Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo) will head into tomorrow’s rest day with a very healthy lead at the top of the Giro d’Italia’s general classification. Kruijswijk was pipped to the post by young Russian outsider Alexander Foliforov (Gazprom-Rusvelo) in stage 15’s mountain time trial, but still managed to gain time on the contenders for the maglia rosa. He’s in a very good position to become the first ever Dutchman to win this prestigious race.
Rider of the race
Though it was another very strong performance from overall leader Kruijswijk, who now has over a couple of minutes on his nearest overall rival Esteban Chaves (Orica-GreenEDGE), today’s best rider could only go to the stage winner Foliforov. The 24-year-old, who started his career on Katusha’s development team back in 2012, emerged from nowhere to take the victory. On yesterday’s mountainous queen stage he came home in a rather unspectacular 54th place, and no one could have envisaged that he’d be spraying the champagne on the top step of the podium just a day later.
As if that wasn’t impressive enough, his 33-year-old veteran teammate Sergey Firsanov – also riding his maiden three-week stage race – set the day’s fourth-fastest time. It was a result as surprising as it was impressive. Russian cycling has lately been as notable for its bad news stories as its good ones, with doping scandals hitting both Katusha and Gazprom-Rusvelo over the last couple of seasons. Perhaps the nation’s greatest ever general classification rider – and former Giro winner – Denis Menchov was stripped of three Tour de France finishes in 2014 after adverse biological passport findings.
Let’s hope Foliforov’s victory today is of a more licit nature, and that the scepticism that unavoidably – and correctly – accompanies the result is without any foundation.
A Nibali nightmare
Behind the successes of Kruijswijk and Foliforov, the day’s third big narrative is the catastrophic collapse of Vincenzo Nibali (Astana). The Italian dropped below Chaves in the overall standings courtesy of a miserable day at the office, in which he found himself struggling even before a mechanical forced him into a bike change – during which he rather pointedly tossed his broken machine to the Dolomiti roadside. He’s now almost three minutes behind leader Kruijswijk, and though it’s still too early to declare his race run, it’s looking increasingly like the Shark is lacking the requisite bite to win his home race for the first time since 2013.
Other winners and losers
Esteban Chaves and his magical mouth will be delighted to have made the jump into second place, with the Colombian best placed to capitalise if Kruijswijk has a disaster over the coming few days. It was also a good day for Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), who set the day’s third-fastest time. He finds himself just over half a minute adrift of Nibali and the podium, and with his team now set to mobilise their full resources in the Spaniard’s cause, we can expect a final week assault.
Unfortunately it was a relatively disappointing day for VeloVoices favourite and former maglia rosa Andrey Amador (Movistar). Likely still bearing the brunt of yesterday’s gruelling stage, the Costa Rican lost over two minutes on a time trial that was only just over 10km in length, and falls outside of the top five as a result. His hopes of winning this race have now realistically evaporated, and he’ll be a valuable ally for Valverde over the days to come.
1 Alexander Foliforov (Gazprom-Rusvelo) 0:28:39
2 Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo) same time
3 Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) +0:23
4 Sergey Firsanov (Gazprom-Rusvelo) +0:30
5 Michele Scarponi (Astana) +0:36
1 Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo) 60:41:22
2 Esteban Chaves (Orica-GreenEDGE) +2:12
3 Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) +2:51
4 Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) +3:29
5 Rafal Majka (Tinkoff) +4:38
All the jerseys
Leader’s jersey: Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo)
Point’s jersey: Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek-Segafredo)
KOM jersey: Damiano Cunego (Nippo-Vini Fantini)
Best young rider: Bob Jungels (Etixx-Quick Step)
For full review of the stage, go to Cycling News
Header image: Sergey Firsanov. © Giro d’Italia/Twitter