Tour of the Basque Country – Stage 3 Preview – Ciclismo Internacional

Tour of the Basque Country – Stage 3 Preview

By @EchelonsHub

Foto Luis Angel Gomez/SprintCyclingAgency©2022

The first road stage of the Itzulia proved to be a thriller towards the finale as the peloton let the modest breakaway group that went early on in the day get a big gap towards the final 10 kilometers and almost failed to capture the last survivor in time for the sprint. In the end, all controlled towards the final meters, as Evenepoel launched Julian Alaphilippe to the uphill sprint in which the World champion took advantage of to take his first win of the year, beating Fabien Doubey and Quinten Hermans. 

Positive: Alaphilippe taking an important win. Doubey will be slightly disappointed to come so close to a World Tour win, nevertheless a brilliant result. 

Negative: Vendrame and Aular missing out on what was a great opportunity, as best sprinters. Caja Rural’s tactical game was rather weird. Going for Aular, but their chasing in the peloton was very weird as Amezqueta didn’t make a move in the breakaway.

The Route

Stage two, the third day of the race will be a very tricky one. Racing in the Basque country means you will face complicated conditions and you’ll face steep climbs and the stage into Amurrio is very much a very tricky one to manage. It does not feature a single long climb, however it does feature a set of short and steep climbs which will be ridden twice and have the potential to blow up the race. 

The two main features of the stage are the Opellora and Ozeka climbs. Both will be ridden twice as there will be a loop. The final time they’re ridden, they’ll summit with 29 and 22 kilometers to go, well within the range of a decisive GC attack. Opellora features 1.1Km at 13.1% making it an incredibly steep ascent which will decimate most of the peloton, and later at Ozeka (3.6Km at 7.3%) many riders will struggle with the repetition of efforts and may pay the price, whilst others can attack and explode the race. 

The run-up to the line isn’t easy still. Although the main climbing ends with 22 kilometers to go, it is still quite a rolling finale with some small hilltops, the main one summiting with only 5 kilometers to go, which sees 500 meters at 10% and it is more than enough to be a launchpad for a stage win. The rest of the stage will have a mostly false-flat downhill into the finish line in Amurrio. 

The Weather

A controlled day weather-wise, with only a small breeze from the north set to possible affect the race, however it should be covered throughout the day. 

Breakaway chances: 15% 

Today was a rather weird stage. Very easy to control, however many teams let the break almost go to the line as no-one wanted to commit. Tomorrow I expect again a modest group to go up the road, and although I don’t necessarily expect the race to blow up early, the climbs will see some damage. A GC battle may very well emerge, and the final hour of racing will be tremendously hard for any breakaway that would want to try and stay in front. 

The Favourites 

Jumbo – With Roglic in the leading spot, I wouldn’t expect Jumbo to try and race aggressively, but instead to try and mantain the race situation as it is. Roglic to respond directly to the attacks in the climbs, and Vingegaard to respond to the attacks afterwards, the stage won’t be the priority but they can still make something very good out of this stage. 

INEOS – INEOS have done very well in the prologue so they’re not in an urgent position to attack, however they’ll have the numbers and will surely try. Except for Fraile, everyone will be an option, and surely the team will try to keep as many riders near the front over the climbs so that they can storm the race afterwards. Adam Yates, Daniel Martínez, Tao Hart, Carlos Rodríguez and Ben Tulett are all cards to play, they can come off with a great profit from this stage if they ride tactically well. 

Remco Evenepoel and Julian Alaphilippe – With Alaphilippe seemingly back into good form, it is great news for Quick-Step as they now go with a double-pronged approach into the stage. If fit, Alaphilippe should be able to survive the climbs and find himself in a good position, but I’m sure he’ll also try to play a role for Remco Evenepoel who’s helped him today, although the Belgian will need sense of opportunity to be able to drop Roglic and co. 

BORA – With Aleksandr Vlasov, Emanuel Buchmann, Sergio Higuita and Lennard Kamna, BORA are in a rather similar position to INEOS, although they come to the stage with a little more need to attack as Higuita has done a very poor time in the prologue and is currently 45 seconds back on Roglic. 

UAE – With the quality of the teams above it’s not easy to find space. Marc Soler, Davide Formolo and Rafal Majka should do well on the uphill, the team has some fast options for a sprint or a more fast finale with Alessandro Covi and Diego Ulissi who should also be able to do well tomorrow. 

It’s a day that can be seized by some opportunists though if the race doesn’t go that hard in the climbs. Many riders can come back to the group and take advantage of an eventual lull in the pace. This doesn’t just include riders that require that sense of opportunity to win, but also very strong talented climbers such as Enric Mas, Pello Bilbao, Michael Woods and David Gaudu, all top riders but they come in either without having proven their recent form, or just with a collective that won’t have an easy time battling with the more composed top teams who are all-in in this race.  

Cofidis has got Ion Izagirre and Victor Lafay, TotalEnergies has got Pierre Latour and Alexis Vuillermoz, Intermarché has Quinten Hermans, AG2R have Aurélien Paret-Peintre and Andrea Vendrame, EF have Rigoberto Uran and Ruben Guerreiro and Lotto Soudal has Maxim Van Gils who can all be in the fight for the stage win aswell, depending on how the stage plays out in the ascents. 

Inside The Bus 

This morning I talk to… 

#197 Xabier Isasa – Green card Xabier, we have Xabier Azparren and the two Mikel’s who should try to be in front, there are KOM points available and we want a taste of that jersey, your job is to help them at the start of the stage to get in front and increase our chances of reaching that goal. 

#57 Sergio Samitier – Let’s see, we have a strong team but the competition is fierce. You have a strong sprint, we’ll look to protect you a bit during the day, but mostly try to stay in Mas’ wheel as he’ll be guided throughout the day. Stay conservative, it’s not a day for us to attack, but to keep it together as Enric will be eyeing the tougher stages ahead with longer climbs. 

#145 Valentin Paret-Peintre – Stay in the bunch and help protect Aurélien. Today will be a testing day, I’ll tell all the guys to test their legs, see how they’re doing in the climbs so that we can make a plan for the coming days. Aurélien will be in for the GC fight, as for you don’t be afraid to go hard and measure yourself, but priority is to keep him safe throughout the day. 

Prediction Time

⭐⭐⭐Roglic, Alaphilippe, Higuita 

⭐⭐Evenepoel, Yates, Martínez, Vlasov 

⭐ Vingegaard, Hart, Ca.Rodríguez, Tulett, Buchmann, Soler, Covi, Ulissi, Mas, Bilbao, Gaudu, Latour, Guerreiro, Woods

It’s a hard one to predict, but that’s what makes the race so exciting. I think the race will be very tactical tomorrow, and teams with numbers will be able to get a better grip on the race. A surprise late attack at some point in the final kilometers by INEOS, Daniel Martínez is my assumption for how the stage will be decided. 

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Tomorrow’s race has prizes of at least €200 and an entry fee of only €5. Make good use of your knowledge! 

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