Le Pays De France - Russian ban leaves Gazprom cyclists in 'total uncertainty'

Paris -
Russian ban leaves Gazprom cyclists in 'total uncertainty'
Russian ban leaves Gazprom cyclists in 'total uncertainty'

Russian ban leaves Gazprom cyclists in 'total uncertainty'

The ban on Russian cycling has left riders on the Gazprom/RusVelo team in "total uncertainty", Italian rider Marco Canola told AFP on Saturday.

Text size:

"Some of us risk ending our careers there, which would be very unfair," the 33-year-old, a Giro d'Italia stage winner in 2014, said in a phone interview.

The International Cycling Union (UCI) responded to the Russian invasion of Ukraine by banning Russian and Belarusian teams and riders.

Gazprom, in UCI's second-tier 'Pro Teams' category, was the highest-level Russian team.

Canola, and the team, were slated to ride this week in the Tirreno-Adriatico, a race that ends Sunday.

"If there is no alternative by March 27, we will be forced to close," said Renat Khamidulin, the team's sporting director, told Italian media.

Gazprom has 21 riders, including nine Russians and seven Italians.

Canola argued that Gazprom was in a "sorry situation" because "we are a very European team".

"The team headquarters are in Switzerland, the language spoken internally is Italian and among the riders there are many Italians, a Spaniard, a Norwegian, two Czechs," he said.

"The only thing that connects us to Russia is the name, because Gazprom is the main sponsor."

But he said, after the invasion "the team "removed the name from the jerseys and we were ready to go racing without sponsorship".

"It is obviously unnecessary to say that none of us want this war. And obviously none of us are responsible for anything. This decision has thrown us all into total uncertainty," added Canola.

He said "the team has never stopped" since the sanction, with riders continuing to train in groups or alone.

"We must continue to fight and start again from where we left off, with a victory in the UAE Tour", where 19-year-old Czech Mathias Vacek won a stage.

While the Gazprom team could not be reached for comment on Saturday, Canola was echoing many points made by Khamidulin, a Russian former cyclist, to Italian cycling media.

"Our team could be a messenger of peace. We don't want war, we want peace," Khamidulin said.

"We had already prepared our cars to be neutral, in white. As well as the jerseys, which are white, to bring a message of peace," he said. "We were ready to do our part, but the IOC and then the UCI cut our legs off, but not our hope."

He said the team was in dialogue with the UCI and made it clear that they were looking for a new backer.

"We have a healthy, competitive, winning team with an effective staff. I think this could be an important starting point for interested sponsors."