Two-time national road champion from Belarus Andrei Krasilnikau has been a professional cyclist for over 9 years now, cycling with professional teams in Switzerland, France and the USA. He has participated in numerous European and World Championships and this year has been juggling life as an AISTS participant and also a part-time rider with TAB-Citadel – managed by George Hincapie.
Andrei recently took part in the Tour of California (TOC), America’s premier cycling race that covers over 1000kms of road, during seven stages, from Long Beach to Sacramento. We caught up with Andrei after the race back here in Lausanne.
AISTS - Can you tell us about the Tour of California and the importance of this race to Holowesko-Citadel?
Tour of California is always a very important race for every American team or for a team with an American based sponsor. This year it is even more important as it is part of the UCI World Tour Calendar (the highest race category) which means that the best cyclists from all over the world were competing.
The TV & media exposure for a team at the TOC is enormous and this is why it’s so important for TAB-Citadel to be there and perform well. Our main sponsors are from the US and their market is also there. The 7 days of racing means a lot of TV exposure on NBC Sport. Wins and days in breakaways always make people talk about you and the team. I was lucky enough to be in a breakaway on Stage 1 of this year’s race with American veteran Tanner Putt from Unitedhealthcare and we spent a good few hours together.
AISTS - For the past 9+ years you have been competing as a professional rider. What has this experience been like and what has been your most epic race?
Indeed, during these years I have raced all over the globe and I get a unique opportunity of travelling for ‘free’ as a professional cyclist. New cultures, new destinations, new people - all giving me an opportunity learn the best from it.
I would say the best experience that I have gained from cycling is working with a multi-cultural group of people and making critical decisions during a race with them. And of course, having fun and enjoying the time. These moments are priceless.
As for an epic race - there are a couple of them that pop into my head. Number 1 is Paris-Roubaix Under23 Edition. This race is epic! Riding on historical dusty cobblestone roads and suffering for many hours is what is all about. Passion and adrenaline are the main drivers at this race. Just Epic! I badly want to make the ‘Big’ 260km Paris-Roubaix. I hope, I’ll get that chance one day.
All World and European Championships that I did under my flag (Belarus) are outstanding as well, each in their own way. The goosebumps that I get from racing with my red and green flag on my shoulders are extremely special.
AISTS - When you were accepted to the MAS programme you had decided that you were not to compete during your year of studies. What changed your mind? What has your race schedule been this year?
True, I anticipated that I would stop my career, but it just proves once again that life is unpredictable, and you cannot plan on everything. The older a cyclist gets the harder it is for him/her to find a new team and I was in the same boat, so I tried to be proactive in terms of transitioning into ‘a real life’ or life after sport.
It was the Tour of Colorado 2017 that changed it all for me. My team boss George Hincapie, before the last stage in Denver, told us that our team will move a level up and everyone who was on the bus would be resigned. A miracle? Absolutely! Was I lucky? Absolutely! But I had a huge dilemma right after this event. Cycling or Education? I decided to talk to my team and explain the situation that I found myself in.
Working with a shorter season than my usual one, my cycling teammates, my friends, my Sports Director all could not see it as a problem if I studied and stayed in the team. One word. Grateful.
After speaking with Rich Hincapie (owner of the team) I was even more confident that I could do both and I was inspired to make it work. AISTS and Dr Claude Stricker, AISTS Executive Director, also understood my situation and have helped me to pursue both my educational and athletic pathways!
As long as I have the right people around me, it is not difficult to be motivated and do my best.
AISTS - How have you managed your time this year with the MAS programme and your training schedule as an individual athlete?
This was the main concern for me - could I train and study at the same time? I knew that time management and recovery would be crucial. I can say that after 4-6 hours of lectures/workshops and 3-4 hours training I was pretty tired at the end of each day. My girlfriend, Ophelie, has played a big role in my life this year and she has believed in me and supported me throughout the year.
I would love to spend more time with my friends and classmates but there is no second chance in life when you have an opportunity of getting one of the best sports educations in the world and competing at the highest level at the same time.
It’s now or never for me.
AISTS - How has it been balancing both training and studying?
It has been great! Studying motivates me to train harder and after training, I feel more motivated to study. I am surprised at how both things can help each other. I found out that I like to be busy and, in my case, having a lot of free time does not necessarily mean doing more things. With good time management, I have been able to manage my schedule really well, in fact, better than what I imagined.
AISTS - Was your winter training hard?
It was, especially with the weather that sometimes was not very suitable for outdoors training. In such situation, I did MTB in the forests up the top of Lausanne or rode on a stationary trainer. If it was cold and dry I easily could ride on a road bike. I had a lot of options I suppose, depending on how bad things were.
AISTS - How has the support of your MAS ‘classmates’ and the AISTS helped you achieve your goals?
They have been awesome! The people in my class are so passionate about sport and I feel so much support from them. I train with another pro athlete and my classmate Thomas Roos on a daily basis. Basically, AISTS found me a training partner!
AISTS - And lastly, what’s next?
Who knows! I feel that life is a bit like cycling … so unpredictable!
Photos supplied by Andrei with thanks to @veloimages
About the AISTS MAS in Sport Administration Client Team Projects
As part of the AISTS MAS in Sport Administration programme, participants work closely with a client from the sport industry on a real-life project over six months, providing participants with valuable exposure to the current priorities, opportunities and challenges of the sport industry while equally providing sports organisations with an invaluable resource for research, ideas and solutions.
For more information on any of this year’s Team Projects and how your organisation can work with AISTS MAS in Sport Administration participants on a project, contact firstname.lastname@example.org