The Drone Hopper-Androni Giocattoli team took to the Trofeo Laigueglia presentation stage wearing a special replica jersey of teammate Andrii Ponomar’s Ukrainian national champion jersey, complete with the words “#nowar” under the Ukrainian flag .
Ponomar is not taking part in the Italian race, but seven of his ProTeam teammates have decided to pay tribute to Ponomar and the people of his nation.
Explaining the decision to wear replica Ukrainian national champion jerseys, Drone Hopper-Androni Giocattoli general manager Gianni Savio highlighted Ponomar’s difficult experience, before condemning the “shameful” Russian invasion.
The whole team of Ukrainian Champion Andrii Ponomar who presents himself on the ceremonial podium with his jersey in the colors of Ukraine. It warms hearts 💙💛 pic.twitter.com/8V8cKIsvckMarch 2, 2022
He said: “We expressed our full solidarity with Andrii Ponomar and his nation. The father is a soldier on the front line and Ponomar has not heard from him for five days.
“The mother and the little sister instead live in an air-raid shelter. We regard Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as a disgrace. We hope that this senseless war will end as soon as possible, so that the Ukrainian people can return to live in peace and freedom.”
At just 19, Ponomar won the Ukrainian national road championships last year in his first year as a professional rider, having joined Drone Hopper in early 2021. His appearance in the 2021 Giro d’Italia also made him the youngest rider to compete in the Grand Tour of Italy since 1929.
The organizers of the Trofeo Laigueglia also paid tribute to the Ukrainian people by observing a minute of silence before the start of the race. Laigueglia Mayor Roberto Sasso Del Verme said athletes should be given the opportunity to act in the event of injustice.
He said: “We believe that sport should always convey a message of peace and that athletes do not have to passively endure events just because they come from one geographical location or another.”
Following the UCI’s decision on Tuesday to ban all Russian and Belarusian teams from competing, the Trofeo Laigueglia represented the first race where this sanction went into effect immediately. Gazprom-RusVelo was due to start the one-day race in Italy but was unable to line up after the UCI imposed the ban.
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