Tour of the Basque Country – Stage 4 Preview – Ciclismo Internacional

Tour of the Basque Country – Stage 4 Preview

By @EchelonsHub

As expected it was a chaotic day as the GC fight blew up on the steep hills of the third stage. Adam Yates, Remco Evenepoel and Pello Bilbao tried to attack several times throughout the final hour of racing, but with Jumbo-Visma and some other riders blocking out all moves no attack managed to succeed. A short group sprint decided the stage, Evenepoel/Alaphilippe combo seemed to be on it’s way for a second win but Pello Bilbao outsprinted the world champion in outstanding fashion to take the stage win, with Vlasov finishing third.

Positive: Bilbao, racing aggressively but still managing to have the legs for the final sprint to take the win. 

Negative: Buchmann, Woods, Rodríguez, Hart and Higuita inbetween the GC contenders that lost time today and have likely been drawn off the fight.

The Route

Stage three will be another classic hilly stage at Itzulia. A day for a breakaway? Puncheurs? All-out GC battle? Everything can happen. It has 186 kilometers and heads into the outskirts of Bilbao where the Alto del Vivero will be the main feature of the stage. The stage start is flat, and 65 kilometers in the riders go into the climbs, the normal rompe-piernas terrain of Spain. 

There will be two ascents that will mark the stage. The first comes with 38 kilometers to go, Urruztimendi. It is 1.9 kilometers long and averages 10.5%, another steep and sharp ascent where the peloton will suffer to go up. However, it is likely that the moves will come in the final ascent only.

Through a non-traditional side, but the Vivero will be climbed once again and it summits with only 19 kilometers to go. Similar to Paris-Nice’s new Col d’Èze vertent, it’s a 6 kilometer climb which doesn’t feature a high average gradient, however it hides a very steep star which has 2.2 kilometers at 10.6% average grade and much superior gradients at points. Attacks will come, but even if the riders don’t go all-out, the race will be open towards the final kilometers where attacks can come from all sides. It has everything to go chaotic this ascent.

The stage then features the descent off the mountain and a 10-kilometer flat section before the finale in Zamudio.

The Weather

It will fade throughout the afternoon, but there will be a modest breeze from the southwest early in the day which may make it a very fast and tense start. Later in the day things will calm down and inside the hills the roads will be more covered.

Breakaway chances: 30% 

The hilly route favours it slightly. There is no clear favourite for the stage, and Jumbo clearly are not interested in making the race hard. Today’s gaps will allow many to have freedom for tomorrow, and if there is no team trying to blow it up as INEOS did today, a breakaway stands a chance.

The Favourites

Primoz Roglic – Stage win won’t be their goal and that was evident today. Vingegaard blocked all attacks, whilst Roglic was to go for a sprint but lost position. Strategy tomorrow should be the same, as they will look to keep the GC as it is.

Julian Alaphilippe & Remco Evenepoel – Both looked strong today. I think it’ll be hard for anyone to escape, judging by today’s stage, so Alaphillippe may have another chance to net a sprint win. As for Evenepoel is chances come from an attack on the false-flat and flat sections just as he’s done today, but with so many fresh legs as today to close the gaps it won’t be easy to escape.

Pello Bilbao – He’s gotten his stage win, but I reckon a sprint is possible again tomorrow, so Bilbao will be a favourite again as he looked very lively today, and clearly is carrying some great form.

Aleksandr Vlasov – Vlasov finished third in the sprint which was rather impressive, close to the win, but he’s climbed very well and closed gaps well too, he’s a rider that would be very difficult to bring back if he finds himself solo.

INEOS – They’ve shot their shot today, but didn’t work. Yates and Martínez will have to make the differences on the uphill, but likely only later in the week will they have the opportunity, in the longer climbs. They have strength in depth though, with Rodríguez, Hart and Tulett they can get in a break, or perhaps launch an uncovered attack in the final section of the stage.

Today some more riders looked sharp and capable of climbing with the best. Enric Mas, Pierre Latour, David Gaudu and Ion Izagirre will be men to watch. Rigoberto Uran and Steff Cras struggled, I don’t expect to see them on the attack, but with some luck they could play a role in the stage fight.

At this point it’s hard to know who would be in a breakaway. The start is flat so it can be a roulette, but I think it will take one more stage to consolidate the GC, and for some riders to decide to rest and loose time to target stages later in the race. The likes of Diego Ulissi and Quinten Hermans have done well so far and can be outsiders if the race is taken conservatively and ends up in a larger group sprint, on a good day Alessandro Covi and Andrea Vendrame would also be able to succeed. 

Inside The Bus

This morning I talk to…

#221 Rigoberto Uran  – You did well today Rigo, here let’s try to race conservatively as a GC tilt is possible. Defend what you have for now, later in the race we’ll look to make something but with the competition we have here, it’s best to not risk it all as with Roglic and all you won’t get away.

#204 Diego Lopez – Let’s see Diego, let’s try to get some riders in front. Ideally we can get more than one rider in front and try to fight for a stage win in the possibility of a breakaway succeeding.

#41 Julian Alaphilippe – Same strategy as this past stage Julian. Remco will be looking to attack over the steep ramps and after the descent. Ideally, he’d be able to take a stage win, but you, you have the form and can sprint, so you stay in the wheels and wait for a possible move in that direction.

Prediction Time

⭐⭐⭐Roglic, Alaphilippe

⭐⭐Evenepoel, Vlasov, Bilbao, Martínez

⭐A.Yates, Mas, Gaudu, Latour, I.Izagirre, Uran, Ulissi, Q.Hermans, Covi, Vendrame

(Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images,)

It’s a hard one to predict. The stage, like today, is prone to attacking but there are riders specifically looking to block aggressive racing. With Roglic and Vingegaard forming a plug tomorrow I don’t know if anyone can get away, and a sprint finale is seen. Diego Ulissi seems to be having good form, and he’s my call for tomorrow.

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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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