Aleksandr Vlasov wins 6-day Tour de Romandie

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VILLARS-SUR-OLLON, Switzerland — Aleksandr Vlasov won the six-day Tour de Romandie after being fastest in the closing time-trial stage in the Swiss mountains.

It was a first career win on the World Tour for the 26-year-old who can continue to compete in international races during Russia’s war on Ukraine because he rides for a team registered in Germany.

“I gave it all today. I am super happy with this result,” said Vlasov, who was third in the Belgian one-day classic Fleche Wallonne in April.

The International Cycling Union suspended Russian teams two months ago but Vlasov rides for the Bora-Hansgrohe team. However, the Russian flag is not displayed next to his name on official race graphics.

Vlasov spoke out against the war on social media two days after the UCI sanctions.

“I, like a lot of Russians, just want peace,” Vlasov wrote in the March 3 post on his Instagram account. “I’m not a political person, and normal people like me weren’t asked if we want a war.”

Vlasov was 31 seconds faster than Simon Geschke on the 15.8-kilometer (9.8-mile) route up to the Villars-sur-Ollon ski station. Gino Mader was five seconds further back in third place.

Vlasov topped the overall standings by 50 seconds from runner-up Mader. Geschke trailed by 55 seconds in third place.

Overnight leader Rohan Dennis – who started the time trial with an 18-second gap over third-place Vlasov – was 22nd in the stage and finished eighth overall.

The time trial was decisive after the queen stage in the mountains did not separate the leaders and ended in a sprint among a bunched group clocking the same time.

The Romandie race is a recognized warm-up for Tour de France contenders and was won in recent years by Chris Froome, Geraint Thomas and Primoz Roglic.

Thomas sees Giro d’Italia lead cut slightly by Roglič; Buitrago wins Stage 19

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TRE CIME DI LAVAREDO, Italy — Geraint Thomas maintained his bid to become the oldest Giro d’Italia champion although his lead was cut slightly by Primož Roglič during the toughest stage of the race.

Roglič crossed the summit finish of the so-called “Queen Stage” three seconds ahead of Thomas at the end of the race’s final mountain road leg.

There were no flat sections and five tough, classified climbs on the 114-mile route from Longarone to the Tre Cime di Lavaredo, which had gradients of up to 18%.

Stage 19 was won by Santiago Buitrago, who finished 51 seconds ahead of Derek Gee and 1 minute, 46 seconds ahead of Magnus Cort and Roglič, who just missed out on bonus seconds.

“I’m really happy with this victory. It was the most difficult moment of a difficult Giro for me personally,” said Buitrago, who rides for Bahrain Victorious. “I wanted to try and raise my arms before the end and coming here at Tre Cime di Lavaredo is amazing.

“This is the recompense for all the work that I’ve done. … There’s a lot of motivation for me and the whole team having seen the fruits of our labors.”

The 37-year-old Thomas, who rides for Ineos Grenadiers, is 26 seconds ahead of Roglič going into what will be a decisive penultimate stage

Third-placed João Almeida lost more time and was 59 seconds behind Thomas.

Roglič changed his bicycle shortly before the start of the penultimate climb and he made his move inside the final kilometer. However, Thomas was able to stick to his wheel and the British cyclist made his own attack in the final 500 meters and looked to have slightly distanced his rival.

But Roglič came back and gained what could be a vital few seconds.

The winner will likely be decided in the mountain time trial that ends in a demanding climb up Monte Lussari, with an elevation of over 3,000 feet and gradients of up to 22%.

“Tomorrow we go full again,” Roglič said. “It’s good. We got a bit of legs back, so tomorrow we go full, eh?

“If I wouldn’t be confident then I don’t start. The best one at the end wins.”

The race ends in a mostly ceremonial finish in Rome, where Thomas could beat the age record held by Fiorenzo Magni, who was 34 when he won in 1955.

Thomas celebrates 37th birthday by retaining Giro d’Italia lead; Roglic into 2nd

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VAL DI ZOLDO, Italy — Geraint Thomas celebrated his 37th birthday with another strong ride in the mountains to retain the pink jersey during Stage 18 of the Giro d’Italia.

Thomas crossed immediately behind Primoz Roglic, who moved up from third place to second.

“The legs have been good,” Thomas said. “Need to enjoy these moments.”

Joao Almeida dropped from second to third overall after losing 21 seconds over the 100-mile route from Oderzo to Val di Zoldo, which included two first-category climbs followed by two second-category climbs in the finale – including an uphill finish.

Thomas – the 2018 Tour de France champion – leads Roglic by 29 seconds and Almeida by 39 seconds.

“It’s a pleasant day. I take time on Almeida and didn’t get dropped by Primoz,” Thomas said. “I felt pretty good, always under control but Primoz obviously went hard. It wasn’t easy. … I just want to be consistent until the end.”

Italian champion Filippo Zanna won the stage ahead of fellow breakaway rider Thibaut Pinot in a two-man sprint.

With only two more climbing stages remaining before the mostly ceremonial finish in Rome, Thomas is poised to become the oldest Giro winner in history – beating the record of Fiorenzo Magni, who was 34 when he won in 1955.

Chris Horner holds the record for oldest Grand Tour champion, set when he won the Spanish Vuelta in 2013 at 41.

However, Thomas will still be tested over the next two days.

Stage 19 is considered perhaps the race’s toughest, a 114-mile leg from Longarone to Tre Cime Di Lavaredo featuring five major climbs. Then there’s a mountain time trial.