How to be a pro cyclist: Yana Belomoina’s career story

Yana Belomoina has been among the top cross-country mountain riders for years, achieving great success at events around the world.

A stellar 2017 season saw the rider from the Ukrainian city of Lutsk win three World Cup races in Albstadt, Vallnord and Mont-Sainte-Anne, ending up as the overall winner of women’s cross-country World Cup that season. That same year she also became European Champion.

Though wins have been hard to come by since 2017, Belomoina is still a dangerous prospect and a regular top 10 finisher – get up to speed with her career trajectory right here.

Ukraine’s Number one cyclist

© Bartek Woliński/Red Bull Content Pool

Belomoina got into mountain biking through simply wanting to play sport and be active, and had some friends who wanted to do exactly the same things. Biking and mountain biking wasn’t her immediate first choice, however, and she only started riding a bike in a sporting sense at 11 years old.

“I tried judo, dance and table tennis,” she says. “But then I went to a cycling class – my dad knew the coach there well. I went there with two friends from school. They didn’t continue but I did. I have now been cycling for 17 years.”

Once Belomoina got on a bike, that was the sport for her

© Bartek Woliński/@wolisphoto

Belomoina showed some aptitude for the sport, and she’s grateful for the influence that her first couple of coaches had on her. They chose the right approach to guiding her, which included the right amount of motivation and making sure training wasn’t too exhausting.

“The first times I started to get on the podium, the emotions affected me,” she says. “I began to realise that I had found the right sport.”

As a teenager, Belomoina raced across various cycling disciplines, including mountain biking. In part this was due to an effort from her coaches to make sure Belomoina could develop different skills, but ultimately, mountain biking was always her preference.

As a junior Belomoina was dominating the domestic circuit, and this saw her being picked by the Ukraine national coaches who started sending her abroad to compete.

Success was almost immediate, with a silver medal at the Junior race at the 2010 UCI MTB World Championships. She then stepped up to U23 level and got silver and bronze medals at the 2012 and 2013 World Championships, and then the gold medal at U23 level at the 2014 World Championships.

As mentioned, success at Elite level was immediate when Belomoina moved out of U23 racing. In the 2015 World Championships, Belomoina came third. The following year, she steadily improved her performances at the World Cup. Her seventh place at Vallnord was a sign of things to come.

And then that 2017 season, where she was victorious at World Cup races in Albstadt, Vallnord and Mont-Sainte-Anne. Her all-round superiority that season cannot be underestimated. She finished second at the World Cup in Val di Sole, third in Lenzerheide, and fifth at Nove Mesto.

Belomoina in action doing what she know best

© Bartek Wolinski/Red Bull Content Pool

Being away from home to race and training away from where you were born and grew up is never easy for any bike athlete. It’s something Belomoina had to do at a young age and now has a regular routine when it comes to planning out the year.

“I return home at the end of the World Cup season, that’s usally the end of September. I stay at home for a month or two, and then the preparation begins again for the next year. There is a feeling that I am always racing. But I like that I have a place for training and rest.

Blocking out the noise and staying focused

© Jan Kasl/Red Bull Content Pool

Belomoina bases herself in Slovenia during the summer months, where she can train on plenty of off-road terrain. Slovenia’s location in the middle of Europe also means she can reach many cross-country races in a matter of hours.

“This is not my home, but I feel at home,” says Belomoina. “It’s easier for me, because I’m always with my husband [Maksym, her mechanic and coach]. The two of us have been together for many years. We have adapted to this rhythm.”

“I will not say that it is in my favour, because I go uphill a lot, and I loved when the trails were more powerful, with long steep climbs. We had to adapt and change the training to be faster and add equipment on the descents.”

After that successful 2017 season, Belomoina suffered several injuries, including a broken hip. The recovery periods haven’t been easy and she admits some mental health struggles.

“That year [2017] I really achieved everything I could and dare not dream of. And then for the next two years, there were a lot of falls and three operations. It was really difficult, and psychologically, too.”

Belomoina has had her fair share of ups and downs

© Bartek Woliński/@wolisphoto

Belomoina now says she’s back to 90 percent of where she was in 2017, though there are still many psychological issues that need to be worked.

Seeds of a revival are there and the eight-time Ukrainian National champion is still a contender for victory in any race she lines up in. 2019 saw a pair of third places at the Albstadt and Vallnord World Cups. A third place in Switzerland at the European Championships in 2020 was also a confidence boost. So far in this 2021 World Cup season a fifth-place finish in Albstadt has been her best result, while she finished 8th in Japan.

Taking the climb in her stride

© Bartek Woliński

Belomoina still has specific goals and retirement is definitely not on the cards.

“Sometimes I joke that I will not retire until I achieve my goals,” she says. “I don’t have a gold medal from the World Championships. There are four medals [across Junior, U23 and Elite racing], but not gold.

“When you win a gold medal, you get to wear the rainbow jersey. My goal is to wear this jersey. And, of course, to get an Olympic medal as well.”

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Mercedes-Benz UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Yana Belomoina