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Oli Asks: Andrei Merkulov is striving high and drawing inspiration from his competitors

Up-and-coming junior has lived and ridden his bike all over the world but now calls Winnipeg home

Andrei Merkulov

Andrei Merkulov is seventeen-years-old and has almost lived in as many countries as I’ve visited. He’s learned to keep his head up when riding – literally – after crashing into a few things, and is partial to the excellent cycling to be done in Dubai, whether he’s racing on the same roads as used in the UAE Tour or simply enjoying the many kilometers of smooth bike paths. Check out this cool rider who currently lives in Winnipeg and rides with Team Manitoba.

Andrei Merkulov
Andrei Merkulov racing at Manitoba crit provincials.

Oliver Evans: Where are you from and where all have you lived?

Andrei Merkulov: My dad is Canadian and my mom is Vietnamese but I only have Canadian citizenship. I have lived in Beijing, Jakarta in Indonesia, Moscow, Al Khobar in Saudi Arabia, Dubai in the United Arab Emirates and Winnipeg.

Which of those places is best for riding?

Dubai is definitely the best place for riding. It has 200km+ of cycle paths completely dislocated from the road so you can do all your riding while barely seeing any cars. The roads are also unbelievably smooth.

Where’s the coolest place you’ve ever raced?

In Dubai racing up Jebel Hafeet which is a huge mountain used in the UAE tour. It is a 10km climb with an average gradient of 7.6 per cent. It’s brutal!

How do you manage school with all this moving?

It is difficult having to make new friends all of the time but I have kind of gotten used to it by now. Usually, we move during the summer in between school years so I don’t miss any school which helps.

You mentioned that you’re headed to Dubai, what takes you there?

My dad still lives in Dubai so I am just going over there to visit for the two weeks while also to get away from the cold.

Will you take your bike?

I left one of my old bikes in Dubai so I will be using that one.

After living in all those places, how have you managed the Winnipeg winter when it comes to training and life in general?

Motivation has been a huge battle through this winter. Riding indoor continuously for five months of the year gets super boring and repetitive and sometimes I struggle to get myself out of bed. I did have to take a few short mental breaks (usually a week) while also recently taking three weeks off due to a knee injury. I have Patellar Tendinitis…

Where’s the coolest place you’ve ever raced?

In Dubai racing up Jebel Hafeet which is a huge mountain used in the UAE Tour. It is a 10km climb with an average gradient of 7.6%. It’s brutal!

How long have you been racing?

By May this year, I will have been racing for three years.

What got you into racing?

I actually started with triathlon and it was one of my friends at school who encouraged me to do them. I did a few and realized that cycling was my favourite part, along with being my strongest, so I made the transition to go full cyclist.

What’s your favourite discipline?

My favourite discipline has got to be road racing without a doubt.

What are your most notable results from 2018?

I got second at provincials in the ITT, and thrid in both the road race and crit.

Who is your coach?

I am coached by both Jayson Gillespie (Team Mb Head Coach) and Scott McFarlane (owner and general manager of  Floyd’s Pro Cycling).

Who are your biggest role models and sources of inspiration?

My biggest role model has to be Michał Kwiatkowski because he just works so hard for his teammates. My sources of inspiration are most often my opponents, seeing an opponent better than me motivates me to get stronger in order to one day beat them.

What, if anything, do you feel has been missing in terms of support as you’ve developed as a cyclist?

I don’t feel like there was any lack of support at all through my development. My parents have always supported and funded me as well as my coaches and other knowledgeable cyclists guiding me along my journey.

What is the biggest setback you’ve experienced?

Injury. I’m quite injury prone. One example is my most recent knee injury which I got after skating on the ice one day.

Other than cycling, what do you do to find balance?

I usually hang out with my friends from school (they aren’t cyclists) and we just do whatever interests us at the moment. It helps take my mind off everything.

What sort of positive change would you like to see to improve opportunities for developing cyclists in Manitoba?

More cycle paths would provide for a safer place for cyclists to ride bikes along with fewer distractions so you would be able to get on with your intervals rather than having them interrupted by a red light.

What’s one of the hardest lessons you’ve had to learn as a cyclist?

‘Keep your head up’ says my dad. Quite a few crashes in my early days of cycling were because I would just ride with my head down all of the time and eventually run into the back of someone or something.

Any tips for other young, ambitious cyclists?

Ride your bike as often as possible and get a coach. Best investment there is.

What are your goals for this season?

I will be heading to junior road nationals and Le Tour d’Abitibi this July so I am hoping for some good results there. A top 10 would be nice.

Where would you like cycling to take you?

I would one day like to become a professional cyclist. Doesn’t have to be WorldTour level but riding on a UCI Pro Continental team is the most realistic goal.

Well, you’ll be very well equipped for life as a pro, I imagine, with all your travel and moving experience! Keep keeping your head up, and you might just get there.

Oliver Evans 20-year-old cyclist from Winnipeg, currently living in Victoria. In 2019, he will race with Trek Red Truck Racing.