After his debut Tour de France in 2020, Pavel Sivakov made a decision. Following three weeks of racing around the country he’d called home since birth, raised in Paris as an infant before moving to the foot of the Pyrenees mountains when he was eight, it was time to change the nationality on his racing licence to the one that properly represented who he was.
“I have nothing in common with Russia except my parents’ ties,” Sivakov explained to L’Équipe, the son of two former professional cyclists.
The paperwork sat at UCI headquarters for months on end as the young Ineos Grenadiers rider cut his teeth in the WorldTour, also riding for Russia in World Championships and the Tokyo Olympic Games.
But then came the Russian invasion of Ukraine, something that made Sivakov feel “foreign” to the country he’d represented on the elite sporting stage. Cycling’s governing body sprung into action, speeding up the process and enacting the nationality change.
“Today, I’m so happy,” Sivakov said. “I was a little afraid of being perceived as a traitor by some Russians: I did have some negative reactions on social networks, but it was really minor: 95% of people were understanding and supported me. In France, everyone seems very happy for me. I really do not regret this choice.”
Sivakov is currently riding the 2022 Giro d’Italia, his sixth Grand Tour at the age of 24, in support of Ineos Grenadiers leader Richard Carapaz.
“Changing my nationality hasn’t changed me as a rider,” Sivakov continued. “But I feel like it has transformed something in me as a man, I would have a hard time describing the feeling but yes, I feel different. What is happening in Russia saddens me but I am here on the Giro to ride my bike and that is what I need to focus on.”
This summer’s Tour de France could possibly follow this Giro for Sivakov, but he also has his sights set on riding a first French National Road Championships at the end of June, should his schedule allow.
“I really want to. In the youth categories, I always saw my friends leaving for the French Championships in the future and I could never follow them,” Sivakov said. “If it fits into my racing schedule, I’ll be there. Symbolically, it would endorse the fact that I am a French rider now.”