Majka improves to fifth overall
Starting the stage 15 Giro d'Italia time trial from Castelrotto to Alpe di Siusi in sixth place overall, Rafal Majka improved one place to enter the top-five for the first time in the race this year. The Polish climber finished in tenth place, 1:09 minutes down on stage winner Alexander Foliforov (Gazprom-Rusvelo).
"It was a tough stage today and I just gave everything I could, but suffered. It has been a few hard days and the rest day comes at a good time tomorrow. There are still a lot of opportunities ahead and it was good to climb another spot on GC today," said the Tinkoff rider.
It was the third straight day that Majka had finished inside the top-ten as he continues to improve his standing on the general classification. Majka was seventh on his Giro debut in 2013, coming back a year later and improving to sixth but skipped last year's race to race the Tour de France and Vuelta a Espana where he finished in third place overall.
Sports director Tristan Hoffman explained it was a good ride from Majka after the previous day's queen stage and expects the 26-year-old to rest up before the crucial and decisive final week of the race.
"As expected the outcome of today was quite like yesterday, some of the GC guys were faster, some slower, but Rafal rode a good time trial and gave it everything he had," Hoffman said. "Tomorrow we've got the rest day, which is coming at a good time I think for the guys, as it has been a tough few days, then the race hits the mountains again on Tuesday and we'll be ready to go again."
Tinkoff's Rafal Majka during the stage 15 time trial (TDW Sports)
Gazprom prove worth of wildcard invitation with two in fop four
Gazprom-Rusvelo's wildcard invitation to the Giro d'Italia was seen as surprising in some quarters, particularly as team manager Renat Khamidulin recounted to Cyclingnews back in January that they had applied out of hope than expectation. Even more surprising was the stage 15 victory by the previously unheralded Alexander Foliforov who marked his first grand tour with a stage win.
The 24-year-old rode into the hotseat as the 110th starter with only maglia rosa and last of the 167 starters, Steven Kruijswijk, coming close to bettering his time of 28:39 minutes. Despite TV commentators calling the win in favour of the Dutchman initially, the TV graphic showed the winner as Foliforov with an average speed of 22.617km/h.
"I was very nervous during the last minute of the race as I was watching TV. I thought Kruijswijk was going to win. I still cannot believe that I've won a stage of the Giro d'Italia! It's my best distance and uphill time trials are my speciality," Foliforov said.
The Russian added that having previously performed well uphill against the clock, he wasn't necessarily surprise with the result, adding that having teammate Sergey Firsanov finish fourth and Gazprom-Rusvelo finish as the quickest team provided ever greater significance to his win.
"I won a similar uphill time trial at the GP Sochi in Russia [over a distance of 10.3km last year] and I came 5th at the Giro della Valle d'Aosta [over 9.2km from Champdepraz to Covarey, behind Fabio Aru, Kenny Elissonde, Joe Dombrowski and Ilnur Zakarin - at the age of 18!]. Today's victory is very important for the team, our sponsors and me, bearing in mind that we're a wildcard team. It shows that we can fight and win stages."
Uran drops out of top-ten
Rigoberto Uran came into the Giro d'Italia with the aspiration of winning the race he had previously finished second in on two occasions. However the Cannondale rider rider now finds himself in a fight, not for pink, but for the top ten overall. The Colombian finished the stage 15 time trial in 50th place, on the same time as teammate Davide Formolo to drop from eighth to 12th on GC.
"I did a maximum effort but we did not get the desired result," Rigoberto Uran told Cyclingpro.net. "We will continue to work even if we have had difficulties in recent days. We are always present. The level is very high but I think it's hard for everyone."
Domenico Pozzovivo suffers on climb to Alpe di Siusi
AG2R-La Mondiale's Domenico Pozzovivo was regarded as one of the favourites for the stage 15 victory with his capabilities suiting the 10.5km parcours but it was largely a day to forget for the Italian as he crossed the line 2:12 minutes down in 26th place.
"After two hard days, this was a demanding time trial that did not give any chance to hide yourself," said Pozzovivo who retained his 11th place overall. "I tried to handle myself and do the best. I did not have super sensations so I think I defended myself well."
French teammate Hubert Dupont was just two seconds slower than Pozzovivo as sports director Julien Jurdie explained his GC leader is feeling the effects of a tough opening two weeks of the Giro.
"The rest day comes at the right time," Jurdie said. "The bodies were very tired. Regarding the assessment of the day, it is a little disappointing. We had targeted a better place with Domenico Pozzovivo today (26th). He suffered in the final, in the last two kilometers. He could not keep up the pace."
Jurdie added that while Pozzovivo's bid for the GC will still be supported, AG2R-La Mondiale will aim for a third week stage win.
"This week will be analyzed well and we will motivate the troops for the final week. There are still beautiful stages that are perfect for us. The aim will be to win a stage which could allow us to enter the top ten of the Giro," Jurdie said.