We have mentioned many times that this site only deals with riders who race at the U23 level, and once the go pro at either a Pro Conti or WorldTour team, they are no longer eligible for this site.
However, U23 Giro winner Aleksandr Vlasov, despite going pro with Gazprom-Rusvelo over the winter, has raced a mixed program of a lot of U23 races, as well as some WorldTour events. Given he is lining up at the Tour de l’Avenir as a big name contender, we decided to give him a pass, and Aleksandr was willing to give up some time in order to let English-speaking readers get to know the 22 year old climber better.
“At the moment the season is going quite well, the main task of the first part of the season was fulfilled – the victory at the youth Giro d’Italia and as a pleasant bonus was the Russian Champion’s jersey in the road race among U23 riders and the first podium in the pro race in Romania (at the Sibiu Tour, ed.).”
Turning the clock back, we were keen to find out exactly how the young man from Vyborg got into the sport, something “Ale had no problems telling us some more about.
“When I was in the elementary school I began to go to the cycling club and I really enjoyed it and decided to continue training and developing.”
Ale started his season with 24th in Trofeo Laigueglia, before racing a string of WorldTour races, including finishing his very first Monument at Milan-Sanremo. After that, he headed the national team at some U23 races, taking 10th in Trofeo Piva and 6th in Giro del Belvedere. He returned to his trade team for Tour of the Alps before winning the queen stage and taking 2nd overall at the Toscana stage race at U23 level. He then went on to win the U23 Giro and finish 3rd in Romania, with his national road race title sandwiched inbetween. So how does he feel racing a balanced program of pro and U23 races has helped his development this season?
“The pros are that I gain speed and mileage, as well as, of course, valuable experience, watching and learning from the strongest cycling leaders. The main differences are speed, as in the U23s it is a bit milder than in the pros.”
Now we turned our attention to the race that really announced Vlasov to the cycling world: his victory at the U23 Giro d’Italia, the second straight Russian win after Pavel Sivakov took the honours in 2017. Aleksandr talked us through his race.
“That’s hard to explain in words, I was absolutely happy to win this race. The final day was quite nervous, because it was the last chance to win some bonus seconds before the TT, so fortunately, together with my teammates we showed an impressive performance and gained an advantage. Later on, I was a little worried at the start of the TT, because I was starting first and my contenders could chase me.”
While the pursuit style ITT did cause problems for his rivals, Vlasov was untouchable and managed to get home first to win the race. With the lumpy course suiting him, we asked Ale to tell us some info about his time trial ability. He certainly knows how important the discipline is for his GC potential.
“Apparently, my time trial results are decent, but I see where I need to improve. I assume that I need to develop in this direction, as sometimes you can win a stage-race by showing a great result in the TT.”
Turning to the future, Aleksandr talked about the upcoming Tour de l’Avenir, as well as his final goals for his neo-pro season once that race is over.
“The next race is Tour de l’Avenir, then the Tour de Slovaquie, a couple of Italian classics and the World Championships. I would like to show a decent result in France and prepare the form for the World Championships, because that race is the main goal for me.”
Aleksandr clearly has his eyes on not just becoming a top climber, but also a top stage racer, as indicated by his willingness to try and improve his skills against the clock. Yet despite winning the U23 Giro, the Russian has another big race in his mind as his dream professional race win.
“Almost every professional rider dreams about the Yellow Jersey at the Tour de France, and I’m not an exception. A Grand Tour is the toughest and most prestigious race, that’s why, one day, I want to win it. ”
Gazprom-Rusvelo know they have a massive talent on their hands in Aleksandr Vlasov, and the Russian has all of the right skills to become the country’s next great Grand Tour GC rider. While it is important to not read too much into U23 results, Vlasov’s Giro (and hopefully l’Avenir) performance indicates just how strong he is in the mountains, and he is 100% the real deal.
U23 Cycling Zone wishes to thank Aleksandr Vlasov for taking some time out of his busy pre-l’Avenir schedule to answer our questions. We also wish to thank Gazprom-Rusvelo Press Officer Yuriy Belezeko for setting up the interview and providing most of the images you have seen throughout this interview. If you wish to follow Ale on Twitter, his handle is @ale_vlasov.