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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

Second Edition News for March 13, 2003

Vale Andrei Kivilev

Australian race promoter Phill Bates AM has met countless up-and-coming riders over the years. A young Kazakh called Andrei was one of the most impressive, as he recalls in this tribute.

Andrei Kivilev wearing the yellow jersey on his way to winning the 1997 Commonwealth Bank Cycle Classic
Photo: © Phill Bates
Click for larger image

In 1992, as a 19 year old, Andrei Kivilev made his first appearance at a major international cycle tour when he represented Kazakhstan in the Commonwealth Bank Cycle Classic.

He was here to support his better known champions, Alexander Nadobenko and previous winner of the Classic, Valdimir Golushko.

I well remember meeting him at the airport, a pretty slight cyclist at well under half my weight and not speaking any English. It was not unusual for the Kazakhstan team with Manager Valentine Rekhert making up for the team's inability to speak our language.

Andrei however did most of his talking with his pedalling and after the finish of the tough nine days of racing, the young champion finished in fifth place overall, behind Mike Weissman of Germany but ahead of his more fancied team mates with Henk Vogels in sixth place, Nadobenko seventh, Thomas Liese eighth and the late Darren Smith ninth.

The Kazakhstan team did not go home empty handed winning the teams championship and Nadobenko the Mountain Championship.

I remember farewelling the team at the airport, I always wanted to make sure that Valentine was actually departing, and Andrei gave me a big hug and shed tears. He uttered his first English words and said "thankyou".

Andrei's 1997 victory

It was not until five years later that the Kazakhstan team made their reappearance in Australia and we were reunited with both Alex Nadobenko and Andrei.

The Kazakhstan-Bates Bikes team poses in front of some inevitable Sydney landmarks
Photo: © Phill Bates
Click for larger image

He met me in the same fashion that he departed, a big hug but this time tears of joy for being here once more. It certainly gave me great pride to think that the international cyclists loved visiting our country so much and competing in an event that had done much to enhance their careers. Andrei's English had also improved immensely during the past five years.

There were six Kazakhstan riders here and the five man team of Kazakhstan were riding for the first time in Bates Bikes attire. Andrei was not 100 percent, had a major knee problem and Valentin was keen to make changes with the team, putting Nadobenko (who was riding for a combined international team) into the Bates Bikes team and swapping with Andrei.

I stood firm, especially with the race program already finalised and then went about having our physiotherapist, Glen Cloaco work on Andrei to improve his condition. It was a morning ritual for me, picking Andrei up and taking him to Glen, and the treatment continued right through the entire length of the tour.

The 1,116 kilometre, nine-day race was a tough event with some big climbs introduced and you could imagine my delight when Andrei claimed the lead of the race after the fourth stage.

Andrei continued to defend his lead over the opposition and was so excited when he was able to survive a major attack from second place getter Jens Zemke into Nowra and maintain his lead.

Andrei claimed the win when the Cycle Classic reached its final destination in Canberra and he was able to follow Zemke and ensure victory in the race. He defeated some great cyclists including Matt White, Jay Sweet, Andreas Kloden, Thomas Liese, Julian Dean, Lillywhite, Hunt and Tanner and the likes of Raimondas Rumsas and the great Uwe Ampler.

It was a beaming smile at the presentation, some very well chosen words in his appreciative victory speech that remain deeply etched in my memory.

Also his departure from Sydney a few days later, when he once again showed his affection for Australia and mankind when he unashamedly cried.

Andrei was a thorough gentleman and the victory in the Cycle Classic was the emergence of a new star, securing a contract with Festina less than two weeks later and gooing on to star in many great events including a fourth place in the Tour de France.

He reacquainted himself with Jono Hall when with Festina and remained one of the most liked riders in the peloton.

There is little doubt that one of my great pleasures in life has been following the progress of the many stars that raced the Cycle Classic in their professional endeavours.

Today is an extremely sad day for the sport - Andrei Kivilev was a great champion and a wonderful person. It was indeed my privilege.

(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2003)