The pundits predicted a win from a break and, for once, they were right! Russian star Ilnur Zakarin threw caution to the winds, attacked the breakaway over the penultimate climb and time trialled the final 20km to his first grand tour victory at the Imola motor racing circuit. Alberto Contador is still sitting pretty in pink.
Rider of the day
Having named him as a rider to watch during the Vuelta al Pais Vasco and seen him win last month’s Tour de Romandie, I have to go with today’s stage winner, Katusha’s Ilnur Zakarin. The 25-year-old Russian was one of 13 riders in the early break on the rain-drenched stage. As its advantage over the maglia rosa group tumbled, the break was whittled down to seven riders. Zakarin took his chance and attacked on the penultimate climb of the Tre Monti and, going into time trial mode, quickly put over 30 seconds into those behind who frankly seemed to lose the will to give chase over the last 20km or so as the rain began to fall more heavily.
He continued to build his advantage over the final lap and when he crested the climb for the last time, with 7.6km remaining, nothing stood in his way of victory, save a crash or mechanical. Instead, Zakarin had enough time to enjoy the applause of the crowds as he savoured his first grand tour stage victory, 53 seconds ahead of fellow escapees Carlos Betancur (Ag2r La Mondiale) and Androni-Sidermec’s Franco Pellizotti, who finished second and third respectively.
Zakarin came into the Giro without any expectations from his team. It’s his first grand tour and he’s there to learn but the team will be mightily happy to have finally found a Russian rider to lead it when Joaquim Rodriguez hangs up his cleats. It was a great day for Katusha, who also won the opening stage of Tour of Norway with Alexander Kristoff.
Three things we noticed
1. Alberto attacks. Behind the break, race leader Alberto Contador landed an important psychological blow when he attacked on the final climb and briefly distanced his closest rival, Fabio Aru, who was unable to respond. Post-race Alberto said:
I had the feeling that some riders were suffering and I wanted to test them.
Clearly Alberto is rapidly recovering from his shoulder injury sustained in last Thursday’s crash.
2. #FlechaWatch. Like many Spaniards, Juan Antonio is a motor racing fan and wore a Brazilian Ayrton Senna t-shirt as a tribute to the racer who died at Imola 21 years ago this month. A nice touch.
3. Lady Luck. Please shine on Mick Jagger lookalike Rigoberto Uran (Etixx-Quick Step). Runner-up at the last two editions, Rigoberto crashed just before crossing the finish line to start the final lap. He recovered, got back onto the group and didn’t lose any time but, please, cut the guy a bit of slack!
Stage 11 result
1. Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha) 3:55:08
2. Carlos Betancur (Ag2r La Mondiale) +0:53
3. Franco Pellizotti (Androni-Sidermec) same time
4. Benat Intxausti (Movistar) s/t
5. Diego Rosa (Astana) s/t
1. Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) 46:54:19
2. Fabio Aru (Astana) +0:03
3. Mikel Landa (Astana) +0:46
4. Dario Cataldo (Astana) +1:16
5. Roman Kreuziger (Tinkoff-Saxo) +1:46
6. Rigoberto Uran (Etixx-Quick Step) +2:10
7. Giovanni Visconti (Movistar) +2:12
8. Damiano Caruso (BMC) +2:20
9. Andrey Amador (Movistar) +2:24
10. Leopold Konig (Sky) +2:30
Points leader: Nicola Boem (Bardiani CSF).
King of the Mountains leader: Benat Intxausti (Movistar).
Best young rider: Fabio Aru (Astana).
Team classification: Astana.
Link: Official race website