This is me and who I am, by Aleksandr Vlasov

Red Bull-Bora-Hansgrohe’s backup option at the Tour de France is Aleksandr Vlasov, a top-seven finisher in all three Grand Tours. But little is known about the upbringing and the life led by the 28-year-old. Penning a piece for Rouleur’s In My Words series, Vlasov unmasks his exterior

I’ve always given interviews at races but, until now, have never revealed too much about myself. It’s not because I’m hiding anything, but because I’m a really quiet person who doesn’t speak too much. Now the time has come, however, to tell you a little bit more about who I am.

My name is Aleksandr Vlasov and I was born in Vyborg in north-west Russia in 1996, a small city of 80,000 people about 35km from the Finnish border, where the summers are nice, and the winters are cold. I come from a working-class family: both of my parents work in the typical tourist shops you find in border towns, the places where people come to buy souvenirs, eat lunch and have a coffee. I’m the oldest of two siblings, although my sister, three years younger than I am, was definitely the loudest in the house. I was never the centre of attention in school, but she was always participating in events.

We both had a very normal upbringing, living in a standard apartment in the city: three bedrooms, a living room and a kitchen. Nothing fancy. We also had a small, wooden house in the countryside, just a little further south from Vyborg, where we’d spend our summers. We had a place to play with a ball, badminton, a sauna, and also a small patch to grow tomatoes, potatoes, cucumbers, and all the summer veggies. Our grandma would come and maintain the garden.

My first and favourite sport was cross-country skiing, but my father asked me: “What will you do in the summer? You need an activity for when there’s no snow.” When I was eight, my school offered me and my friends the chance to play football as it’s the most popular sport. After a few weeks, they then gave us a bike, and I won my first race – it was something fantastic. After that, I never did anything else other than cycling and I never wanted to stop pedalling.Aleksandr Vlasov, In My Words

As you can imagine, it’s too cold in the winter to race bikes in Russia, but in the summer there were a lot of races. Sometimes I was on the podium, sometimes I even won, but I definitely wasn’t one of the best ones. As a junior you don’t race in the high mountains, and in the flat race sprints I was slow – everyone was beating me and I thought that maybe cycling wasn’t the sport for me. But when there was a one-kilometre climb and a sprint at the top, I had much better results. I realised maybe I wasn’t so bad, and around 15 I started to think I might be a climber.

I left my country at 18 and moved to Italy. When I arrived I thought it was one of the most beautiful countries in the world, but then I spent three years living in a boring, small city outside of Milan full of industry and terrible, flat training roads. It wasn’t as exciting as I had imagined, but it’s still a beautiful country.

I lived in Italy for six years before moving to Monaco in 2021 and I’d say I have more friends in Europe than I do in Russia – my contact book is full of Italians. There are not too many people I can speak my native Russian language with, so my best friends in cycling are mostly Kazakh riders from when I raced with Astana, such as Alexey Lutsenko. I don’t need a lot to be happy, just the basics: eat, sleep and train. My wife and I have two dogs at home, one a corgi and one a golden retriever. I walk them every morning and evening, play with them in the garden, and keeping them busy is like a second job!

Aleksandr Vlasov In My Words

As for my actual job, I don’t win a lot, but when I do win, I win with style. I like long mountains, trying to attack before a finish-line sprint, and to arrive alone. I would say I have more of a tempo rather than explosive style, but when racing I’m not as quiet as I am in normal day-to-day life.

It’s normal for me to be a leader in a team as I’ve done it so many times now. I know that everyone puts a lot into it and the final result depends on me – I have the responsibility and I don’t feel the pressure. I have to talk to the guys about what I need and how I’m feeling, but it’s not in my character to motivate them to do 120% instead of 100%. I trust that my teammates can do what they need to do for me.

People saw in the Dauphiné how I helped Primož Roglič in the mountains, and I’ll do the same thing again during the Tour de France. Everyone knows Primož is number one in the team and he has the best possibility of a good GC result. It’s pretty cool when we’re all united in the same objective. The good thing for me is that the stage 21 time trial in the Tour passes close to my apartment in Monaco. Once the race is done, I can quickly be back at home with my wife and two dogs.

And we’re confident that we’ll be celebrating a good result.

- Aleksandr

You can read more from the In My Words series here.

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