Vasil Kiryienka (Belarus) was a surprise podium finisher in the men's time trial at the world championships in Valkenburg on Wednesday, edging out Tejay van Garderen (USA) and Fredrik Kessiakoff (Sweden) for third place.
Three times a national champion in the discipline (in 2002, 2005 and 2006), Kiryienka has never won a professional time trial outside of his home country, although he posted top ten finishes at the Worlds in both 2006 and 2007.
When Kiryienka crossed the line at the end of his effort, he had done enough to nudge another surprise package - Dmitriy Gruzdev (Kazakhstan) - out of the provisional lead, but as he took his place in the hot seat, he could hardly have expected to stay in the medal positions for the rest of the afternoon. Remarkably, by day's end, only winner Tony Martin (Germany) and Taylor Phinney (USA) had bettered his time.
12th in the time trial at the London Olympics, Kiryienka had raced sparingly in the approach to the Worlds. Before lining up for Movistar in Sunday's team time trial, his last race was the GP Ouest France-Plouay in August.
"It's a surprise for me, but it's a dream too," Kiryienka said in his post-race press conference. "I've been training hard for the past three weeks; I didn't do any races since the GP Ouest France. But I was working hard, both for this and for my team to do well in the team time trial on Sunday, and I was very happy with today's result."
A double stage winner at the Giro d'Italia, Kiryienka has been a solid performer over the past four seasons at Movistar. Although he has been employed largely in the service of others, he was keen to thank his squad for the resources they had devoted to him, even interrupting his interpreter when he realised he had forgotten to name-check manager Eusebio Unzue.
"I turned pro very late but I think I can still get better yet, and getting a medal at the World shows that," said Kiryienka, who has already agreed to move to Sky next season. A solid rouleur and competent climber, he offers another hefty dose of quality to an already startlingly powerful roster.
"I've signed for the next three years with Sky, I think it was the moment for change of scene," he said. With Olympic time trial champion Bradley Wiggins and bronze medallist Chris Froome already in their ranks, Kiryienka's arrival means that the British team will now boast half of 2012 global time trial medallists in its ranks.
"I don't know if they watched on television, but I guess they might have done," Kiryienka mused. "I'm moving to the team to work as a teammate and I'm sure they will be pleased to see another strong rider on the team."
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Barry Ryan is European Editor at Cyclingnews. He has covered professional cycling since 2010, reporting from the Tour de France, Giro d’Italia and events from Argentina to Japan. His writing has appeared in The Independent, Procycling and Cycling Plus. He is the author of The Ascent: Sean Kelly, Stephen Roche and the Rise of Irish Cycling’s Golden Generation (opens in new tab), published by Gill Books.