After Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) suffered two crashes on the final stage of the 2021 edition of Paris-Nice, Aleksandr Vlasov and Ion Izagirre (Astana-Premier Tech) claimed the two other podium spots behind race winner Max Schachmann (Bora-Hansgrohe) after a chaotic final stage.
It wasn't smooth sailing, however, and Vlasov had to fight back from a crash on the fast, technical revised final stage to Levens.
The stage was reduced to 92.7 kilometres after a late change because of COVID-19 restrictions in Nice and the pace was on from the gun. Vlasov crashed on the first lap along with teammate Alexey Lutsenko, who later abandoned the race. After Roglic crashed a second time and it became clear the race leader would not rejoin, Astana attacked to try to distance Schachmann but couldn't shake the German and came to the finish in the same group behind stage winner Magnus Cort (EF Education-Nippo).
Vlasov ended the race as the runner-up and best young rider at 19 seconds with Izagirre rounding out the podium in third at 23 seconds.
"I am really happy with my second place and the white jersey," Vlasov said.
"I am here at Paris-Nice for the first time and it is so nice to debut in this great race with a podium result. The last day was a nervous one, the pace was incredible while the parcours was a tricky one. At one moment, I crashed together with Alexey Lutsenko, but, fortunately I was able to get back on the bike quickly and to continue the race.
"I am sorry for race leader Primož Roglič who crashed too, I hope he is okay," said Vlasov.
"The team did a fantastic job for me and Ion in the finale. We tried to attack, I think I did it three times, and also Ion tried several times. But the last ascent was not steep, but fast, so it was almost impossible to make the difference. However, we tried and I am happy that we didn't give up."
Roglic came close to catching the end of the peloton after his first crash but a second spill and the pain of a dislocated shoulder meant he lost time, tumbling down the overall standings from the lead to 15th place.
There were several other riders who crashed: David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ) and Sebastian Mora (Movistar) went down and Roglic, following Tim Declercq (Deceuninck-QuickStep) almost crashed again when Declercq misjudged a bend and went off-road.
Izagirre called the route 'dangerous'.
"The stage was really crazy with high speeds all day long, attacks and crashes on a dangerous route. We had a few crashes in our team and also Roglic crashed too," Izagirre said. "I am sorry for him to lose the race in this way, but that is a part of cycling. I hope he will recover soon.
"We tried to follow our strategy and our team did a great race. On the final climb we all were in front, working hard and trying to make a selection in the group and to try to isolate Schachmann. I attacked and also Aleksandr made some attacks but with that fast pace and on a profile like the one we had, it was impossible to distance him as he is really strong in this kind of finale."
The result is Izagirre's first WorldTour stage race podium finish since he won the Itzulia Basque Country tour in 2019. " I am quite happy with my podium place. I mean this is Paris-Nice and it is a great race and a podium here is a big achievement. I am on the right way towards my biggest goals, my shape is good but I still hope to improve some things to be strong in my next races. In this race we rode really well together as a team and it was great to win the team classification."
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