Ruslan, in the end of this year you will close a very big chapter of your life, associated with Astana Team. How can you describe these 6 years?
- I am very happy that I spent all professional career in my team, in the Kazakh team, and all this time I proudly wore the Astana jersey. It was an honor for me to ride for Astana and Kazakhstan. I didn't try to change the team because I really liked everything and I felt at home in this project.
Could you remember the brightest moments: the best one, and maybe the worst?
- In fact, there were a lot of bright moments over the years. It is difficult for me to determine something particularly memorable, perhaps, after some time, awareness will come, and with it something very bright will stand out in the memory. Indeed, there were many interesting things, there were many good moments. Of course, not without some less pleasant, negative situations, everything was like in normal life. But the main thing that will remain with me is the team’s unity, spirit and, of course, all the victories that we have achieved together.
This season became the last one as a professional rider. How did it turn out for you?
- I can not say that this season has developed for me well and successfully. I had not too intense calendar, not so many races I rode. In fact, I got almost the easiest season in my career – about 50 starts. I tried to perform team tasks, did everything that was necessary to help the team, my teammates to achieve the best results.
Looking back on your cycling career, could you name the most important turning points?
- Probably, there were two such moments, and both times I faced the choice to continue my career or to stop. For the first time, this moment came just a year later, I started practicing cycling. I had such a categorical character: I wanted to achieve results here and now. For a while there were no results, nothing worked out, and I said to myself: "either I will start winning, or it's time to do something else”. And almost immediately after that, I won a good race in cyclocross. I was inspired; with new forces I continued cycling, all so quickly and well went for me. The second time I was faced with a choice in 2011, when I was left behind the national team of Kazakhstan. There was a difficult period, I continued to train together with my regional team, at that moment different thoughts wandered in the head, but in time I was dissuaded from hasty decisions, I was invited to become a trainee in the first Kazakhstan continental team, where I subsequently moved in 2012. Well, since then everything went differently, I spent a good year in the continental team, and then I was lucky enough to move to Astana Pro Team. Now I'm facing a choice for the third time, and this time my decision is final – it's time to part away with cycling. I think this is the right moment to change something in my life.
What were the most memorable and the most difficult race of your career?
- I think that I faced my most difficult races in that year when I started to compete in European competitions for the first time. Before that, we rode almost all the time in Kazakhstan, Russia and other countries closer to us. And those races we passed very easily, we won a lot. But in Europe we faced with real cycling, with real races and fierce competition. It was very difficult to go through it, to endure this period, in order to continue my development. Many of my teammates were forced to stop because of the difficulties of the races, while I’ve managed to survive, to digest this period and, in the end, I was able to become a professional rider.
Now, after so many years in cycling, do you regret that you chose this sport, and not some other? What does cycling mean in your life? Can you imagine your life without cycling?
- I do not regret about it, because cycling has given me a lot. I traveled all over the world, visited many countries, met a lot of people and learned a different culture. I am very glad that I chose this path. It was a wonderful and very exciting journey through my life. It is difficult for me to imagine my life outside of sports, I do not even know what I would do if it were not for sports. Probably I need to live another life to figure it out. At one time I was very fond of mathematics, computer science and everything connected with it. Perhaps, if it were not for sports, I would have followed some path related to information technology or computers, who knows?
Have you watched cycling on TV while being a rider and will you follow the news from the world of cycling after in the future?
- Of course, I tried to follow the news from the world of cycling while I was a rider and will definitely follow cycling in the future. I will keep an eye on the results of Astana Team, I will definitely watch the broadcasts on Eurosport. After so many years, given to the sport, it is difficult to immediately turn off, move away from it.
Have you thought about which way you will go next? Is there a desire to stay in the sport, or maybe there are already ideas in a completely different area?
- So far I did not think about it too seriously. Now I live in Germany, learning the language, adapting to local life, getting used to it. I would like to find something that is not related to sports, I want to try myself in some other area. Maybe I would like to come back later, but for now I will look for some new ways.
What would you wish to Astana Team and your friends in the new season of 2019?
- First of all, I want to wish to the team many victories! Guys, do not stop there, keep on moving forward! I would like to say a big thank you to my beloved parents, relatives, close friends, coaches who worked with me and everyone who has been with me all this time. Many thanks to Alexandr Vinokurov for believing in me, for trusting me. Also, I would like to thank my first coaches, Ovsyannikov Vladimir Vasilyevich and Kruchina Sergey Ivanovich, for giving me a good start in this exciting life. I hope they are happy with my achievements. And, of course, I’d like to thank the whole Astana Team, all the riders, sports directors and staff.
Photo credit: @Bettiniphoto