coincided with the reduced budget of the team. With regards its change in strategy, a Katusha Sports spokesperson told the CyclingNews website: “The fact that we are more than 50 per cent women who work at Katusha Sports, I can say ‘yes’ it is about gender equality.

“Clearly, for many and most cycling companies, they see men’s cycling as the strongest thing to go for because it has more coverage and more viewers. The truth is that women’s cycling is never going to grow unless we start investing in it. Katusha Sports felt that it was time to invest in women’s cycling, in one way or another. We needed to put our money where our mouth is, so to speak.”

Details of the women’s team deal are expected to be confirmed this week, with the Katusha spokesperson stating that the company will not acquire the team in question. Instead, Katusha will serve as co-title sponsor and provide additional financial backing and support throughout the season.

The spokesperson added: “Starting our own women’s team was not something we considered at this point because there was a lot of unknown with Katusha-Alpecin this year. We were more comfortable and confident going into an established programme.

“We are the headline sponsor. It will be separate from the men’s team. Katusha Sports will be sponsoring two teams. As far as our involvement with the team, we are there to support then 100 per cent in any way we can. Katusha Sport will be creating content around the team, reaching out to media, and increase visibility, as any good sponsor would. It is a financial contribution, as well. We will be increasing the budget of the team.”