Get To Know TNN: Vassili Davidenko
13 June 2019
Growing up in the Soviet Union, Vassili couldn’t go to a store and buy a bike. Instead, he had to earn it. Team Novo Nordisk’s General Manager grew up in Tbilissi, Georgia, and when he was 13 years old, he had the chance to earn a bike.
The Georgian National Team coach visited Vassili’s school in hopes of discovering the next great cyclist. Vassili immediately envisioned riding the bike around his neighborhood and having the independence that all kids seek from being on two wheels.
But earning the bike didn’t mean he could take it home and ride freely. In the Georgian system, Vassili shared the bike with another young rider.
Soon Vassili joined the Georgian National Team where he trained three times a week with the program. To get to the track for practice, he took a bus and the subway followed by a mile-long walk. While at the practice, he and 150 other kids trained on the cement cycling track and the dirt track.
At 14, he started earning money from the bike and graduated to a 400-meter wood track that was reserved for Georgia’s top cyclists. He continued to progress and raced at the Soviet Junior National Championships when he was 17 and eventually earned a spot on the Soviet National Team.
While Vas was 100 percent focused on the bike, it was during this time that he noticed a girl at the track named Janna.
With the Soviet National Team, Vas left home in November and trained daily from early morning with running, gymnastics and a four-hour ride. After lunch, another workout or maybe another ride. This routine left him exhausted and asleep by 8 pm. The rigorous program quickly widdled down numbers; Vassili started as one out of 150 riders. By March, only 20 athletes remained.
In 1988, Vas was runner-up at the UCI Road World Championships – Junior men’s road race. It was the best result of a Georgian rider.
A constant theme throughout Vassili’s career was watching the Soviet Union change.
He was with the national team when the USSR crumbled. After winning one of the most prestigious races in the amateur rank, Gran Premio della Liberazione (1992), and earning podiums at the Baby Giro d’Italia the year before, he was able to find a spot with an Italian team and a new chapter of his life began. With his new life underway, Vassili married that girl from the track, Janna.
Vassili went on to have an illustrious career that included stage wins at the Tour of Turkey, Peace Race (1991), Giro de Abruzzo (Italy 2001), Tour du Pont (1995), Tour of Poland (1996), Tour de Beauce (2000, 2003 and 2005), Clarendon Cup (2002), GP Liberazione (Italy 1992) , Sea Otter Classic (2001), Housatonic Valley Classic International Road Race, CT (2002), CapTech Classic Criterium (2005), and Athens Twilight Criterium (2005 and 2006). He also won five stages at the Tour of Venezuela (1990), four stages at the Tour of Mexico (1990), and three stages at the Tour of Connecticut (2003 and 2005).
Davidenko was a member of the Russian 1996 Summer Olympic team, a four-time member of the USSR and Russian National World Championship team and competed in five Grand Tours: Giro d’Italia (1995,1996,1997) and the Vuelta a Espana (1993,1994).
After ending his 13-year professional cycling career, the Multinational Georgian (USSR) and Russian Champion on Track, MTB and Road began directing with Navigators Pro Cycling Team in 2007. Vassili joined Team Novo Nordisk’s predecessor, Team Type 1, as an assistant sports director during its inaugural season in 2008. A year later, he assumed the role of head sports director. When he first joined Team Type 1, which had one rider with diabetes at every race, the concept initially left Vas wondering if it was possible to compete at the top level with diabetes.
Under Vassili’s guidance, the project succeeded and grew to include a development team and an established pipeline for athletes with type 1 diabetes.
Through the growth and success of the project, Vassili knew that it was worth investing in athletes with diabetes and when Team Novo Nordisk transitioned to an all-diabetes cycling team at the end of 2012, he knew that the project would be challenging, but he fully believed that it was possible to race with diabetes. Now in its seventh season, Vassili is proud to have helped build Team Novo Nordisk into a well-recognized and respected program within the professional peloton and beyond. As the team keeps earning results and continues to grow, he believes one-day there will be a contender at a World Tour one-day race or a Grand Tour coming from within the program.