The Russian invasion in Ukraine has claimed the life of one of the country’s national cycling coaches, who was also the father of the rider who won the men’s National Road Race Championships in 2019.
Alexander Kulyk was killed on Tuesday in Kyiv during a mission to help evacuate people from the capital city.
His son, 32-year-old Andriy Kulyk, was Ukrainian champion less than three years ago, and finished third in last year’s National Championships.
Former WorldTour professional and now president of the Ukrainian Cycling Federation Andriy Grivko told Cycling Weekly“Yesterday was a tragic day for us in Kyiv. One of our coaches, Alexander Kuylk, was killed in an attack.
“He was involved in a military operation to help people exit dangerous places. He had been a long-time coach with the federation and was almost 65. Before he had been a coach with the Soviet Union and had worked with the Russian system.
“His son, Andriy, was on a training ride when his father was killed. We at the federation knew about his death before his son. It’s difficult.
“We are trying to collect information from all of our trainers, but it’s difficult to do so.”
Grivko, who counted 11 wins across a 14-year career that included a nine-year stint with Astana, spoke to Cycling Weekly from his home in France where he lives with his family.
He is in constant contact with his family in Ukraine and also members of the Ukrainian cycling federation, revealing that the mother of current national champion Andrii Ponomar has spent a week sheltering in a bunker.
“We have cyclists in difficult situations,” he continues. “We are trying to maintain contact with them and their families. The younger people are staying and they are staying in bunkers.
“The bombs are going off 24/7. We have cyclists who are closer to Russia where the bombardments are more intense. It’s difficult to leave anywhere, including Kyiv. It’s not safe to leave in cars or trains.
“Nobody knows where the next missile will be. It’s not like the Russians call and say it will be here.”
From his home, Grivko is trying to arrange logistical and financial support for those involved within the Ukrainian cycling family.
“We have a number of cyclists in Turkey right now who have been competing for the national team,” he said.
“We do not want them to come back to Ukraine. They want to continue doing sports, and from the European and other national federations we have letters of support.
“We are doing the maximum we can to organize, to arrange a normal life for people in Europe to continue to race in their clubs, or for the national team. We are trying to be supportive, also financially. The European Cycling Union has a solidarity fund and I do not think it will be a problem to use that.
“It is all big work for us. We have a responsibility to help families, to find homes in Poland or another country for whatever period of time is necessary.”
Asked if he would return to his homeland, Grivko said: “I’ve been thinking about this.
“It’s important that every person in every place does what they can. It’s important that people go to protect the country, and it’s important that they have arms to stay, food and water, and the financial support.
“I think, for me, it is more useful for me to continue what I am doing, trying to protect people by providing help and financial support.”
On Tuesday, the UCI announced a range of measures in light of the war, including banning Russian and Belarusian teams from competing, but allowing athletes from the two nations to continue to compete for their trade team as long as the teams are not registered as Russian or Belarusian.
It means that Ineos Grenadiers’ Pavel Sivakov and Bora-Hansgrohe’s Aleksandr Vlasov will not be barred from racing, although a ruling from the Dutch cycling federation means they cannot partake in races in the Netherlands.
Grivko wants that ruling to be extended to all countries. “We sent a letter to the UCI on February 26 about this and it was only decided yesterday,” the 38-year-old said.
“We have junior riders who do not want to ride with Belarusian teams because the Minsk teams, for example, receive their funds from the government, just like Gazprom-RusVelo do from the Russian government.
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“Our position is that if everyone wants to stop the war, we need to show solidarity in action. We have to send the message that we need to stop the war.
“Sure, many Russian riders will not agree with it [banning them from racing], but we can live without some Russian riders racing from a few days, weeks or months. It’s a small price to pay for Ukrainian people and families who are being killed. “
Grivko was unequivocal in his message to Vladimir Putin, the Russian president who ordered the invasion seven days ago. “I want the Russian army to go home having broken some balls. It’s time to stay home forever. Putin needs to be stopped.”