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Pavel Sivakov eyes Tour debut with Team Ineos

Sivakov accepts he will have to wait in long queue of GC talent at Ineos before his own opportunity to challenge for yellow jersey.

Pavel Sivakov dreams of winning the Tour de France — one day. And many people believe he has the engine to do it. But the Russian-born Ineos rider knows he needs to start it before winning it.

That’s the plan, both in the short-term and long — race it and learn, and then win the Tour — one day. When? He’s not putting a timeline on anything.

“My main goal will be to get the selection for the Tour this year,” he said during an interview at the Santos Tour Down Under. “That would be my dream, and I will work for it. I just want to win the Tour one day.”

Sivakov, starting his third season in Ineos colors, believes the British outfit is the best place to someday win the Tour even if it means waiting his turn. He’s only 22, and feels like that time is on his side.

First things first, and that means fighting for one of the eight starting slots on Ineos’s powerful Tour squad this summer.

“I will work for this goal, even if people say there is a lot of competition inside the team,” he said. “If you are on a different team, and the guy on your team is stronger than you, you’re not going to win anyway. Our team in my opinion is the best for me to achieve that goal.”

There is no doubt Ineos is stacked with Tour firepower. This summer’s Tour could well see Ineos lining up with three former winners on the same squad, with Egan Bernal, Geraint Thomas and Chris Froome. Just finding room in the Ineos hierarchy is hard enough. Sivakov likes the challenge.

“In my opinion, you need to have a bit of competition within the team if you have strong guys,” he said. “If you on a smaller team and you are the only leader, it’s easier to relax. Here, it doesn’t matter who you are, you have to work and prove yourself. It’s a good rivalry. If you want to hit the top level it’s not going to be easy.”

As part of Brailsford’s recruiting class of 2018 that also included last year’s Tour winner Bernal, Sivakov is already leaving his mark. Last year, he won the Tour of the Alps and the Tour of Poland, and rode into the top-10 in his second grand tour start at the Giro d’Italia with ninth.

Sivakov won Tour of Poland in a highly-successful 2019 season. Photo: Luc Claessen/Getty Images

After the Tour Down Under and the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race, where he nearly won with second out of an attack, he’s back in Europe. Up next are the Tour of Provence, Volta a Catalunya and the Tour de Romandie. He’ll be hitting training camps with his teammates, and if he’s selected to race the Tour, likely race the Critérium du Dauphiné or Tour de Suisse.

Sivakov is proving a quick learner, and hopes to soak it up if he’s selected to race this July in France.

“Now I want to learn how things are going to go with the Tour, to race and prepare for the Tour,” he said. “I don’t mind working for someone. If that guy is stronger than me, that’s fine. I’d rather be there to see how things work, progress, train, and help the other guys win, you still learn so much.”

For Sivakov, rubbing shoulders with the likes of Froome and Thomas is like going to cycling academy every day.

“It’s great. You learn so much from them, especially with ‘G’ and Froome,” Sivakov said. “The older guys, you grew up, watching them on TV, and you have so much respect for them. Training with them, you are always learning things, little details. It’s for us young guys it’s a dream.”

Born in Italy, Sivakov grew up in France, and never lived in Russia, though both of his parents are former Russian riders, and he now he lives in Andorra. His racing license? Russia.

That could be a problem, especially since Russia is facing a possible ban from Olympic competition, and Sivakov wants to race in August in Tokyo.

“I’ll race under a neutral banner, but I’m not sure how it will work. I am trying to find out if it’s with people from the federation or you have to organize it yourself. It doesn’t change anything for me,” he said. “I’ll be ready, nothing will change.”

Sivakov was heavily recruited out of the U23 ranks, and his decision to turn pro with then-Team Sky after his breakout 2017 U23 season is what helped in part BMC Racing to drop its development program. Sivakov won the Baby Giro in 2017 with BMC’s development team, but accepted an offer he couldn’t refuse from Sky. Frustrated that rules don’t give development teams at least some rights to its young riders, BMC pulled the plug on the team. Sivakov also said uncertainty about the future of BMC — which folded after the 2018 season — was another key reason he took Brailsford’s offer.

“I never hesitated about [signing with Sky],” he continued. “The only hesitation from that period was that BMC team developed me. I also got an offer from them, but it was a bit hard for the sponsor. They could only offer one year. I was grateful for them, but you have to be a bit selfish and I wanted to secure my future.”

Sivakov’s rookie season in 2018 didn’t start off well. He suffered a tendon injury in his knee, missed three months of training, and didn’t start racing at a good level into the second half of the season.

Sivakov defied own expectations to finish ninth overall at the Giro and lead the youth classification for three days. Photo: Tim de Waele/Getty Images

“I was the new guy on the team and not riding my bike, it wasn’t a great season,” he said. “Last year, I could not believe that I won a World-Tour level race and finished a top-10 in the Giro.”

Last year at the Giro, he admitted he was never racing to win, but rather following wheels and trying to stay close to the favorites. His planning on that will change in the near future.

“I learned that you have to manage yourself and avoid any extra efforts,” he said of last year’s Giro. “I was quite passive. I didn’t have the level to fight with the better guys in the mountains, but I knew I had the level for a top-10. If you are not strong enough, that’s what you have to do. I did not race aggressively.”

Sivakov prefers to race the Tour in a helper role to begin his apprenticeship rather than go back to the Giro and try to better his top-10, or end up as a helper for new teammate and defending champion Richard Carapaz.

“I am so young, I want to learn, I don’t want to rush things,” he said. “I don’t want to say, OK, I was top-10 at the Giro, now I want to lead at the Vuelta or the Giro. I am happy with how things are at this point of my career.”

Sivakov is one of the most highly touted younger riders in the bunch. So far, he’s been overshadowed by the likes of Remco Evenepoel and his teammate Bernal, but Sivakov is taking the longer view. He’s hopeful that Tour win will come some day.