Seven riders who made their name at the 2015 Giro d'Italia

Jan Polanc on the Giro d'Italia podium (Yuzuru Sunada)
(Image credit: Yuzuru SUNADA)

Alberto Contador is already a household name in cycling circles, winning his seventh Grand Tour to further enhance his credentials as one of the best stage race riders ever.

Behind the Spaniard, though, were a host of riders for whom their performances in Italy over the last three weeks could go a long way in shaping their careers.

Several of these seven riders rose to prominence for performances that belied their youthfulness and inexperience, while others profited from aggressive riding and relentless consistency to become unlikely success stories for their teams.

Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo)

Steven Kruijswijk on stage twenty of the 2015 Tour of Italy (Watson)

Steven Kruijswijk on stage twenty of the 2015 Tour of Italy (Watson)
(Image credit: Watson)

What started as a couple of kamikaze breakaway attempts resulted in an impressive seventh-place finish for Kruijswijk in the general classification.

The Dutchman only ever went up on the leaderboard, starting the race in 86th after the team time trial and slowly, but surely, working his way into the top-10.

An impressive solo breakaway gave the 27-year-old some airtime on stage eight - springing off the front of the peloton on his own near the start of the stage, being caught by Carlos Betancur and Kristof Vandewalle and then leaving them behind again soon after on the final climb.

Clearly not feeling many effects of his exertions, Kruijswijk was out in the break again the following day. This time, however, he clung on in the final stages to claim second place - one of his seven top-six finishes.

A run of three straight top-five finishes between stages 14 and 16 boosted Kruijswijk towards the top of the leaderboard, where another two consecutive fifth-places on stages 19 and 20 consolidated his position.

Kruijswijk was a rare bright spot for LottoNL-Jumbo, who started the race a man short after George Bennett's cortisol levels were a bit low and then lost Robert Wagner on stage four.

Davide Formolo (Cannondale-Garmin) & Jan Polanc (Lampre-Merida)

Davide Formolo on stage four of the 2015 Tour of Italy (Watson)

Davide Formolo on stage four of the 2015 Tour of Italy (Watson)
(Image credit: Watson)

Few things give you better positive exposure in cycling than winning a stage of a Grand Tour and the duo of Formolo and Polanc managed it just at the right time in their careers.

Both riders soloed to victory one stage after another to give their teams their first wins of the race, in what is a contract year for each of them.

While it was to prove to be Cannondale's only win of the race, Polanc's victory was the start of things to come for Lampre, who notched up three more wins before Milan.

With both riders hoping to remain in the WorldTour, I assume, what better way to prove your worth to teams somewhat bereft of top-end talent than win at the Giro?

Formolo finished second behind Astana's Fabio Aru in the young rider classification, albeit accumulating almost two more hours than his fellow Italian. But at the age of 22, coming 31st in a three-week Grand Tour is a pretty remarkable achievement.

Mikel Landa (Astana)

Landa wins his second stage at the 2015 Giro d'Italia. Photo: Yuzuru Sunada

Landa wins his second stage at the 2015 Giro d'Italia. Photo: Yuzuru Sunada

If the Giro d'Italia had an award ceremony equivalent to the BRIT Awards, Mikel Landa would arguably be the favourite to take home the 'Best Breakthrough Act' trophy.

Unfortunately, or fortunately - depending on how you look at it - there are no such awards, so Cycling Weekly will bestow the title on him anyway.

Starting the race as Aru's right-hand man, Landa temporarily ousted his teammate as the leader at Astana after an astonishing turn of events on stage 16.

He first showed his strength on stage eight to Campitello Matese, leaving Contador and Aru behind and storming up the climb to claim second behind Beñat Intxausti.

Then came back-to-back stage wins either side of the second rest day, firstly taking a narrow victory in Madonna di Campiglio and then surging away the following stage to finish nearly three minutes ahead of his team leader.

It wasn't really clear why he did it either. When Contador attacked in the final stages, Landa went with him, but Aru could not keep up.

Whether it was at this point that the Astana management told the Spaniard to go for it is not known, but go for it he did, leapfrogging Aru in the GC for a couple of days.

Aru had the last laugh by winning stages 19 and 20 to seal second place for himself, but Landa did look the strongest up the Finistre on the penultimate stage, claiming the Cima Coppi. But he was forced to wait for Aru rather than go for his third stage win, ultimately costing him second place in the race.

Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek Factory Racing)

Giacomo Nizzolo after stage 21 of the Giro d'Italia (Sunada)

Giacomo Nizzolo after stage 21 of the Giro d'Italia (Sunada)
(Image credit: Yuzuru SUNADA)

You'd have got pretty decent odds on Nizzolo winning the red jersey at the Giro d'Italia this year but the Trek rider's slow accumulation of points proved more than enough to take the classification.

In some ways it looks as if the Italian won the points jersey by default, being one of the few sprinters who actually bothered to finish the three weeks, but although he didn't win a single stage, he was always in the right place at the right time to stack up the points.

It was a tactic best demonstrated by Peter Sagan in the 2014 Tour de France - a host of top-10 stage finishes but enough intermediate sprint points to win the classification.

While people can point at the fact that the likes of André Greipel and Michael Matthews pulled out before week three, the fact is neither of them were really in contention for red at that point.

Viviani held the jersey for large parts of the first two weeks, but Nizzolo was right on his heels and eventually pulled away in the competition as they raced towards Milan.

Sacha Modolo proved that stage wins were not a guarantee of points classification success as he finished well out of the hunt on the other days as Nizzolo remained in the mix.

He may not be in the upper pantheon of WorldTour sprinters, but Nizzolo turned a pretty poor tour for Trek into somewhat of a success.

Andrey Amador (Movistar)

Andrey Amador on stage 19 of the 2015 Giro d'Italia (Watson)

Andrey Amador on stage 19 of the 2015 Giro d'Italia (Watson)
(Image credit: Watson)

Movistar took an interesting approach to the Giro this year, throwing a host of essentially domestiques at the race and seeing which one did best.

In the end it was Amador who was their surprise turn in the GC race, finishing fourth overall and moving up a few spaces in the list of famous Costa Rican sportsmen in the process.

Indeed, if you type 'Costa Rican sportsmen' into Google, Amador is now the second person who comes up in the little picture gallery, one place behind 400m sprinter Nery Brenes.

With Intxausti and Giovanni Visconti in the team, it was unsure who would be the actual leader, with the early stages of the race pointing towards the former as being the one taking control.

But as the race went on, Amador's consistency saw him hovering around the top-10, eventually settling for fourth place.

Outside of the team time trial, Amador only recorded two top-10 finishes, instead just being where he needed to be, following whoever he needed to follow in order to maintain his position.

Intxausti won stage eight while Visconti took home the mountains jersey to cap a successful race for the reigning champions.

Daniele Colli (Nippo-Vini Fantini)

Screen Shot 2015-05-19 at 13.08.57

Unfortunately for Colli, he's the only one in this list who didn't shoot to prominence based on his actual performances at the Giro.

The Nippo-Vini Fantini was in the news for his gruesome crash on stage six, where he broke his arm in a high-speed collision with a spectator in the final sprint.

The Italian spent several days in hospital, undergoing surgery to repair his shattered humerus, and he even shared his x-rays with the world.

He's no young buck like the other riders on this list, but his unfortunate exploits earned him a little bit more fame around the world than he probably would have done if he'd have actually raced all 21 stages.


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Stuart Clarke is a News Associates trained journalist who has worked for the likes of the British Olympic Associate, British Rowing and the England and Wales Cricket Board, and of course Cycling Weekly. His work at Cycling Weekly has focused upon professional racing, following the World Tour races and its characters.