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POTENZA, Italy (VN) — Pavel Sivakov still harbors yellow jersey dreams at the Tour de France even if he admits he feels “old” at 24.
The Ineos Grenadiers rider is among a generation of highly touted GC prospects that’s run up against such remarkable champions as Tadej Pogačar and Remco Evenepoel who are winning right out of the junior ranks.
“I am going to be 25, and back in the day, that would still be considered young. Now with all the juniors coming in straight away, I almost feel quite old,” Sivakov told VeloNews.
“When you have Tadej and Remco — it’s so young — so you almost feel old, but at the end of the day, you are not,” he said. “I still have a good 10 years to go and the best years to come.”
Sivakov turns 25 in July, and was one of the most highly touted prospects when he signed with Sky/Ineos in 2018, and quickly won such races as the Tour de Pologne and Tour of the Alps.
His progress in the grand tours is a different story, however. He impressed with ninth overall in his Giro debut in 2019, but has suffered some bad luck and crashes along the way.
He earned a spot on the 2020 Tour de France team, but at Ineos Grenadiers, he knows exactly where he is in the hierarchy of the team.
Sivakov knows it’s a double-edged sword to race on Ineos Grenadiers.
Everyone knows the peloton’s richest squad is one of the most successful teams in the bunch, but everyone on the team realizes how hard it can be to earn the top spot as GC captain in a grand tour.
Sivakov looks at his situation at Ineos as a plus, and remains determined to earn his place on the team’s GC hierarchy.
“It’s one of the teams that it’s hard to get that leadership role. Coming into a grand tour, if you want to be a leader, you need to be able to win it, so obviously, that is pretty hard,” he said. “That is part of the game. It makes you want to work harder and be up there.”
Sivakov has one more season on his current contract with Ineos Grenadiers, and hopes to be able to show the team his worth.
At this Giro, he knows he’s at the service of team captain Carapaz. He’s hoping to see some opportunities later this season.
“Carapaz is our guy, and he is going really well, and we’ll be riding to protect him,” Sivakov said. “I knew coming here I would be helping the boys in the mountains. There are no surprises for me.
“I would hope [to see a chance to lead]. This race is really important to show my strength, to show that I am reliable, and hopefully I can get some leadership role later this season.”
Sivakov also knows he has a unique opportunity this season. With Egan Bernal sidelined with injury, and other riders such as Geraint Thomas riding into different roles on the team, there’s pressure for the next wave of riders to step up.
“I like it, although there is some stress, and that’s part of the game. Grand tours are what I like, I love them. It’s a long game, and I think am suitable for GC riding,” Sivakov said.
He said he takes inspiration from Dylan Van Baarle, who put in the hard yards and rode loyally for the team before finally getting his chance to ride as a leader. Deliverance came at Paris-Roubaix this past spring.
“Dylan is a good example for me. He won Roubaix after years of growing and developing, and I saw how hard he worked. He committed himself to the team and he finally got his first big victory. That’s great to see and that’s a bit of motivation.
“When I am taking a step back, I know there will be opportunities,” Sivakov said. “I still feel I have some big room for improvement and a lot to learn.”
‘I feel good’ on changing to French status
Sivakov also made headlines earlier this season when he switched his racing license from the Russian federation to the French national federation.
Sivakov, who was born to ex-pro Russian parents but was raised in France, said he was already looking at making the move even before Russia invaded Ukraine.
“I wanted to do it already before, it’s just that whole situation accelerated the process,” Sivakov told VeloNews. “I made the change. I feel good about that decision. I grew up in France and I never lived in Russia myself.
“Obviously my family is Russian, and my girlfriend is Russian. I feel fine with the decision. It’s a bad situation.”
Pavel Sivakov nationality change request from Russian to French accepted by the UCI
“I have wanted to become a French national for some time and had made the request to the UCI, but given what is happening in the Ukraine at the moment, I wanted to fast track this.”
— Gregor Brown (@gregorbrown) March 4, 2022