Vlasov 'happy to compete' at La Flèche Wallonne as UCI's Russia ban remains

HUY BELGIUM APRIL 20 Aleksander Vlasov of Russia and Team Bora Hansgrohe crosses the finish line during the 86th La Flche Wallonne 2022 Mens Elite a 2011km one day race from Blegny to Mur de Huy 204m WorldTour FlecheWallonne on April 20 2022 in Huy Belgium Photo by Luc ClaessenGetty Images
Aleksandr Vlasov (Bora-Hansgrohe) racing to third place atop the Mur de Huy (Image credit: Luc ClaessenGetty Images)

Almost two months on from the UCI's ban on Russian and Belarusian teams, members of the Gazprom-RusVelo team have in recent days appealed to the sport's governing body to find a way to help them back to racing.

In the meantime, Russian riders on foreign teams have been able to race all along, a result of a muddled UCI policy which has seen rides from Italy, Spain and the Czech Republic among those prevented from racing.

Bora-Hansgrohe leader Aleksandr Vlasov has been among the Russians able to continue racing, with the 25-year-old able to enjoy a career-best start to his season at Bora-Hansgrohe. So far, Vlasov has won the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana and placed on the podium at the Trofeo Pollença, the GP Indurain, and Itzulia Basque Country.

Following his latest podium spot, third place at Wednesday's La Flèche Wallonne, Vlasov was asked about the plight of his fellow Russian racers, contrasting his situation with the likes of Ilnur Zakarin, a leader at Vlasov's former team, Gazprom-RusVelo.

"Of course, I'm happy that I can compete now," Vlasov said in the post-race press conference. "You know, I'm just a bike rider so I want to race, I want to train. It's my job and I want to continue to do it."

Vlasov has, through the first three months of 2022, been among the most consistent riders in the peloton, racking up 16 top-10 placings and 10 podiums in 30 race days.

While highlights from 2021, his final season at Astana, saw him take second at Paris-Nice and fourth at the Giro d'Italia, it appears as though he's taken another step at his new team.

"I don't know, I just tried to train hard," he said when asked about the strong start to his time at Bora-Hansgrohe. "I have a lot of motivation in this team. It's super nice and I like it.

"The guys and the atmosphere in the team is nice and friendly. So, I'm just happy to be here and to race for Bora-Hansgrohe."

On Wednesday he made his debut at La Flèche Wallonne, testing himself on the Mur de Huy for the first time. He was able to follow the moves by eventual winner Dylan Teuns (Bahrain Victorious) and runner-up Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), proving to be best of the rest behind the lead duo, both of whom had been on the podium of the race before.

"First of all, I tried to start the final climb at the best position as possible," Vlasov said. "I'm not an explosive rider, so I just try to do it in regular rhythm and when I saw the attack of Dylan it was super strong.

"I just tried to follow, and I think I did my maximum. I know that he is a has a stronger explosive style."

While the explosive finish on the steep slopes of the Mur de Huy might not be fully suited to Vlasov's abilities when faced with more explosive puncheurs, Sunday's Liège-Bastogne-Liège offers a different challenge.

As with Flèche, Vlasov will be making his debut at the race. The climbs there are still punchy and short, though a flat finish in the city presents another obstacle for a rider not known for his sprint finish. He said he's in good form, though, and noted that his Flèche result gives him confidence heading into the weekend.

"Who knows, after my podium finish here, maybe I will try it again next year," he said about Flèche. "Now we’re focusing on Liège-Bastogne-Liège. I'm in good shape now, so we'll see what's possible there

"It will be my first Liège-Bastogne-Liège. The shape is good, so I'll try to use my legs and try to do as best a result as possible. The team can do a good job and they did it also today – they saved me for the final. So, I think they can do great work on Sunday."

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