After 15 years competing in professional cycling, and 24 years riding a bicycle, Yaroslav (Popo) Popovych has officially announced his retirement Monday, one day after competing in his final Paris-Roubaix.
Popovych, 36, will not be leaving Trek-Segafredo, but rather changing responsibilities as he jumps into the role of sport director for the team.
“It will be quite the adaptation for me,” said Popovych. “From the bike to the director’s car. I love driving cars, but that’s not the same as driving for 5 hours at 40kmh! It may be challenging to work with the athletes I rode with until yesterday, but I’m ready for it.
“It’s a beautiful opportunity. It’s something that’s been on my mind for some time now, although in a way unexpected as the team only approached me about this last winter and made me this offer to ride until Paris-Roubaix. I have always known I’d stay involved in cycling. And this is perfect: to remain with the same group of people.”
General Manager Luca Guercilena: “Popo is one of the most respectful riders in the peloton, and his experience will be gold for the team’s future riders. It is a pleasure to have him in the sport managers group, and he will have time to learn a new job and become a good DS, just as he was a great team player.”
After being hailed as one of the most promising cyclists at the turn of the century, Popovych changed his mindset to that of domestique to become one of the most cherished teammates found in the pro peloton.
His impenetrable passion and intense fighting spirit combined with incredible loyalty, propelling Popovych into the ultimate team player – something that did not go unnoticed by cycling’s biggest champions, like Fabian Cancellara, who treasured the selfless, tireless work habits of the affable Ukranian.
Popovych: “I am absolutely satisfied with my career. This is the right decision. Sometimes in life, you have to make big decisions like this. Becoming a gregario was another one of those. Yes, I won some big races as a young rider, the U23 World title in Lisbon was my highlight, and I am proud of what I have accomplished. Some people will say that I should have won more, but I made my choices. It’s my life. I won a lot with the leaders I worked for. I would even argue that the TTT’s that we’ve won over the years are the things I’m most proud about.”
Popovych has no regrets in calling it quits: He speaks seven languages, competed around the world, met many people and estimates he has pedaled some 500 thousand kilometers on two wheels.
Popovych: “That’s a crazy number if you think about it. But it was fun putting in the miles; I love riding my bike and looking around how the landscape changes all the time. I never got tired of that. The things you see, the people; I have seen the world through cycling. Traveled to so many different places and met so many different people. That’s maybe the most beautiful thing I take away from my career.”
Credits: Tim Vanderjeugd