The Drone Hopper-Androni Giocattoli team took to the presentation stage of the Trofeo Laigueglia wearing a special replica jersey of their team-mate Andrii Ponomar's Ukrainian national champion jersey, accompanied with the words "#nowar" below the Ukraine flag.
Ponomar isn't competing in the Italian race, but seven of his team-mates from the ProTeam decided to pay their respects for Ponomar and the people of his nation.
Explaining the decision to wear replica Ukrainian national champion jerseys, Drone Hopper-Androni Giocattoli general manager Gianni Savio highlighted Ponomar's difficult experience, before condemning the "shameful" Russian invasion.
Toute l’équipe du Champion d’Ukraine Andrii Ponomar qui se présente sur le podium protocolaire avec son maillot aux couleurs de l’Ukraine. Ça réchauffe des cœurs 💙💛 pic.twitter.com/8V8cKIsvckMarch 2, 2022
He said: “We have expressed all our solidarity with Andrii Ponomar and his nation. The father is a soldier on the front line and Ponomar hasn't heard from him for five days.
"The mother and the little sister instead live in an air-raid shelter. We regard Russia's invasion of Ukraine as shameful. We hope this absurd war will end as soon as possible, so that the Ukrainian people can return to live in peace and freedom.”
Just 19 years old, Ponomar won last year's Ukraine National Road Championships in his first year as a professional rider, having joined Drone Hopper at the start of 2021. His appearance in the 2021 Giro d'Italia also made him youngest rider to compete in the Italian Grand Tour since 1929.
The organisers of Trofeo Laigueglia also paid respects to the people of Ukraine by holding a minute's silence before the start of the race. Laigueglia Mayor Roberto Sasso Del Verme stated that sportspeople should have the opportunity to act when injustice occurs.
He said: “We’re convinced that sport has to always carry a message of peace and that athletes don't have to passively suffer events just because they come from geographical location or another."
Following the UCI's decision on Tuesday to ban all Russian and Belarusian teams from competing, the Trofeo Laigueglia represented the first race this sanction came into immediate effect. Gazprom-RusVelo were due to start the one-day race in Italy, but couldn't line-up after the UCI imposed the ban.
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