Amador and Trofimov lead surprises as Giro d’Italia enters final week

Abetone feels a long, long time ago. When the Giro d’Italia’s first summit finish on stage 5 saw Alberto Contador, Richie Porte and Fabio Aru test one another out with a series of attacks, the expectation was that, even at that early juncture, the contest had been reduced to a three-horse race.

Contador’s display in the stage 14 time trial may well have since divested the battle for the maglia rosa of much of its suspense, but the collapse of both Porte and Rigoberto Urán this weekend has thrust some unexpected names into contention for a place on the final podium in Milan next Sunday.

Chief among them is Andrey Amador (Movistar), who limited the damage better than most in the Valdobbiadene time trial, and then followed up that result with a battling display on the slopes of Madonna di Campiglio on Sunday, placing 6th on the stage to reach the Giro’s second rest day in third overall, 4:19 down on Contador.

“It was quite a difficult day,” Amador said after wheeling to a halt past the finish line on Sunday. “The day after a time trial is always anxious, because you’re still suffering a bit after riding so hard in that position, but I got through it ok. I was a bit more worried about the penultimate climb [the Passo Daone – ed.] because it was so steep, but it went well.”

At 28 years of age, Amador has never been so highly-placed in a Grand Tour. His best overall finish to date remains his 29th place at the 2012 Giro, when he also won the stage to Cervinia, a mountain that the race revisits on Friday. The Costa Rican was understandably cautious about his prospects of staying in podium contention as the race enters its most demanding phase, estimating that a place in the top five would perhaps mark the very summit of his ambition.

“We’ll have to see day by day what I can do in the rest of the race. It’s going to be a tough final week,” Amador said. “I’m happy with where I am now and I’d like to stay up there on GC.”

Amador’s performances over the weekend have made front pages news in his native Costa Rica. At Madonna di Campiglio on Sunday, as finish area stewards implored the camera crews around Amador to make way for following team cars, he placed his development and performance in a wider context, recalling that twelve months ago, he worked in the service of Nairo Quintana at this race. “The last winner of the Giro was also from Latin America, Nairo, and I think year by year we’re showing that our cycling is growing,” Amador said.

Trofimov on the up

Monday’s Gazzetta dello Sport called it the “Pact of Campiglio” but the apparent working agreement between Contador and Astana in the final kilometre and a half of stage 15 was almost undone by a late interloper, as Yuri Trofimov (Katusha) clawed his way back up to the three leaders and immediately jumped clear. A day after Igor Makarov’s fleeting visit to the race, Katusha were within metres of a second stage win.

Mikel Landa – now 4th overall and a prime candidate for the podium – eventually overhauled Trofimov to win the stage, but the Russian held on for second place and now leapfrogs to 6th place on general classification, 6:58 down on Contador but just 2:39 off Amador’s third place. Katusha’s startling run of success this spring continues unabated, it seems.

“It was a hard moment with more or less 1 km to go, after another attack, so I preferred to go at my own pace and it worked. I came back and immediately attacked for myself,” Trofimov said in a team statement. “I wanted to surprise them. I was close to a victory, but in the end I did not have the power to answer to Landa.”

Now 31, Trofimov has in recent years been handed the responsibility of succeeding Denis Menchov – finally banned for biological passport violations last year, after he had already retired – as Russian cycling’s top general classification prospect in the major tours, though 13th place at the 2013 Giro and 14th place at last year’s Tour mark the summit of his achievements to date, along with his brace of stage victories at the Critérium du Dauphiné.

“I am happy with my race, with my feelings and my progress. Let's see what will happen in the third week,” Trofimov said.

Damiano Caruso, meanwhile, arrived at the Giro as BMC’s general classification leader with the – relatively – modest target of a place in the top 10. Two weeks into the race, the Italian lies 7th overall, 7:10 down on Contador, and despite enduring his most difficult day at Madonna di Campiglio, he was revised his ambitions upwards as the Giro has progressed.

“I was hoping to battle for the top 10 but now I find myself hoping for a place in the top five,” Caruso told Gazzetta dello Sport. He’s far from the only one. As Contador looks to have all but brought the curtain down on one Giro, another begins.

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