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Zakarin takes early retirement after Gazprom-RusVelo collapse

Ilnur Zakarin before the Gazprom Rusvelo collapse
Ilnur Zakarin before the Gazprom Rusvelo collapse (Image credit: Dario BelingheriGetty Images)

Ilnur Zakarin announced a somewhat premature end to his cycling career, announcing the news on his Instagram page. The former Grand Tour contender was part of the Gazprom-RusVelo team since 2021, but was left without racing options when the UCI ban on Russian teams in the wake of his country's invasion of Ukraine led to the squad's collapse.

"I officially announce my retirement from cycle sport career," Zakarin wrote. "I've had more than 20 years of different competitions, success and obstacles, achievements and failures. Now I'm ready to move on. This is a new stage and a new start."

Zakarin, 32, began his cycling career in 2013 with RusVelo after a trainee stint with Katusha, a somewhat delayed entry to the pro ranks after he served a two-year suspension for methandienone, a banned steroid. After several top finishes in stage races in 2014, including three overall victories, Zakarin was picked up by the Katusha WorldTour team and remained there for five seasons.

During his time with Katusha, Zakarin won the Tour de Romandie (2015), stages of the Giro d'Italia (2015, 2019) and Tour de France (2016) finished in the top 10 of Grand Tours three times, taking third in the 2017 Vuelta a España.

Zakarin struggled to fulfil that potential, however, missing the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio after the IOC's attempt to ban all Russians with past doping offences in response to the Russian state-sponsored doping scandal. 

His sub-par descending skills cost him in Grand Tours, and he notably missed out on a potential Tour de France stage win in 2020 when Nans Peters descended away from him down the Col de Peyresourde to win stage 8.

He had misfortunes with teams, too. Katusha sold its WorldTour license and management company to Sylvan Adams' Israel Cycling Academy in 2019 after co-title sponsor Alpecin departed for Mathieu van der Poel's team. Zakarin left for the CCC Team only to see the pandemic of 2020 kill the Polish shoe company that supported the team. The CCC Team disbanded, selling its top-tier license to what is now Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert.

Back with RusVelo, Zakarin raced a full 2021 season with a second place at the Russian championships his best result, and confirmed to Cyclingnews earlier this year that he intended to retire. The forced suspension of the team only sped the process along.

In his final race before the team's demise, Zakarin crashed out of the Volta a Comunitat Valenciana and suffered a concussion.

"I'm starting a new chapter of my life, and it's still tied to sports," Zakarin wrote, explaining he would be working with the Inex Club in Cyprus.

"This is what I really like doing, and something I'm going to give myself into."

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Laura Weislo has been with Cyclingnews since 2006 after making a switch from a career in science. As Deputy Editor, she coordinates coverage for North American events and global news. A former elite-level road racer who dabbled in cyclo-cross and track, Laura has a passion for all three disciplines. When not working she likes to go camping and explore lesser traveled roads, paths and gravel tracks.