Vuelta al País Vasco (st. 6)
Telefónica-backed squad wins team GC at Vuelta al País Vasco after big effort for Basque’s chances: Landa drops Roglic (TLJ) at Usartza; finishes 2nd to Mas (QST) in Arrate; comes just one minute short to overall win.
It was a great effort by the Movistar Team during the whole 2018 Vuelta al País Vasco and most importantly during a grueling stage six, held under Saturday’s rain in the Basque country over eight (!) rated climbs in barely 122km, starting at Eibar and finishing atop the Santuario de Arrate. The Blues’ designated leader for this race, Mikel Landa, tried all things he could to snatch the win, with help from his six team-mates, and was able to gain back one of the two minutes he was trailing by against Primoz Roglic (TLJ), race leader and eventual winner of the race.
Following a very lively start to the stage, with Roglic himself getting caught into a crash just 4km from the start and losing a minute with the other GC contenders, a 14-man early break was established with two from the Movistar Team: José Joaquín Rojas and Carlos Betancur. The four-minute advantage held by the escape at the bottom of Elgeta (Cat-2), fifth of the eight climbs, was severely reduced by a huge push from Trek-Segafredo, who took the lead back from the Movistar Team at the ascent and the following flat before Eibar, to reach the start of the Ixua (Cat-1) ascent with just 1’15” gap.
Landa then decided to go on the attack repeatedly, joined by some other moves by Nairo Quintana, yet always found a quick response from Roglic. As Rojas and Betancur were caught before the Alto de San Miguel (Cat-3), the Blues saved all their shots for the decisive climb to Usartza (Cat-1), where an acceleration from Quintana anticipated Mikel’s decisive move with less than 4km remaining. That attack did leave Roglic behind, the Slovenian dropping 45″ back in just 1,500 meters to later manage his remaining energy left to keep the yellow against Landa – who also finished 2nd at Arrate’s finish behind strong escapee Enric Mas (QST).
1’09” was the final gap between Roglic and Landa, leading a fine performance from the Movistar Team in the ‘Itzulia’: the Basque’s GC podium, also best local rider, came together with a win in the team GC for the Blues, authors of a great offensive to defend their overall title in 2017 -with Alejandro Valverde- until the very last kilometer.
REACTION / Mikel Landa:
“We really tried it, and I think that you’ve got to be happy with a second place when you see you’ve done your best to drop the leader back until the very last day. It was a day with lots of different battles. We weren’t really paying that much attention to Roglic’s crash in the beginning because it was already tough to follow the pace at the front of the bunch. There was no team keeping things really under control, and there were lots of attacks. We didn’t know if he would bridge back, but as soon as he made it to the group, things calmed down. Our first goal was trying to get a man into the break, and we achieved it – it was sad, though, to see a part of that strategy somewhat ruined when Trek started pushing so hard at Elgeta, and got us too close to the break. We then went too afraid of pushing hard at Ixua, because we wanted Rojas and Betancur to play their role after that climb in case we could leave Roglic behind.
“We still tried to go on the attack against Roglic at the Ixua climb, but he was able to follow our moves quickly. We weren’t really able to drop him and we saw there our chances to win the race were slim. I even attempted to jump from the bunch at the descent before San Miguel; it was a twisty section, quite dangerous, I saw Rojas a few meters ahead and didn’t want to miss that chance. After that, it was mainly about the stage win. It’s awful to get so close and still don’t win – Mas managed himself well with that short gap and the toughest part of Usartza was maybe a little bit too short for me – but for the rest, we must stay satisfied, even more so considering the great job everyone in the team did, especially during the last two days.
“Roglic kept his composure, made the right moves and won this thing in a great way. I might have lacked that half a minute we all lost at Zarautz’s finish on stage win; should I have stayed with Roglic and Alaphilippe, things could have been way, way tighter at the end. However, I can’t ask for more: if you think about it, at the time trial, against a specialist like him, it was certain I would lose time, and I don’t regret about any attack we went for during the last two stages. I’m so happy about the team’s attitude and the level all of my team-mates showed this week. It wasn’t a course that suited me 100%, yet I managed to finish in 2nd place and fight for the win until the final stage, so I must remain happy about this week. Now I’ll be heading to the Ardennes classics, probably Flèche and Liège – I want to enjoy those classics and support Valverde, who will be in fantastic form. After those races, it will be time for me to rest.”
Picture 1-3 (c): Photo Gomez Sport
- 01 Enric Mas Quick Step 3h17'34"
- 02 Mikel Landa Movistar Team +18"
- 03 Ion Izagirre Bahrain-Merida +35"
- 05 Nairo Quintana Movistar Team +42"
- 20 Víctor De la Parte Movistar Team +2'37"
- 27 Carlos Betancur Movistar Team +5'01"
- 34 José Joaquín Rojas Movistar Team +5'25"
- 69 Winner Anacona Movistar Team +9'27"
- — Rafa Valls Movistar Team DNF
- 01 Primoz Roglic LottoNLJumbo 20h53'47"
- 02 Mikel Landa Movistar Team +1'09"
- 03 Ion Izagirre Bahrain-Merida +1'42"
- 05 Nairo Quintana Movistar Team +3'17"
- 27 Carlos Betancur Movistar Team +15'30"
- 38 José Joaquín Rojas Movistar Team +22'24"
- 61 Víctor De la Parte Movistar Team +37'33"
- 65 Winner Anacona Movistar Team +39'32"