2011 Fan Choice Awards: Most Valuable Domestique

Yaroslav Popovych



Johan Bruyneel on the 2011 Fan Choice Awards:

This is the third year where we gave fans the opportunity to vote for the most outstanding riders and performances from the season. When the idea was initially presented to me a few years ago, I was a bit unsure if that was something we should do. Our whole focus is about the team; something that singles out one rider would seem to go against our philosophy. I was convinced by some of our staff that this is something fun for the fans to participate in and that teams in other sports also give their fans the same or similar opportunities. So while I agree it's fun for many and nice for the riders who have been nominated and won, I want to re-emphasize that the success of our team does not lie on the shoulders of one rider. In fact, it goes beyond the riders - it extends to directors, mechanics, soigneurs, the entire support staff, our dedicated sponsors and of course, the loyal fans who have followed from USPS to Discovery Channel to Astana to RadioShack. I hope that many will come along with us on our new and exciting journey in 2012. Thank you - Johan


Johan Bruyneel on the 2011 Most Valuable Domestique:

This may be the hardest category of them all, simply because the large majority of domestiques' work is never televised. No one truly sees the complete picture of a cycling race. There are just too many riders and not enough cameras to capture all the action. For me, what really stands out in my mind from this year with Popo, was a horrific day at the Tour where he crashed twice, the last time with an ambulance. I remember thinking that was the end of Popo's Tour. But he proved me wrong. Through all the pain, he got back on his bike and tried to serve and protect his teammates. Unfortunately a few days later, a high fever that was too dangerous to race ended his Tour. Popo has the mentality of a warrior, will sacrifice his own chances for those of his teammates and always seems to manage a smile throughout it all. Congratulations Popo.

Interview with Yaroslav Popovych (signed jersey winner announced after interview) by Staff

Q: Before we get to questions about you, tell me how your son Jason is doing?

YP: Yea, he's good. I stayed with him about a month ago in New Caledonia, which is to the east of Australia. It's far away from Italy. He lives there with my ex-wife. He'll be 5 in January, starting school and just a happy boy. We have a lot of fun together.

Q: And what have you been doing in the off-season?

YP: I went to the Maldives with my girlfriend. Man, so nice there. Already my third time. You can relax 100 percent. It's a place where you forget everything.

I've already started to train and then we'll have a team training camp in December. Then I'll do some more training somewhere warm. And you know, in the Ukranian and Russian religion, our big holiday is on January 6th, so I'll probably spend that day in Italy with my Russian and Ukranian friends.

Q: The fans voted you as the 2011 Most Valuable Domestique. What's been the highlight of your season?

YP: Highlight of this season? Pffff. This year was not very good. I trained a lot and tried to win a stage in the Giro, but it didn't happen. I did a lot of work in the break, but nobody wanted to pull. It didn't end the way I wanted it to. Then In the Tour, I was feeling very fresh, but I had three really bad crashes in two days. Then I come back after the Tour, but I wasn't feeling very good either. I was disappointed because for me it's not normal to not finish the race, especially the Tour. For me, this season was really really bad. I don't want to think about it anymore. I've already started training. You know, normally I start training in December, but this year I started in the beginning of November because I want to do a really good job next year.

Q: You mentioned the bad crashes in the Tour. Johan called you a warrior. What goes on in your head when you have a number of bad crashes?

YP: For me, it's my job. I crash and I think to myself "I need to go to the finish. I need to help my teammates." And the only way you can do that is by getting back on the bike.

Q: What are your personal goals for 2012?

YP: I hope to do all the Classics with Cancellara. All the pave races. Flanders, Paris-Roubaix. I really want to do a good Paris-Roubaix. I like the pave and always feel good. If there are no flat tires or crashes, I think I can do a good result and also help Cancellara. Then I'll focus on preparing for the Tour.

Q: In Ben King's interview, he said you very important to him in his development. How do you help the younger riders?

YP: If the guys ask me some questions, I'm always willing to help. I was like them not too long ago so I know how they feel. I help them with what they need to do in the race, after the race, at the dinner table. It's part of my job to make other riders better. A lot of times I tell the guys in the race, "don't worry, just stay with me."

Q: In 2008, you rode for Silence-Lotto and then came back to Johan's organization. What makes Johan Bruyneel Sports Management different than other teams?

YP: A lot of different things. It's the best management. Johan creates a special group. It's organized in the team. Very professional. How people are in the restaurant at races, the team building activities, training camps, even the party at the Tour de France. If you stay one year with Johan, it's difficult to change. I did it and look what happened, I came back one year later.

Q: We've asked the other winning riders, their top 5 people to follow on Twitter. We can't ask you that because you are not on Twitter. When will you join?

YP: Hahaha. I speak English, I read English, I understand English, but the spelling … I'm not so good at that. It's difficult for me. But maybe next year I'll try to do it. We'll see.

Q: How did you get into cycling?

YP: I was born in a very small village in Ukraine. And when I was 12 years old, my parents separated. I moved with my mom to the big city. And I started to do cycling in the city. So I told my parents, "thank you for separating. It's not good, but I started to do cycling because of your problems." I had a bike that you would ride in the city. Not a race bike. But when I went to school, I would see these guys with a nice bike for racing. And I said to my mom, "I want that bike." I just started riding for fun. And now 17 years later and it's still fun, but I'm getting paid too.

Q: How popular is cycling in Ukraine?

YP: It's not as popular as boxing or football (soccer). A number of years ago, after I won the Best Young Rider at the Tour de France, I did a lot of interviews in the newspapers and on television. It's getting more popular because a lot of people can see it on the internet. People have more money to buy a good bike and there are more bike shops, so it's growing. Some Ukranians come to the Giro and the Tour in the campers - drinking, screaming my name, having a good time. It's fun to see them. I'm suffering on the bike and they are partying. It must be some sort of joke on me.

Q: How was last month's meeting with the 2012 team?

YP: It was a little strange at first. After the second day, it felt good. You know a lot of these guys, like the Schlecks and Cancellara in the peloton, but it's different at the dinner table or in the room. In the next training camp, I think we'll do a good job.

Q: You've won the Tour with Lance. You've won the Tour with Alberto. If you win it next year, you will have won with three different riders. What would that mean to you?

YP: Easy there my friend. First, I need to be selected for the Tour team. Then after that we need to win. So I hope to have a response for you at the end of July. And a good response!

Q: Since the fans voted you for this award, what's your message to them?

YP: For me, I get this email saying I won and I think "Man, the fans remember me. I thought they forgot about me." For me, it's a real pleasure and very nice to have this honor. I also told my girlfriend "I can't believe so many people voted for me." So for this, I want to tell everyone Thank You.

Getting to Know More about Popo

Favorite vacation spot: Maldives

Favorite type of music to dance to: It depends on my mood. I like the disco music. It makes for a big party.

If you weren't a cyclist …: I don't know. I don't know. I never think about it.

Most wanted holiday gift: I want to be healthy so I can have a good year.

Next time you go to the USA and go to RadioShack, you plan or want to buy: I'd get a new laptop.


Is this your profile picture? Then you're a winner! You're a fan of Johan's Facebook page, you voted in the 2011 Fan Choice Awards and you have been randomly chosen to win a signed jersey. Congratulations!


2011 Fan Choice Awards

Most Valuable Rider & American Rider - Levi Leipheimer

Most Impressive Performance - Chris Horner at the Amgen Tour of California
Best Young Rider - Ben King

Best Tweeter - Levi Leipheimer


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