“It’s a pity to give up the bike, but I’ve been thinking about this for a long time,” Grivko told Ukraine’s Sport Online website during a visit to Kiev. “I want to help the ATO [Anti-Terrorist Operation] fighters in our country’s difficult period.”
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The 31-year-old Ukrainian rode at the side of his Italian team-mate throughout 2014. He helped Nibali in Tirreno-Adriatico, the Tour de Romandie, the Critérium du Dauphiné and of course, the Tour de France.
It was not any easy year with problems brewing at home. His parents and sister live in Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula, where in late February, Russian-backed rebels gained control and pushed for annexation. Crimeans voted to join Russia in a snap referendum held on March 11, but Grivko said that his people were prevented from voting otherwise.
“It’s difficult to concentrate on the bike when you know that your family is there,” Grivko told France’s L’Equipe newspaper at the Tour in July. “Our freedom and our security are in danger.”
The situation only worsened when a missile reportedly fired from rebel-held territory on July 17 hit Malaysia Airlines MH17 en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur. The missile, allegedly fired by a Russian-backed group, downed the aeroplane in eastern Ukraine and killed 298 people, mostly Dutch.
“It’s a huge tragedy that is not limited to the Ukraine and Russia. It concerns the world and in particular, Europe,” added Grivko. “Everyone should understand what is the cause of this is an act of terrorism – Russia is guilty and has dirtied the reputation of my country.”
Grivko’s father also cycled, riding for the USSR, and encouraged his son to take up cycling. Grivko lives in Italy, but visited Kiev 500 miles north of Crimea.
“The last time I was a year and a half ago in the Crimea. I hope that when the Crimea in Ukraine, I will return there. And I believe that it will be very soon,” Grivko told Sport Online. “It should only be a political solution, and not a military action as it happens in the east.”
In the country’s east, a ceasefire has collapsed and Russia is sending more convoys into the area. Russia is accused of sending military supplies to rebels in the war-stricken Donbas region instead of promised aid to civilians. An estimated 4000 people have died since the rebellion began.
Money from Grivko’s Specialized bike, equipped with Campagnolo, will aid the ATO soldiers. Auction details were unavailable. Fellow Ukrainian cyclist Yaroslav Popovych (Trek Factory Racing) auctioned his trophies to support his country.
Tour de France's only Ukrainian rider, Andriy Grivko, says that he fears for the freedom and safety of his compatriots