Aleksandr Vlasov and Ion Izagirre round out Paris-Nice podium
A dramatic final day of racing at Paris-Nice saw Aleksandr Vlasov and Ion Izagirre finish in second and third on the General Classification podium, while Vlasov also retained the white jersey for best young rider, and Astana – Premier Tech claimed the team classification.
Vlasov and Izagirre sat in third and fourth place respectively at the start of the final stage but an action-packed final 50 kilometres of the 92-kilometre stage saw the race turn upside down.
After a blistering pace set in the first hour of racing, seven riders were able to go clear while back in the peloton, there were a number of crashes, including one with Alexey Lutsenko. Lutsenko was able to rejoin the race but later abandoned ahead of the final lap, fortunately not sustaining any fractures.
Luis Leon Sanchez launched multiple attacks from the bunch, and with 45 kilometres remaining, was able to form a chase group which also featured teammate Omar Fraile. Strong cooperation in the group saw the eight riders bridge to the breakaway at the start of the final lap.
Meanwhile, after an earlier crash, race leader Primoz Roglic went down again on a descent. With less than 25 kilometres to go, Astana – Premier Tech was joined by BORA – hansgrohe and Cofidis, Solutions Credits at the front of the bunch which went on to catch Sanchez and Fraile’s group.
Four riders pushed on ahead while Roglic’s deficit continued to grow, putting defending champion Max Schachmann in the virtual race lead and Vlasov and Izagirre up to second and third on the General Classification.
Vlasov and Izagirre both launched multiple attacks on the climb inside the final 10 kilometres to try and distance Schachmann but the German held on and the group of favourites caught the leading quartet. With the stage win up for grabs, more riders tried their luck with late attacks but it came down to a reduced bunch sprint, with Izagirre crossing the line in seventh behind winner Magnus Cort.
Vlasov finished just outside of the top ten on the stage which was enough to secure second overall and win the best young rider classification.
“I am really happy with my second place and the white jersey. 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 Primoz Roglic who crashed too, I hope he is ok.
Well, 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. Now I will have a short rest before my next altitude training camp.” said Aleksandr Vlasov
“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. 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.
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!.” said Ion Izagirre
Paris – Nice
Stage 8: Le Plan-du-Var > Levens (92.7km)
Top 3: 1. Magnus Cort (EF Education – Nippo), 2. Christophe Laporte (Cofidis, Solutions Credits), 3. Pierre Latour (Team Total Direct Energie)
Astana – Premier Tech top 3: 7. Ion Izagirre, 12. Aleksandr Vlasov, 20. Luis Leon Sanchez
Top 3 on GC: 1. Max Schachmann (BORA – hansgrohe), 2. Aleksandr Vlasov (Astana – Premier Tech), 3. Ion Izagirre (Astana – Premier Tech)