Belgian racing cyclist, born a Soviet citizen in Novosibirsk on 22 January 1963. He was the last ever road race champion of the USSR, and held Ukrainian and Moldovan nationality after the USSR split up, before adopting Belgian nationality in the mid-1990s. Although he in fact lived in Italy throughout most of his career after coming to the West with the San Marino based, Soviet manned, Alfa Lum team in 1990, he has always professed to feel more at home in Belgium, and has built himself a house in the Walloon village of Dottignies (he never did really get to grips with Dutch, although his French and Italian are both fine). He had intended to retire after the 2002 spring classics were over, but following an injury in March of that year he carried on for a bit longer, finally retiring in mid-season after one last stage win in the Tour of Belgium. He is now becoming involved in team management, including projects to set up a joint Russian-Belgian team.
A specialist in the classics, he has won Paris-Roubaix (1994), Milano-Sanremo (1999), the Ronde van Vlaanderen (2000)and Paris-Tours (1997, at the time the fastest ever performance in a major classic) and the UCI World Cup in 1999 as well as many lesser events such as the Belgian semi-classics Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne and the Grote Prijs E3. He never enjoyed long stage races like the Tour de France (to the extent of having non-selection for the Tour as long as he won something important in the earlier part of the season written into his contract in later years), with no taste for the high mountains, but he was a typical hard man of the Flemish spring who was at his best on a rainy day on windswept cobbles, and popular among the hard core fans for that reason.