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Vlasov moves to third on GC at Giro d'Italia after challenge of gravel finish

Giro d'Italia 2021 - 104th Edition - 9th stage Castel di Sangro - Campo Felice (Rocca di Cambio) 158 km - 16/05/2021 - Aleksandr Vlasov (RUS - Astana - Premier Tech) - photo Dario Belingheri/BettiniPhoto©2021
Aleksandr Vlasov (Astana-Premier Tech) grimaces at finish on Campo Felice for stage 9 of Giro d'Italia (Image credit: Bettini Photo)

Aleksandr Vlasov’s steady progress upwards in the general classification of the Giro d’Italia showed no sign of letting up on Sunday as the Russian moved onto the provisional podium for the first time since the race left Turin nine days ago.

Placing 11th in Turin’s opening time trial, the 25-year-old Astana-Premier Tech rider progressed to seventh on the Giro’s first real climbing stage on Tuesday, then advanced to fourth on Thursday at San Giacamo’s second summit finish.

He took yet another step forward after his third place at Campo Felice’s off-road summit finish, where he was notably the only GC challenger to put in an attack before Egan Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers) blasted away.

Although Bernal was unreachable, Vlasov’s third place, seven seconds down on the winner, puts him in third overall, 21 seconds behind the Colombian and just six adrift of Remco Evenepoel (Deceuninck-QuickStep). 

“It was a great experience for me on this kind of final. I tried to attack and I think it was a good move, but it was a bit difficult for me to hold the bike stable on this surface,” Vlasov explained.

“My legs worked really well and I felt good, but the gravel was a hard challenge. It was a very tough summit finish.” 

On a fast, fraught day of racing, Astana-Premier Tech also were present in the early breakaway of the day which included Vlasov’s Spanish teammate Luis León Sanchez. However, Sánchez was then caught at the foot of the second-category Ovindoli climb as the pace in the bunch behind picked up and the move began to break apart.

Vlasov, though, remains the main focus for Astana-Premier Tech in the Giro, with  his provisional podium position after nine stages a massive personal advance on last year’s race, where he had to abandon on stage 2 because of stomach problems.

The Giro d’Italia 2021 start could not be more different, in a better way, for Astana-Premier Tech collectively, too.

In 2020 the team had to alter their Giro line-up as a precaution late on, after Kazakhstani riders Yuriy Natarov and Vadim Pronskiy had close contact with a teammate who tested positive for the COVID-19 coronavirus. They then lost noted climber and Giro podium finisher Miguel Angel Lopez – who has now moved to Movistar – to a crash during stage 1's TT and Vlasov to his illness on stage 2.

While Jakob Fuglsang managed to salvage Astana’s 2020 Giro with a sixth place in Milan, Vlasov is understandably delighted nine months on with his performance to date at the 2021 race.

“I did all I could on this type of finish,” Vlasov said after stage 9. “I am happy so far and let’s see how it will be tomorrow and after the first rest day.”

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Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. Apart from working for Cyclingnews.com, he is also the cycling correspondent for The Independent and The Independent on Sunday.