Alexander Foliforov delivers a surprise Giro TT win ahead of Steven Kruijswijk as Vincenzo Nibali struggles and drops to third overall

Alexander Foliforov delivered a big surprise for Gazprom – RusVelo in Sunday’s 15th stage of the Giro d’Italia. The 24-year-old Russian finished the 10.8-kilometer mountain time trial with a time of 28:39 — just fractions of a second ahead of race leader Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL – Jumbo), but good enough for the victory. Alejandro Valverde (Movstar) finish the stage in third, 23 seconds down.

Kruijswijk’s performance transformed his modest lead in the general classification into a commanding one, as Astana’s Vincenzo Nibali struggled on the course. A pre-race favorite to take the stage win, Nibali lost more and more time as the stage went on and things went from bad to worse when he suffered a dropped chain in the final third of the TT, further slowing him down. The 2013 overall champion finished 2:14 down on Kruijswijk, falling from second overall to third.

Top 10, stage 15

 

Top 10 overall

 
Gazprom riders spent the better part of the day leading the stage. Early starter Artem Oveckin set a time that stood as the stage fastest for a while only to be overtaken by his teammate Aleksey Rybalkin.

Rybalkin was bumped out of the hot seat by Sky’s Ian Boswell, but it didn’t take long for Gazprom to regain control for good when Foliforov set his stage-winning time with most of the GC contenders still warming up.

Sergey Firsanov, another Gazprom rider, quickly followed up Foliforov’s ride with a strong one of his own to take a provisional second place that stood until the final few minutes of the stage, when Valverde and Kruijswijk dropped him down to a fourth-place finish. But neither Valverde nor Kruijswijk could quite match Foliforov.

“This is unbelievable. It’s like a dream to win this stage,” said Foliforov. “I came to the Giro well prepared for this stage in particular because uphill time trials have always been my forte. I did my best but I didn’t expect to win. However, this is not going to be my last victory.”

Finishing within one second of the Russian, Kruijswijk was the biggest winner out of the GC hopefuls. He enjoyed a much better afternoon in the Dolomites than Vincenzo Nibali, who could not find his rhythm in the TT. Provisional time gaps showed him losing ground to Kruijswijk early on in the ride, and then mechanical problems put him further into the hole. Moreover, close calls with overly aggressive fans seemed to shake his concentration a bit.

Coming across the line after a strong ride from Valverde, who bounced back somewhat after a disappointing stage 14, Nibali lost serious ground in the general classification on a day when many expected him to take a victory.

Steven Kruijswijk started the stage with a 41-second lead over Nibali, his nearest competitor. Now he has more than two minutes to his closest challenger, Esteban Chaves — who rode to a respectable sixth place in the stage — and nearly three over Nibali.

“I really wanted to win the stage as well,” Kruijswijk said. “I finished second yesterday as well. I heard towards the end that I was close to the victory but most importantly I gained time over my rivals on GC. I did everything for that and I’m confident that I’ll be able to defend the maglia rosa during the last week.”

A rest day Monday will give riders a chance to rest and recover before the race continues Tuesday with a short but mountainous stage 16, 132km from Bressanone to Brixen-Andalo.

Stage 15 results

 

General classification

 

Points classification

 

Mountains classification

 

Youth classification

 

Teams classification