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Ilnur Zakarin calls it quits: ‘I’m ready to move on’

Out-of-contract former grand tour contender retires after Gazprom-RusVelo suspends activities in wake of UCI ban on Russian teams.

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Ilnur Zakarin has put his race bike on the hooks.

Zakarin, 32, confirmed that he’s called immediate time on his career and bows out of the pro peloton without a team to wave goodbye to.

“I officially announce my retirement from [my] cycle sport career,” Zakarin wrote in a social post this week.

Zakarin previously confirmed he would retire at the end of the season as his career began to nosedive. Now out of a home in the wake of UCI action against Russian teams, Zakarin brought the decision forward and called it quits mid-season.

“I’ve had more than 20 years of different competitions, success and obstacles, achievements and failures,” Zakarin said. “Now I’m ready to move on. This is a new stage and a new start.”

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Tatarstan-born Zakarin rode high through the middle of last decade with stage wins at the Giro d’Italia and Tour de France.

Landing fifth and then third on the final podium at the Giro and Vuelta a España for Team Katusha-Alpecin respectively marked a high-point for the long lanky climber.

 

Five years as a poster-boy in his home Katusha team made way for an ill-fated season at the now-shuttered CCC Team before an equally doomed move to Gazprom-RusVelo last winter.

The UCI this spring banned all Russian and Belarusian teams from competition in the wake of the invasion of Ukraine, and team backer Gazprom was identified by the international community for sanctions for its close links to Vladimir Putin.

Stripped of sponsors, the Gazprom-RusVelo squad shuttered and its riders flooded the market.

Despite Russian athletes being spared the UCI’s ban from competition, a fully-clogged mid-season market left dozens of riders on the sidelines.

Zakarin is now pivoting to the Inex Club project he established with his ex-Gazprom-RusVelo teammate Vyacheslav Kuznetsov.

The Cyprus-based setup offers amateurs and pros high-end training and racing opportunities for hard-fought fondos like the Haute Route series.

“I’m starting a new chapter of my life, and it’s still tied to sports,” Zakarin wrote. “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.”