Katusha's Ilnur Zakarin, riding his first season at UCI WorldTour level, has won Stage 11 of the 2015 Giro d'Italia at the Imola Grand Prix circuit, the venue of the San Marino Grand Prix. Alberto Contador of Tinkoff-Saxo keeps the race lead.
The 25-year-old Russian, who won the overall title at theTour de Romandie earlier this month, was one of 13 riders who got away early on in the rain-soaked 153km stage from Forli, including 2012 champion Ryder Hesjedal of Garmin-Cannondale.
Zakarin, who was handed a two-year doping suspension at the age of 19, attacked on the penultimate climb of the Tremonti, tackled four times on the same finishing circuit used in the 1968 UCI road world championships.
When he crested it for the last time with 7.6km remaining, only a crash or mechanical problem on the way down to the finish looked like preventing him from taking his first Grand Tour stage win.
He went on to win it by 53 seconds from fellow escapees Carlos Betancur of AG2R-La Mondiale, and Androni Giocattoli's Franco Pellizotti, who finished second and third respectively.
Afterwards, he said: “I started the stage in good heart, and the breakaway riders worked well together. I made one attempt to get away, and at the second try, I made it.
"I learned a lesson in the stage that [Benat] Intxausti won because that day [Saturday's Stage 8] I made the mistake of attacking too early.
"This time, I waited until the last moment. I still can’t believe that I won the Tour de Romandie, and now I’ve won a stage of the Giro. I have many emotions, and I’m very happy.”
Behind the breakaway riders, the final climb saw an attack from Contador that briefly distanced his closest rival, Fabio Aru of Astana, who remains 3 seconds behind on GC, and demonstrates his recovery from the dislocated shoulder he sustained in a crash last Thursday.
It was another miserable day for one of the pre-race favourites, however - 2013 Giro runner-up Rigoberto Uran of Etixx-Quick Step, who crashed in the wet as he crossed the finish line to start the final lap.
Team Sky's Richie Porte, who slid to 12th overall yesterday after losing 47 seconds on the road then receiving a 2 minute penalty for illegal assistance from Orica-GreenEdge's Simon Clarke, who gave him his front wheel after a puncture, rolled over in the Contador group, 1 minute 2 seconds behind Zakarin.
Following the stage, Contador said: "“The terrain wasn’t ideal for an attack, but sometimes you just go on instinct: it depends on whether you feel good or not.
"Today was very hard, much harder than yesterday, with 50km less. I’m feeling better each day, and the bruising on my legs is getting better. A thousand things can still happen. It may look easy, but there is still a very long way to go.”
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.