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Cycling

The first cycling competitions were held in Belarus a few years after the first bicycles appeared in the country. In 1893, the Russian community of cyclist-tourists opened in Brest, and the same year a group of amateurs has made unique cycling race, Brest-Kobryn-Vierchaliessie-Vialikaryta-Brest, covering 136 versts (145 km).

Cycling competitions then began in other regions, mostly informally. In 1926, the first national cycling championship took place, and the 1930s saw marathon cycling races held across the territory of Belarus.

After WWII, cycling became popular, with Belarus sending teams to the USSR Championship, and joining the Soviet team at the Olympic Games.

Cycling Belarus: contemporary history

1993 saw the Belarusian national team enter the international arena for the first time as that of a sovereign state. Zinaida Stahurskaja (road racing) and Natallia Cylinskaja (cycle track) competed, seeing many successes, including in World championships, leading to fans gathering around the sport.

Today, the official calendar of the Belarusian Federation of Cycling Sports includes more than thirty national competitions, including marathons covering 500km to 800km.

Almost 3,500 people cycle in Belarus nowadays. Across 33 departments of youth sports schools, there are 176 coaches, and 129 young people are studying in Olympic reserve schools.

Minsk has acquired its own Velodrome, able to host competitions at the highest level, for various sports. It promotes the development and popularity of Belarusian cycling, as well as the domestic manufacture of sports bicycles, Motovelo, supplying the national team. It’s easy to rent a Motovelo bike in Minsk, taking a tour on two wheels.

From Drańko to Cylinskaja

Belarusian cycling has own legends. In particular, Mikalaj Drańko, born in the Bresckaja voblasć, who became the first Belarusian to take part in the Olympic Games (for the Polish team). In 1928, he went to the Games in Amsterdam and took fifth place in the track race. By that time, he’d won various track and road races in Poland. Drańko planned to perform at the Olympic Games in 1932, in Los Angeles, but failed to find sponsorship for the trip.

Natalya Tsilinskaya. Prhoto by: minsk2013.by

After WWII, Drańko founded a youth sports school in the Bresckaja voblasć, with the accent on cycling. More than fifty of its graduates won competitions during Soviet times, and Mr. Drańko continued to race until he was fifty years old.

Other legends of Belarusian cycling include Uladzimir Kaminski and Alieh Lohvin: Olympic champions on the USSR team. Kaminski was on the Soviet team quartet winning the road race in Montreal, in 1976, while Lohvin won the same discipline at the 1980 Moscow Games.

The brightest female stars of sovereign Belarusian cycling include Natallia Cylinskaja and Zinaida Stahurskaja.

Natallia was a world leader in track racing, claiming the World Champion title eight times between 2000 and 2006, and bronze at the Olympic Games in 2004, though she expected gold. Today, Natallia is raising three daughters and works to promote cycling in Belarus.

Zinaida was one of the strongest road racers as we entered the 21st century. In 2000, she became World Champion. In 2002, she came second in the Giro d'Italia and she won the super marathon Big Loop race: the women’s version of the Tour de France. In the summer of 2009, she died, tragically, during training for the national championship, being hit by a car at a speed of 140 km/h, near Viciebsk. The car was driving in the oncoming lane.

In pursuit of ‘tomorrow’

Belarus has all conditions for cycling development. It hosted the UCI Track Cycling World Championship in February 2013, at Minsk’s Velodrome. Naturally, this helped promote the sport. Leading road racers include Kanstancin Siŭcoŭ and Vasiĺ Kiryjenka, who are on the Sky Procycling team (UK), and Jaŭhien Hutarovič, who cycles for AG2r (France).

World Championship in cycling on the track - 2013 in Minsk. Photo by: minsk2013.by

Amateur cycling is very popular, with cycle paths being laid continuously, to encourage the sport, and amateur competitions taking part countrywide. More and more young Belarusians are choosing to cycle rather than drive or purchase a motorbike.