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Giro d'Italia

Another early exit from Astana leaves Jakob Fuglsang short-handed at Giro d’Italia

Russian rider Aleksandr Vlasov leaves Giro d'Italia with stomach problems, leaving Fuglsang just five teammates with 19 stages to go.

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The Giro d’Italia is only two stages into the 2020 edition, and Astana captain Jakob Fuglsang is already missing two key teammates.

Russian all-rounder Aleksandr Vlasov pulled out of the Giro’s second stage Sunday citing stomach problems. That came a day after Miguel Ángel López crashed out in Saturday’s opening time trial.

That means pre-race favorite Fuglsang is going into Monday’s mountain summit at Mount Etna and the rest of the Giro without two of his most important riders for the climb-heavy Giro route.

“First, sadly that we lost Aleksandr today. It would have been his first participation and also he was in such a great shape,” Fuglsang said Sunday. “It is such a pity after López that we also lost him now, but nothing we can do about it. However, I wish him a speedy recovery.”

The early departures in Astana come after Fuglsang lost more than one minute to arch-rival Geraint Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers) in the stage one time trial in Palermo.

With only eight riders on grand tour squads, Fuglsang will only see five friendly jerseys in the peloton for the remainder of the Giro. And two of them are grand tour rookies, with Jonas Gregaard and Rodrigo Contreras racing for three weeks for the first time. The Dane will have to lean on Spanish climber Óscar Rodríguez, and Italian veterans Fabio Fellini and Manuele Boaro to protect his GC interests.

Losing the services of López will mean the team not have a second GC card to play and will miss out on a possible stage win. Anticipation was high for Vlasov’s grand tour debut after he lit up a few races in the COVID comeback earlier this summer.

“I cannot put into words how disappointed and sad I am,” Vlasov said. “It would have been my first participation and to be one of the helpers for Jakob was an honor for me, and now I leave the Giro. But it is how it is, I have been dealing since yesterday night with stomach problems, and unfortunately, it wasn’t getting better and I wasn’t able to continue at one point. I feel sorry for Jakob and also for the team not being able to help them any longer.”

Fuglsang finished safely with the top GC group in Sunday’s finale and faces an early hurdle Monday on Mount Etna.

“Today was the first road stage, and as always it was quite nervous and at the end fast,” Fuglsang said. “Manuele did an amazing job and kept the pace high while putting me into position. The stage ended as expected in a sprint of a reduced bunch. I am quite satisfied with my result, but tomorrow we will finish on the Etna. It will be the first mountain top finish and it will be for sure a tough battle up to the volcano.”