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Do you remember stage 15 of the 2016 Giro d’Italia? The uphill time trial on the Alpe di Suisi? The day little-known Russian rider Alexander Foliforov put in the ride of his life to win a stage of the Giro d’Italia?
The only rider that got close to Foliforov that day was overall leader Steven Kruijswijk. The Dutchman finished less than a second behind Foliforov to extend his overall lead, but would lose the Giro a few days later in dramatic fashion, crashing into a snowbank on stage 19 as Vincenzo Nibali came from the clouds to win his second Giro title.
Back to Foliforov’s win though. To say it was an unexpected result would be a massive understatement. He’d had some decent results to that point in his career, but his only victories had been in UCI .2 and U23-level races. Certainly nothing like victory in an uphill time trial deep into his debut Grand Tour.
You can relive the moment here:
OK, so why are we talking about Foliforov now, six years later? Good question.
While most of us had forgotten Foliforov’s amazing ride, a bunch of cycling fans over on Reddit certainly hadn’t. Over this past weekend, the pelotonmemes subreddit became something of a rolling tribute to Foliforov’s unlikely victory, with a bunch of posts celebrating “Foliforov Day” – May 22, the date of Foliforov’s win back in 2016.
There was this post from Reddit user juraj_is_better:
And this one from user VermontPizzaSucks:
And this one from natanoj007:
And then there’s this disorientating, meme-heavy deepfake video narrated by the one and only Sir David Attenborough:
A quick Reddit search shows that the cycling memers have actually been celebrating Foliforov Day for a few years now. User juraj_is_better had these two great posts last year, for example:
And “vogelpoep” chimed in with this one back in 2020:
So what did happen to Alexander Foliforov’s career after his remarkable Giro victory in 2016?
Well, not much. He won the KOM jersey at the 2017 Tour of the Alps and took second on a mountain stage at the 2018 Tour of Austria … and that’s about it. He retired from the sport at the end of 2018, just 26 years old. The Giro TT was his last victory.
Foliforov’s Instagram page shows a little of what he’s been up to since then. He’s spent some time in Dubai:
He’s been in Cuba:
He’s been to sporting events:
And he’s been eating salmon:
The biggest question, though, is why Foliforov never reached the same lofty heights as he did that day at the 2016 Giro. Reddit user natanoj007 has a compelling theory:
“The 22nd of May is the magic day for Foliforov,” they wrote. “In 10 seasons he only raced on that day twice. First one was in 2014. Of course he won the stage that day [the opening stage of the Ronde de l’Isard U23 race – ed.]. 2nd time was 2016; obviously he won the Giro TT that day.
“He couldn’t get any results later on because he didn’t race on the 22nd of May ever again.”