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Giro d'Italia

Surprise Romandie winner Zakarin to race in Giro

The Katusha rider from Russia rode to a shocking victory over the weekend in the Tour de Romandie

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PARIS (AFP) — Surprise Tour de Romandie winner Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha) will compete in the Giro d’Italia, scheduled to start Saturday, in what will be his maiden start in one of the prestigious grand tours.

The Russian rider, 25, made a name for himself on the world stage this year with a ninth-place finish in the Vuelta al Pais Vasco (Tour of the Basque Country) before his unexpected victory in Switzerland over the weekend, where he finished second in a hilly fifth stage and third in the final time trial.

Zakarin, whose previous results never suggested he could be a contender in a race of this caliber, even overcame a technical problem that forced him to change bikes 5 kilometers from the finish to take the prestigious prize on the final day.

The all-rounder was suspended for two years in 2009 by the Russian cycling federation after he tested positive for the anabolic steroid methandienone.

The 2007 European road junior champion will head to Italy to gain valuable experience.

This year’s Giro starts Saturday with a 17.6km team time trial from San Lorenzo al Mare to Sanremo, and will end May 31 in Milan. It will be the seventh time Katusha has competed in the Italian grand tour.