The Itzulia Basque Country got underway today with Julian Alaphilippe (Quickstep-Floors) taking the opening stage spoils. Primoz Roglic (LottoNL-Jumbo) finished in 2nd place with Pello Bilbao (Astana) crossing the line 3rd.
The Itzulia Basque Country began today with a 162km stage that included 5 categorized climbs. Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka were involved in the early action as Amanuel Ghebreigzabhier made into the break of the day, with 3 other riders. Our young Eritrean and his breakaway companions were able to build a lead of up to 4-minutes over the peloton.
The gap dropped quickly once we reached the climbs though and on the 2nd climb of the day, Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal) and Dario Cataldo (Astana) jumped across the small 45″ gap to make it 6 riders up front with 75km to go. The peloton didn’t really ease up and the break was caught as we started the penultimate climb of the day.
Team Sky and Mitchelton-Scott controlled the peloton over the climb, down the descent and to the foot of the final climb. The steep 2.4km Elkano Gaina ascent blew the race to pieces and two riders emerged as a level above the rest. Alaphilippe and Roglic crested the climb with a 20″ lead over Nairo Quintana (Movistar), with a small chasing group close behind the Colombian.
It was a rapid descent to the finish in Zarautz and the leading duo would sprint it out for the win. Alaphilippe took the victory and with it, the overall race lead. Our African Team didn’t have the best day on the final climb in particular and Igor Anton was our top placed finisher in 24th place, and 1’10” down on the winner.
Bingen Fernandez – Sport Director
We had Amanuel in the break today and our hope was he could challenge for the KOM jersey but he was not able to get the needed points. The break got stronger when De Gendt and Cataldo joined but they were still caught on the 2nd last climb. Serge and Igor were present for the last climb but Roglic was too strong and broke the race into pieces. On a positive note, Amanuel won the most aggressive prize which was good for his efforts today.