Katusha's Ilnur Zakarin will target the 2017 Giro d'Italia according to his team manager Viatcheslav Ekimov. 2017 marks the 100th edition of the Giro with the race to begin in Sardinia and finish in Milan with a time trial.
Ekimov made the comments to Russian news agency F-Sport regarding the Gran Tour race programme for the 27-year-old, explaining Zakarin wanted to 'settle the bill' with the Corsa Rosa. With the departure of Joaquim Rodríguez, Zakarin will be the main GC rider on the team next year.
Zakarin made his Grand Tour debut in 2015 at the Giro d'Italia, winning a stage and finishing 44th overall. His second Giro was less of a success as he crashed out of the race on stage 19 to Risoul while sitting fifth overall. Zakarin then made his Tour de France debut in July where he won stage 17 in Finhaut-Emosson and finished 25th overall.
At the 2017 Giro, Zakarin is likely to come up against defending champion Vincenzo Nibali and his new Bahrain-Merida team, Fabio Aru (Astana), Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL–Jumbo), Rafal Majka (Bora-Hansgrohe), and Mikel Landa (Team Sky). With the Vuelta a Espana route to be announced in January, the list of general classification riders for the Spanish Grand Tour remains largely unknown.
Zakarin enjoyed a strong start to his 2016 season with a string of high results overall at the Volta ao Algarve, Paris-Nice, Volta Ciclista a Catalunya, and Tour de Romandie along with fifth place in Liège-Bastogne-Liège. Next season, he is aiming to make the step up as three-week general classification contender.
Ekimov also announced in the interview that he will be stepping down as general manager in 2017 and into an ambassador role. Next season will see an internationalised version of the Russian team who will be known as Katusha-Alpecin, ride under a Swiss license and feature a squad of various nationalities.
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