Russian climber Aleksandr Vlasov (Astana) was thrilled to take 11th place overall at what was his first full Grand Tour at the Vuelta a España on Sunday, which went some way to making up for the disappointment he experienced after having to quit the Giro d'Italia early just a couple of weeks before with stomach problems.
"I'm grateful to the team for taking me to the Vuelta after my abandon at the Giro due to health problems," said Vlasov on his team's website. "I can say that I've now got some valuable experience from my first full Grand Tour, and I'm sure this will help me to keep on developing as a professional rider."
Astana picked up Vlasov for 2020 from Russian ProTeam Gazprom-RusVelo, and in his first year at WorldTour level, the 24-year-old has been one of the revelations of the season. He won a stage and finished second overall at the Tour de la Provence in February, and then followed that up – once racing resumed in the summer – with third overall at the Route d'Occitanie.
Two days later, he took a solo victory at the Mont Ventoux Dénivelé Challenge, beating Richie Porte (Trek-Segafredo) and Guillaume Martin (Cofidis) to the top of 'The Giant of Provence', and then finished on the podium at Il Lombardia and won the one-day Giro dell'Emilia in mid-August.
In September, Vlasov won the youth classification and finished fifth overall at Tirreno-Adriatico, but then experienced the only blight on his phenomenal season when he was forced to quit the Giro in early October as early as stage 2 due to sickness.
Vlasov was, he admitted at the time, unable to "put into words how disappointed I am to abandon the Giro", but Astana were instead able to include him in their squad for the Vuelta. Besides his 11th place overall there, he also finished third in the young rider classification and took second place behind EF Pro Cycling's Hugh Carthy on the Vuelta's 'queen stage' – stage 12 – from Pola de Laviana to the top of the fearsome climb of the Alto de l'Angliru.
"I really liked the Vuelta a España. It's a great race, and I'm so happy to have done it and finished it," said Vlasov.
"It was great to compete against the best climbers, and to stay next to them at the hardest climbs of the race," he said, "and I hope to come back here again with some bigger ambitions."
Italian sports newspaper La Gazzetta dello Sport reported in September that Vlasov could be headed to Ineos Grenadiers – home to last year's Giro winner and this year's Vuelta runner-up Richard Carapaz and this year's surprise Giro winner Tao Geoghegan Hart – although apparently not until 2022.
It was a rumour repeated by New Zealand's George Bennett when talking after the Vuelta about how his Jumbo-Visma team, with Vuelta winner Primož Roglič, will fare against a strengthened Ineos and UAE Team Emirates – home to Tour de France winner Tadej Pogačar – next season and beyond.
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