‘They’re racing on the bikes we gave them’ - Fundraiser seeks support for Ukrainian cyclists

Campaign starter hopes to sponsor UK trip for displaced junior cyclists

Four cyclists in Ukraine
(Image credit: Anna Hopson / Instagram: @ukrainan_cyclists_support)

A fundraising campaign for young Ukrainian cyclists is seeking renewed support, to continue helping those displaced by the Russian invasion. 

Anna Hopson, a Polish-born Surrey resident with Ukrainian roots, began the campaign last March, and has since helped raise over £1,000 in aid. 

“When the war started, I had to do something,” she told Cycling Weekly. “I was volunteering with different charities and NGOs, and we were evacuating people from war zones in Ukraine. While I was doing that, I also learned of a huge number of minor Ukrainian cyclists being evacuated.

“They were pretty much taken out of their velodromes in what they were wearing. Some of them literally crossed the Polish border wearing cycling gear, just racing suits basically, or jerseys and bib shorts. Others were lucky enough and were able to bring rucksacks.” 

Hopson reached out to the Polish cycling federation, and asked how she could help. Together with her local community and that of Herne Hill Velodrome, she gathered funds and equipment, and sent them in aid. 

“We shipped four bicycles in total to Poland, and Fizik stepped in as well, and donated some cycling shoes,” Hopson said. “Some of [the cyclists] found clubs in Poland, but I would say the majority of them had to come back to Ukraine. They are training there and they’re resilient. The amazing thing is that they’re racing on the bikes we gave them.” 

One of those who benefited from the support was Liza, a 16-year-old Ukrainian who now lives in the western city of Lviv. “This year, I began to appreciate many things,” she said, “because a lot was lost during the war.” 

Originally evacuated to Poland, Liza returned to Ukraine last year, and has since become a regional cyclo-cross champion, thanks, in part, to a donated Liv bike. “The support gave us a new breath and the strength to go on,” she said. “If it weren’t for the support, we would have given up a long time ago.” 

Hopson’s fundraiser is not the only one that has helped Ukrainian cyclists. In March last year, EF Education-EasyPost rider Lachlan Morton rode over 1,000km from Munich, Germany to the Polish-Ukrainian border to raise money for GlobalGiving’s Ukraine Crisis Relief Fund. On his trip, the Australian also visited cyclists housed by the Polish national federation in Spala, just outside of Warsaw. 

Many of those cyclists, like Liza, now live in Lviv. “Currently, this is the best place for an athlete to train in Ukraine,” said 18-year-old Kolya. “This is the only city with a closed track where we can cycle.

“When I moved to Lviv, I began to prepare for track sprints, and I completely abandoned tempo disciplines. I have ambitions, desire and faith that next year I will be able to qualify and go to the European Championship and win it.

“I am very grateful to everyone who helped us with the beginning of the war,” Kolya added. “Without these bicycles, a normal training wouldn’t be possible for us.” 

Now, with the conflict in Ukraine ongoing, Hopson hopes to harness more support for the country’s next generation of talent. “What I personally would like to do for them, if I had no financial limits, is ship them here [to the UK], so they can gain experience of riding here,” she said. “That’s the ongoing plan.” 

To do so, she is seeking donations, as well as hosts in South London, who could temporarily home the Ukrainians while they train in Herne Hill. “Collaboration is needed,” Hopson stressed. “As cyclists, we all collaborate to achieve success. It’s team work. I think it’s possible.

“Every single image [I see] from Ukrainian cyclists brings smiles. These kids are super resilient, keeping cycling despite the war in their country.” 

To donate to the campaign, visit Hopson’s GoFundMe page. 

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