Popovych retires from racing, takes directeur sportif role at Trek-Segafredo

15-year career ends at Paris-Roubaix

Trek-Segafredo announced the retirement of Yaroslav Popovych, whose final race for the team was Sunday's Paris-Roubaix. The Ukrainian turned professional in 2002 with Landbouwkrediet-Colnago after winning the U23 road race world title. He will move into a directeur sportif role with the team.

"It will be quite the adaptation for me," Popovych said. "From the bike to the director's car. I love driving cars, but that's not the same as driving for 5 hours at 40kmh! It may be challenging to work with the athletes I rode with until yesterday, but I'm ready for it.

"It's a beautiful opportunity. It's something that's been on my mind for some time now, although in a way unexpected as the team only approached me about this last winter and made me this offer to ride until Paris-Roubaix. I have always known I'd stay involved in cycling. And this is perfect: to remain with the same group of people."

Popovych was once viewed as a possible successor to Lance Armstrong when he joined the Discovery Channel team in 2005. The previous year he had won a stage of the Giro d'Italia and kept the race lead for four stages. In 2005, he finished 12th overall in the Tour de France and was the best young rider.

However, the following year he lost over six minutes in the first major mountain stage, dashing his GC hopes. He salvaged his race with a stage win the next day in Carcassonne. The next year he was eighth overall in the Tour de France behind teammate Alberto Contador.

When Discovery Channel folded at the end of 2007, Popovych moved to Silence-Lotto and rode in support of Cadel Evans before moving back to Johan Bruyneel's Astana squad, which then morphed into RadioShack and, after the exit of Bruyneel, Trek-Segafredo.

Popovych was implicated in the US Postal Service/Discovery Channel doping scheme and linked to banned doctor Michele Ferrari through a witness statement by Leonardo Bertagnolli in 2012. Investigators in Italy searched his home in Tuscany and he was ordered to appear before a grand jury in Los Angeles, but he was never sanctioned for any offences. He testified to the grand jury that he never witnessed any doping.

"I am absolutely satisfied with my career," Popovych said in the Trek-Segafredo press release. "This is the right decision. Sometimes in life, you have to make big decisions like this. Becoming a gregario was another one of those. Yes, I won some big races as a young rider, the U23 World title in Lisbon was my highlight, and I am proud of what I have accomplished. Some people will say that I should have won more, but I made my choices. It's my life. I won a lot with the leaders I worked for. I would even argue that the TTT's that we've won over the years are the things I'm most proud about."

Trek-Segafredo General Manager Luca Guercilena was pleased to keep him on as directeur sportif. "Popo is one of the most respectful riders in the peloton, and his experience will be gold for the team's future riders. It is a pleasure to have him in the sport managers group, and he will have time to learn a new job and become a good DS, just as he was a great team player."

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