It only took two road stages for Pavel Kochetkov to make a visit to the podium on his grand tour debut as the Katusha rider took over the lead in the mountains classification after a day in the breakaway on stage three of the Giro d'Italia.
The 29-year-old finished the stage in 56th place in the main bunch, safe in the knowledge the blue jersey was waiting for him, as the breakaway was swallowed up in the road into Sestri Levante where Kochetkov’s teammates Sergey Lagutin and Luca Paolini caped off the day by finishing fourth and sixth respectively.
"We had a plan to control the situation in front and to try to go in the escape. So when some riders attacked I was there to follow them. Later some other riders came to us, so we had a big group in front. I tried to save energy and to consider the possibility for an attack later in the race," Kochetkov said of the stage. "I found a good moment just before the top of the last climb when I was on the steepest part. I took the points on the top and started to go downhill. It was easier for me to stay alone in front on the downhill. Later I saw that I still had a gap and I said to myself to try to do my best. It was a good try and I was close. It was my first try but not the last one, of course. Now I am happy with the blue jersey. This is a good motivation for me for the next days in the Giro."
Kochetkov joined Katusha at the beginning of the 2014 season riding several one-week stage races including the Tour de Langkawi where he broke his collarbone after being knocked off his bike by a helicopter. Kochetkov made his season debut at the Tour de San Luis, finishing seventh in the mountains classification, before riding in service of the team as he prepared to make his three-week race debut.
Sport director Dmitry Konyshev explained the team's plan was almost executed to perfection and praised the efforts of Kochetkov in securing Katusha's first trip to the podium at this Giro.
"We knew it could be a good stage for a breakaway to have success so we stayed in front in the beginning and later it was Pavel who managed to go in a breakaway," Konyshev said. "He was strong today. He used his experience from the recent Tour de Romandie and did a very smart race. In the end Pavel was really close to success, but the peloton caught him and the Orica rider with only 3 km to go. I am happy with Sergey Lagutin and Luca Paolini who represented our team well in the final sprint taking fourth and sixth places. Very nice."
It was all good news for Katusha though as the team lost Anton Vorobyev to acute gastroenteritis after he fell ill before stage two.