Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka helped animate the opening stage of Vuelta al Pais Vasco with Igor Antón at the front of the race for the majority of the day.
On paper, today’s stage seemed like the best opportunity for the sprinters to shine. However, it didn’t scare off Antón from attacking early on. Our Basque climber got away with Lluis Mas (Caja Rural – Seguros RGA) and Yoann Bagot (Cofidis). The trio quickly established a gap of 4 minutes on the peloton but never got much more than that. Led by Sunweb, the teams of the fast riders kept the breakaway on a tight leash and with 20 km left to go, it all came back together.
A few riders tried to take the peloton by surprise on the final 5 km, which thinned out the group significantly. Julian Alaphilippe (Quick-Step Floors) managed to get a good gap but a mechanical problem cost him any chances of succeeding. Instead, the stage ended with the expected bunch sprint, in which Michael Matthews (Sunweb) proved to be the strongest. Merhawi Kudus finished as best Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka rider in 37th place. Antón sits in second place in the KOM classification.
Tomorrow, the peloton takes on a 173.4 km long undulation stage from Iruñea to Eltziego. The last categorized climb comes with over 60 km to go but a hilly final part of the stage will make it hard for the teams of the sprinters to control the outcome.