GENT, Belgium (VN) — Yaroslav Popovych, the 36-year-old Ukrainian once hailed as a grand tour winner, will retire Sunday at Paris-Roubaix.
Trek – Segafredo officials confirmed to VeloNews and Het Nieuwsblad that Popovych will join the team staff. He attended the UCI’s sport director’s training program last year, and will eventually sit behind the wheel of one of the team cars.
Popovych’s 15-year career spanned many highs and lows, including third at the 2003 Giro d’Italia and the white jersey in the 2006 Tour de France, coupled with some painful crashes and injuries.
When he turned pro with Landbouwkrediet – Colnago in 2002 a year after winning the under-23 world title, many expected great things. In 2003, he rode to third in that year’s Giro, and wore the pink jersey the following season before settling into fifth.
A switch to Discovery Channel in 2005 saw him slot into a helper’s role for the last of Armstrong’s now-erased seven yellow jerseys, when he won the white jersey as the best young rider with 12th overall. He rejoined Armstrong in his comeback with Astana in 2009 and 2010, prompting federal investigators to question Popovych for 90 minutes as part of a grand jury investigation at the time.
Nicknamed “Popo,” he managed to win a stage in the 2006 Tour and rode to seventh overall in 2007, but faltered in subsequent chances to lead in the major tours. His stage victory in the 2007 Paris-Nice was his final professional win. He never tested positive during his racing career, but he topped a rather dubious “watch list” of riders on the UCI’s radar in 2010, leaked by L’Equipe in a story in 2011.
Later in his career, Popovych became a road captain and super domestique, helping many teammates win big races. Insiders on the team praised Popovych’s always-sunny disposition and experience.