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Having become a supervisor of the Russian global cycling project after the merger between RadioShack and Leopard-Trek, Viatcheslav Ekimov is back to his roots as he directs the pursuiters under the banner of Rusvelo at the Tour de Taiwan ahead of the UCI Track World Championships to be held in Melbourne from April 4 to 8.
2012 being an Olympic year, Ekimov, 46, remembers his first years of glory as he won the gold medal at the Seoul Olympics in 1988 with his team-mates Gintautas Umaras, Arturas Kasputis and Dimitri Nielubin, carrying the flag of the Soviet Union. 24 years on, with another gold medal in his bag at the 2000 Sydney Olympics for individual time trial, he directs the Russians whose dream is just as big as his. Artur Ershov, Alexey Markov, Alexander Serov and the Kovalev brothers are among the favourites for both the World's in Melbourne and the London Olympics.
"Since they won the world cup in Astana in 3.56, everyone knows what they're able to do", Ekimov told Cyclingnews. "The only question is: which medal will they get? For now, Russia is one of the four favourites with Australia, Great Britain and New Zealand."
"It's a very big year for us", Ekimov continued. "Due to the busy schedule of Rusvelo's team manager Heiko Salzwedel, I'm here to help the guys to perform. I was also personally interested to come to Taiwan for the first time. I like this country. I'm impressed by how organized and clean it is. There's no trash and not a single leftover of a cigarette on the road." The golden boy from Vyborg also enjoys the Asian island for the second passion of his life: photography.
"We're not only here for training", Ekimov stated. "We also want to get results. It's not an easy race but we would have liked it to be harder. Because of the moderated number of kilometers, the local riders are still fresh for the finishes but we've done well with Alexander Serov finishing third in stage 4 after his time trial victory at the Tour of Murcia and Artur Ershov coming seventh at the uphill finish of stage 5 even though he's got a sore knee. We're doing better and better after suffering the jet lag as we came from Europe. The Tour de Taiwan started with rain and cold but the weather is also getting better and better. Accommodation and food have been great.
"I'm happy with the current state of the team in Taiwan", Salzwedel confirmed. "We're on track! Tour of Murcia and Tour de Taiwan were our final preparation on the road before we start our special track tapering for the World's."
The Russians will complete their training in Sydney before heading to Melbourne three days prior to the world championships.