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With a time of 10.22, Ovechkin won the opening time trial of the Tour de Slovenie, beating Puccio by less than a second; Ulissi completed the podium

Photo: Sirotti

DIEGO ULISSI

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GAZPROM - RUSVELO

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SALVATORE PUCCIO

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TOUR DE SLOVENIE

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19.06.2015 @ 00:24 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Artem Ovechkin (Rusvelo) lived up to his status as one of the pre-race favourites when he won the opening time trial in the Tour de Slovenie. In a thrilling battle, the time trial specialist beat Salvatore Puccio (Sky) by less than a second to move into the race lead while Diego Ulissi (Lampre-Merida) was two seconds slower in third.

 

In the last few years, Artem Ovechkin has been one of the most consistent performers in short, flat time trials in major European races but despite several top 10 results, he has failed to take that elusive first big win. Today he finally opened his account when he lived up to his status as one of the pre-race favourites when he won the flat opening 8.8km time trial in the Tour de Slovenie.

 

With a fifth place in the Boucles de la Mayenne prologue two weeks ago, it was no secret that Ovechkin was in great condition and as the best card on a strong Rusvelo team, he was the 8th last rider to roll down the start ramp. At that time, Diego Ulissi had just beaten long-time leader Vladimir Isaychev by 2 seconds and he faced an uphill battle if he wanted to beat the in-form Italian.

 

However, Ovechkin gauged his effort perfectly and when he stopped the clock in 10.22, he had gone 2 seconds faster than the Lampre-Merida star. He now faced a nervous wait in the hot seat but as the late starters were not time trial specialists, he knew he had a good chance.

 

Local hero Janez Brajkovic (Unitedhealthcare) had a very poor ride and so Salvatore Puccio (Sky) was expected to be his only threat. The Italian turned out to be a bigger rival than expected as he was just fractions of a second slower than Ovechkin, posting the second best time. Final starter Egor Silin (Katusha) was far off the pace and so Ovechkin could step onto the podium as the stage winner.

 

Among the overall contenders, local star Jure Golcer (Felbermayr) got the race off to a great start as he finished the stage in 8th in the same time as Sven Erik Bystrøm (Katusha) and Mauro Finetto (Southeast). Jan Polanc (Lampre-Merida), Primoz Roglic (Adria Mobil), Franco Pellizotti (Androni), Mikel Nieve (Sky) and Edoardo Zardini (Bardiani) also got the race off to a solid start as they finished in the top 30, losing less than 19 seconds to Ovechkin.

 

Ovechkin will wear the leader’s jersey in tomorrow’s second stage which will be a testing affair with three categorized climbs. The riders will tackle a category 1 ascent with 38.1km to go before they descent to a flat finale that is expected to end in a reduced bunch sprint.

 

A flat course

The 22nd edition of the Tour de Slovenie kicked off with a flat 8.8km time trial in the capital of Ljubljana. The stage was mostly made up of long, straight roads and had very few technical challenges, making it a stage for the powerful specialists.

 

It was a cloudy evening in Ljubljana when Jon Bozic (Adria Mobil) rolled down the ramp as the first rider. He stopped the clock in 10.40 to move into the early lead and that allowed him to stay in the hot set for a few minutes before Pieter Jacobs (Topsport Vlaanderen) went 2 seconds faster as the fifth rider on the start list.

 

Nych takes the lead

Giogio Cecchinel (Southeast) moved into third with 10.45 but it was Franco Pellizotti (Androni) who posed the first threat to Jacobs, stopping the clock in a time that was just 1 second off the mark. Instead, it was Artem Nych (Rusvelo) who took the lead as he went just fractions of a second faster than the Belgian.

 

Rusvelo continued their great stage when Artur Ershov slotted into third with a time that was less than a second slower than his teammate before Simone Stortoni (Androni) made it into the top 10 with 10.41. Kenny De Ketele (Topsport Vlaanderen) was slightly faster but missed out on a spot in the top 5.

 

Best time for Isaychev

Elia Favilli (Southeast) was the next rider to crack the top 10 but it was another Rusvelo rider who took the attention when Alexander Serov made it into second, less than a second off the lead. Moments later the team lost its top position when Davide Appollonio (Androni) stopped the clock in 10.28 to set a time that was 10 seconds faster than Nych’s.

 

Maximilano Richeze (Lampre-Merida) was the next sprinter to shine as he slotted into second with 10.34 but Nathan Earle (Sky) was even faster with 10.31. Just one minute later Appollonio lost the lead whtn Vladimir Isaychev (Katusha) stopped the clock in 10.26.

 

Ulissi takes the lead

Alessandro Malaguti (Nippo) slotted into fifth with a time of 10.36 but he dropped out of the top 5 when Preben Van Hecke (Topsport Vlaanderen) moved into fourth. Giacomo Berlato (Nippo) made it into the top 10 but all eyes were on Marco Canola (Unitedhealthcare) who was a pre-race outsider. However, the Italian could only set the third best time, missing out on the lead by 2 seconds.

 

Sven Erik Bystrøm made it two Katusha riders in the top 4 when he stopped the clock in 10.29 before local hero Primoz Roglic (Adria Mobil) made it into the top 10 with 10.35. Matthias Krizek (Felbermayr) was just 1 second slower but it was Ulissi who got the attention when he beat Isaychev’s time by 2 seconds.

 

Ovechkin wins the stage

Andrew Fenn (Sky) set the sixth best time before Alexander Porsev (Katusha) continued the great day for Katusha by setting the third best time. Jure Golcer (Felbermayr) became the best local rider when he slotted into sixth and Mauro Finetto (Southeast) was just slightly slower to move into 8th.

 

Everyone was eagerly waiting for Ovechkin to finish his ride and he lived up to expectations when he beat Ulissi by 2 seconds. He only had to wait for 7 riders to finish and only one of them managed to make it into the top 10. It all came down to an exciting finale but in the end Puccio missed out on the win by less than a second.

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