Ilnur Zakarin has retired from professional cycling at the age of 32. The Russian was effectively without a team already, after Gazprom-RusVelo ceased activities in the wake of the UCI's ban on Russian squads.
He spent most of his career at Russian teams, including Gazprom and Katusha, but also spent a year at the now-defunct CCC after Katusha ended their time in the sport.
“I officially announce my retirement from [my] cycle sport career,” Zakarin wrote in a post on Instagram this week.
“I’ve had more than 20 years of different competitions, success and obstacles, achievements and failures,” he continued. “Now I’m ready to move on. This is a new stage and a new start.”
It was during his time at Katusha, then Katusha-Alpecin, that he had his greatest successes. His third place at the 2017 Vuelta a España was the high-water mark of his career, as he finished behind Chris Froome and Vincenzon Nibali.
The Russian won two stages of the Giro d'Italia, at Imola in 2015, and then Ceresole Reale in 2019, proving himself as one of the pre-eminent climbers in the peloton. He also finished fifth overall at the Italian Grand Tour in 2017.
In 2016, he was on his way to another top ten finish in Italy when he crashed horrifically on the descent of the Colle dell'Agnello, on the same day as then race leader Steven Kruijswijk. Zakarin fractured his collarbone and shoulder blade. He was fortunate to escape with such light injuries, considering how bleak the images of the crash in the immediate aftermath looked.
Just a couple of months later, he won his only stage of the Tour de France, in Finhaut-Emosson, Switzerland. As with all his big wins, it was won with a solo attack.
Zakarin finished ninth overall at the Tour in 2019, the year Geraint Thomas won, in the dying days of Katusha-Alpecin. His career then seemingly went into a descent, his last notable results being fourth place on stages of the Giro and the Tour in 2020 while with CCC.
Early in his career, the Russian served a two-year doping ban after testing positive for an anabolic steroid at the age of 19.
His country's illegal invasion of Ukraine earlier this year led to the UCI banning all Russian and Belarusian teams from racing, effectively denying their riders the chance to ride. While other Gazprom riders found new teams, it would prove too difficult for Zakarin, who was due to retire at the end of the year anyway.
"I'm starting a new chapter of my life, and it's still tied to sports," he said.
"Inex Club is a club for cycling lovers, that provides lots of opportunities. This is what I really like doing, and something I'm going to give myself into."
The Cyprus-based company provides training for amateurs and pros, for the top-end amateur and semi-pro races.
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