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Russian climbing talent Foliforov took a hugely surprising victory in the Giro d’Italia mountain time trial, beating Kruijswijk by less than second; the Dutchman gained massive amounts of time on his main rivals

Photo: Bob Martin

ALEJANDRO VALVERDE

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ALEXANDER FOLIFOROV

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GAZPROM - RUSVELO

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GIRO D'ITALIA

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STEVEN KRUIJSWIJK

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TEAM JUMBO-VISMA

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22.05.2016 @ 18:09 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Alexander Foliforov (Gazprom-Rusvelo) created the biggest surprise of the Giro d’Italia as he rode to a very impressive stage win in the mountain time trial on stage 15. The Russian talent beat race leader Steven Kruijswijk by less than a second while Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) bounced back with a solid third place. Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) had a disastrous day and slipped to third in the overall standings, 2.51 behind Kruijswijk who strengthened his lead significantly.

 

During his time as a U23 rider, Alexander Foliforov marked himself out as a man to watch in the mountains but the Russian was never one of the very best. He was still marked out as an interesting prospect for the future but as he had a disappointing first year at the pro level in 2015, he disappeared from the radar.

 

Things didn’t look much better in 2016 as he failed to show much in the first part of the year but he was still selected by Gazprom-Rusvelo for their maiden Giro d’Italia. Here he has shown growing condition, most notably with a solid ride in the breakaway on the mountain stage two days ago.

 

However, no one had marked him out as a potential winner of today’s mountain time trial. These stages are usually totally dominated by the GC riders while the pure climbers further down the standings can usually make a top 10 on a good day.

 

That was the goal for Foliforov who had marked this stage out as his big goal for the race but he defied all expectations by beating all the stars. Covering the 10.8km up the Alpe di Siusi in 28.39, he was one of just two riders to go faster than 29 minutes and that turned out to be enough to take his first pro win.

 

When he reached the finish, Foliforov was almost 1.30 better than Ian Boswell (Sky) who had been the bet at that point but with 57 riders still to come, no one really believed that it would be enough to take the win. However, as the strong climbers started to arrive and no one was even close to the Russian, he started to believe that a podium spot could be possible.

 

However, not even the GC riders could beat him and it all came down to a nail-biting finale. Riding in the maglia rosa, Steven Kruijswijk had been in a class of his own at the intermediate time check and was tipped to take a comfortable stage win. As he approached the line, however, it was suddenly clear that Foliforov could create the surprise and when the clock stopped, it showed that the Dutchman had come up short by less than a second.

 

However, Kruijswijk was clearly not too disappointed with the near-miss. The LottoNL-Jumbo rider gained massive time on his biggest rivals and comfortably strengthened his hold on the maglia rosa. Right from the bottom of the climb, he showed that he was the best and he gained time all the way up the climb.

 

Esteban Chaves (Orica-GreenEDGE) looked like he was about to lose it all as he was off the mark at the time check but he finished strongly to take sixth, losing 40 seconds to Kruijswijk.

 

That result allowed him to move into second as the big loser of the day was Vincenzo Nibali. The Astana captain lost time right from the start and to make things worse, he even had to deal with a mechanical in the finale. In the end, he could only manage 5th and lost a massive 2.10 to Kruijswijk, slipping to third in the overall standings, 2.51 behind the Dutchman

 

The second big winner was Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) who bounced back from yesterday’s disappointment and is now just 38 seconds off the podium. Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha) also had a fine day with fifth place that saw him get very close to the top 5 as Andrey Amador (Movistar) again lost a lot of time.

 

Rigoberto Uran (Cannondale) was another big loser as he finished 50th and slipped out of the top 10. Also Domenico Pozzovivo (Ag2r) and Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) lost more time than expected.

 

Kruijswijk now leads Chaves by 2.12 as he goes into the second rest day. He faces another tough test on Tuesday on stage 16 where he will have to cover a big climb at the midpoint before he gets to the difficult finale. A category 2 climb summits just 9.6km from the line and then a short descent leads to the final uphill drag to the line.

 

A crucial stage

After yesterday’s queen stage, there was no change to rest as the riders faced one of the most important stages on day 15. The 10.8km mountain time trial brought them from Castelrotto up the Alpe di Siusi climb and it was a brutal effort. The first 1800m were relatively flat but from there the climb averaged more than 8% until it levelled out for the final kilometre.

 

It was bright sunshine when Jack Bobdridge (Trek) rolled down the ramp as the first rider but he wouldn’t be the first to reach the finish. Cheng Ji (Giant-Alpecin) passed the Australian along the way and stopped the clock in 33.13 to become the first leader.

 

Rybalkin takes the lead

Genki Yamamoto (Nippo-Vini Fantini) made it two Asian riders in the top two as he was just 3 seconds slower than Ji who spent a few minutes in the hot seat before he was beaten by Blel Kadri (Ag2r). The Frenchman posted a time of 31.54 and so moved into the lead.

 

Artem Ovechkin (Gazprom-Rusvelo) had been fastest at the time check and he maintained his speed all the way to the finish as he went 18 seconds faster than the leading Frenchman. Albert Timmer (Giant-Alpecin) and Nicola Boem (Bardiani) also had fine rides with 32.41 and 32.34 respectively but it was another Gazprom rider who caught the attention, signaling what was to come later in the day. Alexey Rybalkin had been slower than Ovechkin at the time check but at the finish he stopped the clock in 30.36 which was exactly one minute better than his teammate.

 

Solid ride by Norwegian

Arnaud Courteille (FDJ) split the two Gazprom riders as he stopped the clock in 31.04 to move into seconds before Julen Amezqueta (Wilier) made it into the top 10 with 32.23. Gianfranco Zilioli (Androni), Alexander Serov (Gazprom) and Jasha Sütterlin (Movistar) also had top 10 rides in their legs but were much slower than Rybalkin.

 

Benoit Vaugrenard (FDJ) narrowly missed out on the top 10 as he slotted into 12th with 33.15 but it was Mirco Maestri (Bardiani) who became the next rider to slot into the top 10 as he posted the 6th best time with 32.33. Vegard Stake Laengen (IAM) who was third in the Chianti TT, had a good ride with fifth best time of 32.06.

 

Boswell moves into the hot seat

Everybody was waiting for Ian Boswell (Sky) to arrive as the Brit has posted the best intermediate time. He maintained his speed all the way to the finish and posted the best time of 30.04, shaving 32 seconds off the previous mark.

 

Daniel Martinez (Southeast) confirmed his great climbing potential by slotting into third with 30.59 and Alessandro De Marchi (BMC) also had a fine ride as he posted the 8th best time. Rory Sutherland (Movistar) didn’t need a rest day after yesterday’s hard work as he moved into fifth with 31.19.

 

Lopez makes it a 1-2 for Sky

It was a huge disappointment for Manuel Bongiorno (Bardiani) wjo could not even manage a top 20 and instead it was Russian sprinter Ivan Savitskiy (Gazprom) who made it into the top 10 with 32.05 which was good enough for 8th. Christian Rodriguez (Southeast) narrowly missed out on the top 10 as he could only manage 11th.

 

David Lopez made it two Sky riders in the top 2 as he slotted into second with 39.32 despite only posting the 7th best time at the time check. Moments later Sonny Colbrelli (Bardiani) confirmed his great form by posting the 9th best time.

 

Foliforov crushes the opposition

Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal) had been six seconds faster than Boswell at the time check but he was unable to maintain his speed and had to settle for seconds with 30.15. Simone Petilli (Lampre-Merida) proved his climbing talent as he slotted into fourth with 30.34 while the climb became too tough for Stefan Küng (BMC) who had had a fast start.

 

There was no repeat win for Primoz Roglic (LottoNL-Jumbo) as he could only manage 11th with 31.43 but it was Foliforov that everybody was waiting for. At the time check, he had only been 10 seconds faster than Boswell but when he reached the finish he had beaten the American by a massive 1.25.

 

Taaramae get close

There was disappointment for Giulio Ciccone (Bardiani) who could only manage 7th, and Riccardo Zoidl (Trek) who had to settle for 11th. After a fast start, Egor Silin (Katusha) faded but he could still make it to the finish in 9th with 31.00.

 

The arrival of Rein Taaramae (Katusha) was eagerly awaited as the Estonian had been 17 seconds faster than Foliforov at the time check but he couldn’t match the Russian in the steep section, stopping the clock in 29.56 to slot into seconds. Likewise, Carlos Verona (Etixx-QuickStep) had a fast start but he failed to make it into the top 10, crossing the line in the 15th best time.

 

Firsanov make it a 1-2 for Gazprom

Verona’s teammate David de la Cruz was much better as he slotted into fourth with 30.09, narrowly avoiding getting caught by Joe Dombrowski (Cannondale). The American was on fire but 29.31 was still almost a minute off Foliforov’s time as he moved into second.

 

Gazprom-Rusvelo continued their domination when captain Sergey Firsanov reached the finish. The Russian had been the fastest at the time check and even though he couldn’t match his younger teammate in the final part, 29.09 saw him take second place.

 

Scarponi confirms his form

Mikel Nieve (Sky) confirmed his good form by taking 10th before Diego Ulissi (Lampre-Merida) confirmed that he is riding well by slotting into fourth with 29.44. Astana were riding for the teams classification and they did well as Tanel Kangert posted the sixth best time of 30.00 before his teammate Michele Scarponi moved into third with 29.15.

 

A disappointed Sebastian Henao (Sky) narrowly missed the top 10 before Giovanni Visconti signaled Movistar’s intentions by posting a time of 30.00, good enough for 7th. However, it was Bob Jungels (Etixx-QuickStep) that most were waiting for as he had been the fastest at the time check. The climb got too steep in the second part though and 29.43 saw him only take fifth place.

 

Solid ride by Zakarin

Domenico Pozzovivo (Ag2r) had a poor ride with 19th place in 30.51 but it was still five seconds better than top 10 rival Jakob Fuglsang (Astana). Kanstantsin Siutsou (Dimension Data) was slightly better with 30.38 while Rigoberto Uran (Cannondale) had a disastrous ride with 31.57 which was not even good enough for the top 40.

 

Zakarin had been very fast at the time check where he had posted the best time but he was unable to maintain the speed, slotting into fourth with 29.26. Rafal Majka (Tinkoff) had a decent ride but was clearly disappointed with 7th in 29.48.

 

Near-miss for Kruijswijk

Andrey Amador (Movistar) continued his downwards trend as he could only manage 23rd in 30.51 but his captain Valverde proved that he is still a podium contender by slotting into second with 29.02. Chaves bounced back from a poor start to take the fifth best time in 29.19.

 

At this point, Nibali had already had his bike change and it was clear that the Italian was on a disastrous day. When he reached the finish, the clock stopped in 30.49 which saw him move into 24th.

 

Foliforov now just had to wait for Kruijswijk who had been a massive 39 seconds faster than the Russian at the time check. In a nail-biting finale, the Dutchman missed out on victory by less than a second but he strengthened his grip on the maglia rosa.

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