Ineos Grenadiers' Pavel Sivakov has revealed more behind the decision to change his nationality from Russian to French.
At the onset of the Russian invasion into Ukraine towards the end of February, Sivakov issued a social media statement condemning the war and expressing his wish for peace.
A week later, the UCI accepted the 24-year-old's request to switch his national allegiance from Russia to France. Sivakov was born in Italy to Russian parents and moved to southern France aged 1.
It had long since been mooted that Sivakov wanted to change his nationality, and speaking at the start of stage one of the Volta a Catalunya, the climber confirmed such rumours to Cycling Weekly.
"It’s been going on for a while, to be fair," he said just before his first race as a registered French rider.
"Obviously I started my career in France, but I wasn’t able at the time to swap nationalities because I was Russian.
"When I turned 18, I was able to change from that point but I didn’t do it in those moments, and there was always that question mark if I should change it or not.
"After the Tour de France in 2020, I was like, woah, after racing on my home roads in the Pyrenees, it really felt like obviously that’s where I belong.
"But I didn’t want to miss the Tokyo Olympics, and that was one of the main reasons I didn’t do it at that point. When all this stuff started, it accelerated the process really quickly."
Russian and Belarusian athletes have been banned from competing in UCI races for their national outfits, but now Sivakov is free to represent France at events such as the European and World Championships.
He has not, however, had dialogue with the French Cycling Federation, and admits that he faces a tough task to be selected for such races given the depth of talent that includes reigning world champion Julian Alaphilippe.
Sivakov added: "We haven’t spoken with the French Federation yet; we’ll have to chat in the future as we're not at that point yet. I need to get racing again and then we’ll see."
"It’s harder to get in the team but when you get in there the rewards are greater. You can go and race in a Worlds and you will have a rider who can win - that means more motivation and more support."
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