Eight years after his last individual pro win, Katusha's Evgeni Petrov has finally delivered a result on stage 11 of the Giro d’Italia. His victory on Wednesday was a great one and came beneath torrential rain in L’Aquila at the end of the longest stage of the 2010 edition of the Giro. Ten years ago, the Russian was the world’s most promising cyclist, but his career hasn’t lived up to those expectations so far.
"This win is very important for Russia, where cycling is picking up again," said Petrov, who will celebrate his 32nd birthday next week on May 25. His team, Katusha, joined the ProTour peloton in 2009, but Petrov is a veteran of the squad having also been a member of its predecessor, Tinkoff Credit Systems, for two years. At the 2007 Giro d’Italia he finished 7th overall, a result which appeared to be a re-start to his career. However, he has failed to emulate that performance since.
"I don’t know why I haven’t had more success as a pro," he said. "Several times I’ve tried at the Giro but only today I found victory. Usually, groups of 50 riders away don’t succeed, but I guess it’s the weather conditions that didn’t allow the bunch to catch us. When I crossed the line I thought of my wife Anna, who is often alone at home in Italy where we don’t have many friends. We both make a lot of sacrifices. Maybe the reason why I haven’t won much is because I’ve always been available as a domestique for my team captains."
"I don’t know when I last won a race," he added. Indeed, it was September 2002 that he had last tasted individual success. He won the Duo Normand two-man time trial with Filippo Pozzato, his teammate at the then-Mapei-Quick Step-Latexco squad and who is again his teammate at Katusha today. That same month, with the help of Pozzato and Bernhard Eisel, he had won the overall title the Tour de l’Avenir, but did so without a stage win. And three months earlier he had been crowned Russian national time trial champion for the second time in his career.
In fact, stage five in the 2002 Tour of Slovenia was the last time he enjoyed an individual win. That result had itself broken a two-year drought dating back to his fabulous double at the 2000 World Championships in Plouay, France.
In France that year Petrov became the under-23 world champion for both the road race and time trial disciplines, ahead of Yaroslav Popovych and Fabian Cancellara, respectively. It had looked like the first decade of the new millennium would be his. Ten years later, he has finally delivered a long awaited result and perhaps proven that it's never too late to meet expectations.