Vuelta al País Vasco (st. 4)
Roglic (TLJ) dominates at Lodosa time trial, opens significant gaps against Mikel (7th) and Nairo (9th); Blues look forward to profit from grueling, decisive two mountain stages remaining in País Vasco.
Primoz Roglic (TLJ) took a convincing win on Thursday’s individual time trial of the 2018 Vuelta al País Vasco, a flat course (19.4km) around Lodosa and Sartaguda in southwest Navarra. The Slovenian allrounder took a significant advantage over his main rivals for the GC, including Movistar Team duo Mikel Landa and Nairo Quintana, who both completed a fine performance, on par with everyone’s expectations.
It was a consistently-paced effort from both of the Blues’ leaders at this ITT. Mikel finished 1’16” behind Roglic, with a time quite similar to Gorka Izagirre’s (-7″); some terrain behind De la Cruz (-39″), Alaphilippe (-34″), Mollema (-33″) or Ion Izagirre (-23″); and event better than those from Mas (+7″), Urán (+18″) or Bardet (+24″). Really close to Landa’s effort was Nairo’s, whose 23’44” at the finish was just two seconds slower than his team-mate’s.
Landa and Quintana are now seventh and ninth (1’51” and 2’08” down), respectively, in a GC really tight from its third place -fourteen riders within fifty-four seconds’ distance-. The Itzulia‘s outcome will be decided with two tough mountain stages, starting with Friday’s long ascents towards Eibar (164km). Elosua (Cat-2) and the combination of Endoia (Cat-2) and Azurki (Cat-1), the latter crested with 20 kilometers to go, will offer terrain for big fireworks.
Mikel Landa: “I feel fine with my performance in this time trial. The first two TTs I had ridden so far this season didn’t get us to where we expected, but today’s result was good. Being really close or even better than those rivals we compare ourselves with at these courses is a sign that our preparations for the race went well, and also that the adjustments we did at the Tafalla velodrome last month made us improve. It makes me confident to know that my current form is good, and we will tackle the upcoming TTs with bigger goals now that we know we’re doing better. Roglic still holds a big margin and has shown to be the strongest man on course so far, so we’ll have to go on the attack in the two stages that remain. People talk a lot about Saturday’s stage, but Friday should also be really tough. Even if it doesn’t finish uphill, the climbs before the end are really demanding, and anything could happen.”
Nairo Quintana: “It was a good test and a good time trial for me, around the level we expected. We finished quite close to the rivals we had set outselves as a point of reference in this TT, and that leaves me satisfied. It was a time trial where you ‘only’ had to distribute your energy in a balanced way, push as hard as you could from start to finish without losing speed. It’s important to build some confidence from this and confirm we’re still doing at a decent level in flat time trials like this one. It’s obviously an aspect we’ll always have to improve and work on, but I think this result is within the range of performance we expected to reach. Now we just can hope Roglic loses a bit of energy into the last two mountain stages – we must be a bit more aggressive, too. We’re looking at what Mikel can do, the whole team will try to support him because he’s the closest man to the leader in the GC. We will have to try as hard as we can for the next two days.”
Picture (c): 1/ Juan Mari Tolín; 2/ Photo Gomez Sport; 3/ Miwa Iijima.