Ex-pro Yaroslav Popovych plans to fight for Ukraine

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Former World Under-23 road champion and Tour de France stage winner Yaroslav Popovych has said he plans to return to his home country of Ukraine to join the ranks of those trying to repel the current Russian invasion.

Speaking this week to The Teamhe said he considered fighting eight years ago when Crimea was annexed by the Russians, but suggested he might pursue such action this time.

“I only think of going to my country and taking up arms. I hesitated a lot in 2014 when I was still a driver. I told my wife Friday night and she is very upset. Yet I feel it deep inside me, I can’t do anything, ”he told the French sports daily.

“I’m scared, of course, but in 2014 people were under bombs every day, although a lot less people were talking about it, and I didn’t go there,” Popovych said. “Today I don’t want to hide anymore.”

Read also : UCI takes decisive action and bans competition for Russian and Belarusian teams

Popovych was born in 1980 in Drohóbych in western Ukraine, which at the time was part of the Soviet Union. He now lives in Italy. He won his world title in 2001 and turned professional with Landbouwkrediet-Colnago the following year.

He competed for the Discovery Channel team between 2005 and 2007 and spent a year with Silence-Lotto before returning to race alongside former teammate Lance Armstrong in Astana and Team RadioShack. He retired in 2016 and is a sporting director at Trek-Segafredo.

Whether or not Popovych eventually travels to Ukraine, he is already working hard to alleviate the situation there. He tried to coordinate the transport of refugees who crossed the border to other countries, and also acted as an intermediary for the donation and transport of food and other supplies.

He posted a moving video to his Instagram account on Sunday after returning from the UAE tour, and said he initially struggled to come to terms with and fully understand what was going on.

“Three days ago I found out what started the war in Ukraine, the Russian attack, full throttle. It was unbelievable. For two days I didn’t believe it, I was still in the news, read, read, read You determine what happened, how many people die, how many people suffer.

“Our soldiers are defending not only Ukraine but also Europe,” he added.

Popovych was clearly very emotional in the video, hyperventilating at one point to try to calm his nerves and also trying to suppress the tears.

“In my life, I never asked [for] help,” he said. “I help a lot but I don’t ask for help. But now I’m gonna make some lists of things now [of what] we need for the Ukrainian people. If you can help us, that will be really nice.

He appealed for food, clothing and medical items and said the first shipment would be sent the next day, with more to follow every three days thereafter.

He also said that there are other ways to help people. He told a story about a message he received from a friend of his asking for help for his family.

“They were two women with two children aged seven and one. They crossed the border from Ukraine to Poland. They have to go to Milan and they don’t know how to get to Milan – the buses were full, the train was full, everything was full.

He said he contacted a bike shop owner he knows in Poland, someone he met eight years ago after the Tour of Poland concluded and has stayed in contact with ever since. “

“He had already messaged me three days ago, [saying] ‘if you need help, anything…’

“I called this guy. He was immediately ready. Yesterday afternoon he picked up this family, he brought them to his house, they slept in his house and now they are going to Milan. It’s like 1,500 kilometres,” he said.

“They are already in Italy. So a person, like nothing [clicks fingers], helps another person by bringing him to Milan. This guy will now come back to Poland. He said, ‘guys, if you need something to bring to Poland from Milan, he’ll take it’.

If Popovych takes up arms, he will join other well-known athletes. Former heavyweight champions Vitali and Wladimir Klitschko, sons of a Soviet major general, have previously said they will fight Russian forces. Vitali Klitschko is the current mayor of Kiev, the capital of Ukraine.

They were joined by two other boxers, namely two-time Olympic gold medalist Vasiliy Lomachenko and current heavyweight champion Oleksandr Usyk.

Andrei Tchmil clarifies his comments on his vision of the war

However, another famous athlete has contradicted previous suggestions that he too would fight. Paris-Roubaix, Tour of Flanders and Milan-Sanremo champion Andrei Tchmil reportedly told another former classics champion, Johan Museeuw, that he had decided to take up arms.

In a video on his Instagram page, Museeuw had explained the conversation, saying that Tchmil, born in Russia and raised in Ukraine, had sworn to fight to help Ukraine. However, the latter said that was not the case.

“Johan misunderstood what I said to him in Italian,” Tchmil said. The Team. “I am a peaceful person and I still believe in a peaceful resolution to this conflict. This touches me personally because I have family and friends in Ukraine and Russia.

“It puts me in a delicate situation. I don’t want to be a target, because I never took a position or announced that I would go to war. I made the decision to stay in Moldova to support my bicycle factory, not to wage war.

He added that his factory only sold four bikes last month, but he was determined to keep the factory running and pay his employee’s salary.

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