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Gazprom-RusVelo Ready to Amaze

The Russian team that broke out at Giro d’Italia prepares to shine in Poland, too.

Gazprom-RusVelo is among the Professional Continental squads which received a Wild Card invitation for the Tour de Pologne – UCI World Tour 2016 scheduled from July 12th to the 18th. The Russian formation has just wrapped up their successful pink adventure on the roads of the Giro d’Italia, where they made a good impression and proved to be up to par with the Pro Teams, even when the race got tough, both in the climbs as well as in tests against the time. Alexander Foliforov scored a spectacular victory in the 15th stage, the gruelling 10.8 km time trial climb from Castelrotto to Alpe di Susi on Sunday, May 22nd, along with his team mate Sergey Firsanov, who came in fourth, 30” back. This year Firsanov had already won the Giro dell’Appennino and the Settimana Coppi & Bartali.

“I was impressed with team Gazprom-RusVelo and their performance at the Giro. Here was a team which on paper didn’t seem to be lining up impressive individuals; however they had the know-how to carve themselves out a role on the front lines, even going on to win a stage, no meagre feat for a team making their debut in a major stage race. They’ve proven to be a solid, compact group, with young, talented kids. They have all the prerequisites to be able to ride a great Tour de Pologne and leave a tangible mark here in Poland as well. Furthermore, they pedal on bikes by my friend Ernesto Colnago, with whom I have a relationship based on mutual esteem and a collaboration that has lasted for many years, and this makes me very happy,” explains Czeslaw Lang, General Director for the Tour de Pologne.

Giro d'Italia 2016

Following is an interview with General Manager for team Gazprom-RusVelo, Renat Khamidulin.

Mr Khamidulin, could you try to sum up team Gazprom-RusVelo’s experience at the Giro d’Italia in one adjective?
I’d say extraordinary… the Giro was our first major three week stage race. It was an important test and I dare say that we passed, both from a sporting level considering the results we obtained, but also from an organizational standpoint. Nor was it simple logistically, with the beginning in Holland and then the long transfer and the next kick-off from the south of Italy. For us it was the first time, but the personnel and the team’s organization machine turned out to be up to the task. This is a sign that helped us understand that we are ready for great cycling. Foliforov’s victory at Alpe di Siusi was the culmination of the hard work we put in at the Giro and the finest reward for the entire team.

Up to this point your season is going very well. Which were the most significant moments?
We are very happy; we’re having a good season. The Giro, with Foliforov’s victory in the time trial climb was definitely the best, most exciting moment. However, let’s not forget that we’ve been racing at the highest levels since the beginning of the year, achieving some significant results. Firsanov won the 2nd stage, the final general classification and the jersey for best climber at the Settimana Coppi & Bartali. In this race we also won the opening team time trial. The time trial is a discipline which means a lot to us. Firsanov also won the Giro dell’Appennino, a gruelling race; he was fourth in the Giro del Trentino and the best climber. Then recently there was also a stage victory at the Tour of Estonia with Roman Maikin and previously we were strong in the Tour of Croatia, particularly with Alexey Kurbatov, who dressed the jersey for best young rider. Beyond the results, what really brings us satisfaction is the way in which the team took on all the competitions, always with the maximum commitment, honouring the jersey and the races. We’ve never raced in a low key style. This reflects well on our guys, and I think all the organizers really appreciate that. For us all these results are not a milestone, but a starting point towards new, ever more prestigious goals. This is the team’s philosophy.

You are pursuing a high quality competitive calendar, with lots of important races and even invitations to World Tour races. What does this mean?
I think it means that we are working in the right way. This year we are moving forward with a high level sports project, also thanks to the invaluable support of our sponsors, who firmly believe in the team’s potential. This is why we decided to undertake a quality calendar, taking part especially in UCI Hors Catégorie, 1.1 and 2.1 races. Competing in top notch races allows our riders to measure themselves against the top teams and best riders in the pack; this is fundamental to grow and gain experience. Add to this the invitations to World Tour races like the Giro and now the Tour de Pologne; for us this is a motive of great pride and all it does is give us further motivation to continue doggedly pursuing our project.

What role does the Tour de Pologne play for your team on this calendar?
Now, after the Giro d’Italia the Tour de Pologne has become our major objective for the summer. We already started working with the riders over the winter, carefully and scrupulously planning the build-up to these two major events, which are the two most important races in our season. Furthermore, this year, with the Tour de France and the Olympic Games in Rio taking place in August, the Tour de Pologne has become even more important. In addition to being a prestigious event in and of itself, for its length and intensity the Tour de Pologne has become the perfect stepping stone for anyone aiming for the Olympic race in Rio. In our ranks we also have some athletes who could wear the Russian national jersey in Rio, so attention and commitment in Poland will be at their highest.

What is your opinion of the Tour de Pologne and the Polish cycling movement in general?
In 2014 the Tour de Pologne was the first World Tour race in which our team participated. We have a fond memory of that experience and we are very happy that we were invited back this year as well. The Tour de Pologne is an important race that has carved out an essential place on the international calendar. Thanks to the great job by Czeslaw Lang and his staff the race has grown significantly, both from a sports perspective as well as when it comes to media coverage. The Tour de Pologne is the most important race in Eastern Europe and since we are a Russian team, Eastern Europe is an essential target; it means a lot to us to be in the starting line-up and we want to make a good impression. As I said, the Tour de Pologne enjoys excellent media coverage, broadcast live on TV all over the world; these are all very important aspects. Then there is the enthusiasm from the crowds, who are always fantastic along the Polish roads. Poland has become one of the new frontiers in world cycling. There is a race as important as the Tour de Pologne, which is growing, there are top level teams and great champions; consider Kwiatkowski and Majka. Poland and all of Eastern Europe have become a significant presence on the international cycling scene, and all of us here on Gazprom-RusVelo have an important role to play in this system.

What do you think of the route for the 2016 Tour de Pologne, especially based on your team’s potential? What ideas do you have as to how to interpret the race?
The route is the classic one, but really good and really valid. It offers the typical menu of a major stage race; there are stages for sprinters, stages suited to breakaways, major mountains and a time trial. All included in one week of racing. I’m sure that this year many Top Riders will choose the Tour de Pologne as a valid alternative to the Tour de France in light of Rio. I think the level in the race is going to be very high. It’s just too bad that there won’t be a team time trial, which is a discipline in which our team excels. In fact this year, the team time trial in the World Championships will be one of our season objectives. We will definitely come to the Tour de Pologne with a squad set up that can try to be competitive on all fronts.

There’s a little more than a month to go until the big date with the Tour de Pologne. Have you already determined which riders in your ranks are best suited to this race, or however the most important men around which to build a squad for Poland?
As I mentioned, the Tour de Pologne is one of our most important events in the season. This is why we have been focused on this race for many months already. With our technicians we have already determined the squad we’ll be sending to Poland. After the national championships in the end of June, we will be making our final evaluations and deciding our definitive choices. In Sergey Firsanov we will definitely have an ace for the mountain stages and a man for the classification. For the sprints we can count on a fast rider like Roman Maikin and for the time trial we have a specialist like Artem Ovechkin. It will also be important to have good pacers who can get into the right breaks every day. Our sports manager, Sergey Ivanov, will be leading the team during the race; he knows the Tour de Pologne very well and as a rider he also won this race in 1998.

What are your main objectives for the 2016 Tour de Pologne?
Being able to participate in a World Tour race is a great opportunity. As I already said, the competition in the group of Tour de Pologne will be top notch; however we’ll be setting out aiming for the general classification and trying to win at least one stage. Then the road and racing situations will define the race and indicate how we should interpret it. For sure each stage will be an important milestone to strive for, constantly giving it our all.

Giro del Trentino Melinda 2016

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