Bringing the world to attention

An interview with Andriy Grivko, October 27, 2008

The historical time trial between Firenze and Pistoia in Tuscany was the platform Ukrainian champion Andriy Grivko needed to begin building the new cycling project in his home nation. His move from Milram to ISD-Danieli Team will be interesting to follow next year, as Cyclingnews' Jean-François Quénet became aware of after catching up with the stylish rider from Crimea.

As he resides in Quarrata, Tuscany, the village of future directeur sportif Luca Scinto, Andriy Grivko secured a coup on home soil when he finished ahead of Italian champion Marco Pinotti at the end of the Firenze-Pistoia time trial last Saturday. "It was very emotional, very nice, there were so many people," said the-25-year old Ukrainian, a week after finishing ninth in the prestigious Chrono des Nations in France. It he crowned a 2008 season full of highs and lows.

"At the end of the day I'm pretty happy with what I've done this year although I still feel extremely disappointed to have been left behind for the Tour de France," Grivko explained. During his first three seasons as a professional – with Domina Vacanze in 2005 and Milram in 2006 and 2007 – he was selected for the Tour de France and always put his name in the race's daily communiqués as an aggressive rider eager to be amongst the breakaways.

The attacks

The most famous of his attacks occurred during stage 13 of the 2006 Tour. He rode so well that he played an important role in Oscar Pereiro's eventual overall win, although the race was mostly remembered for Jens Voigt's win, Sylvain Chavanel's loss and the bunch finishing half an hour behind.

"Two years ago I was still lacking the experience to win but I'm a more mature rider now," continued Grivko. "I'm getting to know how to save energy in breakaways and finding out the right moment to go." In 2008 he could be seen on the attack at Flèche Wallonne and later at the Vuelta a España, where he rode with the world championships in mind. In Varese he was the second non-Italian in the top-five, finishing in fifth behind Alessandro Ballan, Damiano Cunego, Denmark's Matti Breschel and Davide Rebellin.

"I would have been very p***ed off to come fourth and miss out on a medal," he recalled. "But I was quite satisfied with my ride. I was a victim of the game of the Italian team but what could I do? They were three in the front group, I would have needed team-mates to beat them. I always look ahead, so I see the world's in Varese as a motivating factor for the coming years. I've already set my sights on next year's world's in Mendrisio. I'll focus 100 per cent on that race."

Grivko always looks ahead but still talks about not getting selected for the Tour de France this year. "At the Dauphiné I was the best in my team," he remembered. One week prior to the start of the Tour in Brest, he also won the Ukrainian time trial championship for the third time [having won it in 2005 and 2006] in a country with numerous specialists in the discipline, such as Yaroslav Popovych, Sergey Honchar, Yuriy Krivtsov and Sergey Matveyev.

Internal struggles

His form was undoubtedly strong for the July event, and he would have probably done better than any other rider from Milram other than Erik Zabel, who scored several top-10 placings in bunch sprints. The German team was very 'hush-hush', at the Tour, not exactly the organisation Grivko had signed for when it was under the management of Italy's Gianluigi Stanga until his tenure ended at the end of 2007.

"I didn't get along with the team manager," he said. "During my last season at Milram, I've had to do everything by myself, without any help. There was no team spirit, no emotion. Winning or not, it was the same. I had turned pro with Giovanni Visconti and Maxim Iglinsky. When they left Milram, they became winners. So I rode the whole year with my future in another team in mind. Actually, for two years I have waited for Scinto and [team manager Angelo] Citracca to start their pro team.

"We know each other, we are friends, there will be Ukrainians and Italians, we won't have problems riding together. It's going to be perfect, not like mixing with Germans, Belgians Dutch or riders coming from different origins. I already have a huge motivation for next year." At ISD-Danieli he'll again be paired with Visconti and compatriot Dmytro Grabovskyy, who was the U23 world champion three years ago but didn't meet Quick Step's expectations built around his potential. They all come from Scinto's amateur team in Tuscany, previously known as Finauto.

After one season a Sidi-Colnago spent riding with another lost talent from the Ukraine, Oleksander Kvachuk – a fabulous junior world champion in Lisbon in 2001 – Grivko joined Scinto's team in 2003. After finishing his pro career in the service of Mario Cipollini at the Zolder world championships in 2002, 'the python' – as Michele Bartoli's former right hand man at MG, ASICS and Mapei was nicknamed – became a successful directeur sportif.

"ISD-Danieli Team is a very important project," said Grivko of the combined forces of two sponsors. The main one originates from the Ukraine, the second from Italy, and both companies operate in the metallurgy sector [primary metals]. "ISD works with many countries from the former Soviet Union. They want to enter the western European market," noted Grivko, who himself hails from Simferopol in Crimea. His father rode for the Soviet Union and gave him the passion for cycling, a sport he took up at 16. ISD-Danieli is to Ukraine what the Astana team is to Kazakhstan or Katusha to Russia.

Ukrainian riders

"Our first goal is to develop Ukrainian riders," said Grivko. "We have many good young cyclists in the Ukraine. We don't have to buy foreign riders like Astana and Katusha are doing." The other major difference between the two other teams backed by former USSR countries is that ISD-Danieli is a private initiative, with no interference from the Ukrainian government. An agreement has been reached between Citracca and the Ukrainian cycling federation for the development of a junior program, however.

The man behind the ISD company [Industrial Union of Donbass] is Sergey Taruta. "He's involved in all sports in the town of Donetsk but he wants to invest more in cycling," explained Grivko. "He has a big passion for our sport and his goal is for the team to take part in the Tour de France within two years." The Ukrainian champion is determined to return to the race he missed in 2008 with big ambitions.

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