Vuelta al País Vasco (st. 1)
Movistar Team’s two main GC references finish 23″ behind lead duo at ‘Itzulia’ opener, in a race with no respite during its six demanding days.
A strong attack by Julian Alaphilippe (QST) and Primoz Roglic (TLJ) on the grueling slopes of Elkano Gaina (Cat-2), the final climb in the 152km stage one of the 2018 Vuelta al País Vasco, opened the first time gaps between the race contenders in Zarautz and was close to put one of the Movistar Team’s leaders, Nairo Quintana, early into advantage.
The Colombian was the only rider able to follow the two attacks with 2km from the top of Elkano, as Mikel Landa progressed through the field from an initial position nearer to the back at the foot of the ascent. Nairo was then left behind by the impressive pace from his rivals and was reached down by a second group of twelve riders, which finished 23″ down. Quintana was 10th over the line, with Mikel in 14th.
The Movistar Team, which worked hard all day with De la Parte, Anacona and Rojas to keep all breaks under control, remains this way into overall contention in the ‘Itzulia’. The race will repeat today’s scheme on Tuesday’s stage two, climbing the steep San Pelaio (Cat-2) just five kilometers from Bermeo’s finish (168km).
REACTION / Mikel Landa:
“This is a positive result after all. I didn’t feel well during the stage and I still was able to finish with the main favourites, so I’ve got to stay happy. I was having bad legs already since the Aia climb, and didn’t feel like I could gain positions back in the finale to start Elkano in a good place, so I just decided to go on my own rhythm, thinking I could progress a little bit into the climb and remain in contention. We already saw at Tirreno-Adriatico that Roglic was a strong contender; he’s got a route suiting his characteristics in this year’s Itzulia, and today’s finale is another proof he’s one to watch for the entire week. I got through a day that could have been catastrophic for my chances, so we must look ahead and see what we can do this week. There are chances for the two of us, Nairo and myself; we can defend the other’s chances and also go on the attack if there’s a chance.”