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Tour de France

Aleksandr Vlasov challenge ‘absolutely on track’ ahead of cobbles crunch at Tour de France

Bora-Hansgrohe leader limited losses in time trial and dodged costly crashes to remain the GC contender nobody's talking about.

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Aleksandr Vlasov rode an inch-perfect three days in Denmark at the Tour de France to keep his under-the-radar push for the Paris podium on the rails.

“We are absolutely on track. Our goal was to stay within 30 seconds of the other GC favorites and avoid any major setback. That worked out really well,” sport director Rolf Aldag said Sunday.

Vlasov put himself well within range in the opening time trial Friday and dodged the crashes that cost GC riders Jack Haig, Damiano Caruso, and Rigoberto Urán valuable seconds on Danish soil.

Also read: Vlasov hopes to carry Bora-Hansgrohe into the elite at Tour de France

At 38 seconds back – but only 24 on Tadej Pogačar – the Bora-Hansgrohe leader sat safe in the middle of the bunch of pre-Tour contenders before he rolled out for stage 4 on Tuesday.

The Russian now faces a perilous few days in northern France before he hits his uphill hunting ground at the Super Planche des Belles Filles.

Tricky lumpy stages and a hazardous trip over the pavé of Paris-Roubaix on Wednesday will make for a nerve-jangling triptych.  Vlasov has next to no racing experience on the cobblestones. Pogačar, Primoz Roglič, Jonas Vingegaard, and Geraint Thomas all made results or ventured on test races over cobbled ground before this year’s Tour.

Bora-Hansgrohe will be hoping a pre-race recon and cobble-bashing rouleur pair Nils Politt and Marco Haller deliver Vlasov safe to the finish in Arenberg on Wednesday.

“We’ve had three top-10 places in the past few years, we are dreaming of the podium,” team boss Ralph Denk said. “We know it’s a tough goal, but when we see the results of Vlasov so far in 2022, we will support him in all terrains. It would be nice if we could achieve a stage win as well, and I will be quite happy in Paris if we achieve these goals. I believe in our roster.”

Bora-Hansgrohe rides into the Tour with big dreams and the wind at its back after triumph at the Giro d’Italia and a rich harvest of stage race success from Vlasov and new signing Sergio Higuita.

Vlasov won the Volta a la Valenciana and backed it up with another trip to the top step at the Tour de Romandie. An early exit from Tour de Suisse with COVID was the one misstep in a perfect path toward the Tour.

The Tour’s Danish départ saw Vlasov stay well out of the headlines. Bora-Hansgrohe will be hoping it stays that way through the gravelly summit of the Super Planche on Friday.