Tour of the Basque Country: Final Stage

Big stage win for David Gaudu and an overall win for Primoz Roglic after a spectacular final stage of the Tour of the Basque Country – Pogacar “It was one of the most demanding stages both mentally and physically that I have ever done in my career”

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Tour of the Basque Country: Final Stage

With seven steep classified climbs coming within the short 111km stage it was a day made for the pure climbers. Brandon McNulty was in the yellow jersey as race leader.From the first climb, Arribinieta (Cat-3), Movistar picked up the pace trying to split a group where upon Verona and Enric Mas launched themselves on the attack over the next two ascents.

Photo Gomez Sport

On the descent of the fourth climb, the peloton broke into pieces under pressure from Astana and Movistar. On the penultimate first category climb with 68km complete, Primoz Roglic & David Gaudu attacked across to the breakaway and went on to lead the race over the top of the incredibly tough climb. With them was Britain’s Hugh Carthy who was the only rider from the breakaway to stay with them. The race leader McNulty though was a victim of the tough racing and was on his own chasing to save his jersey.

The final few climbs saw the trio out front less than a minute ahead of the powerful selection where Pogacar was the strongest whilst Valverde threw in a few attacks to try and go clear. Up front on the final climb, an attack by Gaudu saw Carthy slide back to the chase group where Adam Yates was with the likes of Pogacar. Into the final kilometre, after Gaudu had led Roglic up the climb, the overall winner came alongside him, fist punched Gaudu and then ‘g’d up the spectators to applaud Gaudu as he crossed the line to win the stage whilst Roglic celebrated the overall win.

Behind, Valverde sprinted clear to take third just ahead of Adam Yates. For Roglic it meant his fifth victory of the season. Roglic looked back on his final victory with a good feeling. “I am very honoured to have won the overall classification. Luckily we were spared bad luck this time. This stage was short, but powerful. It was a tough day, but the end result was worth it. I am very proud that we have done the maximum here with a young team. I knew the course. There was nothing left to do but ride hard today. I enjoyed riding in the Basque Country in the last week. The result only makes it better. I am proud of the talented team we have raced with this week. Jonas’ second place in the general classification is a nice reward for his strong performance.”

Jonus Vingegaard himself was very pleased with his performance. “I have made a very big step this season. I am very happy to have finished second in the overall classification. I was disappointed not to win Thursday’s stage, but this performance makes up for everything. I would have signed for second place and the win in the youth classification in advance.”

Alejandro Valverde: “Such a really hard stage, fighting from the very first kilometre and with an excellent team by my side, moving from the very beginning to split the race and helping me standing more chances for the podium. I’m so sad, though, about that final part of the first Arrate climb. I was gaining an advantage with Roglic, I wasn’t able to keep up with his moves and that would have really changed things a lot.”

“After that, I felt really well, above what I honestly expected after such a bad moment. I was able to finish this race with a good result over the line in third, and fighting until the end, so I’m very happy. That’s racing – we’ll keep on pushing. It’s been a beautiful week here in the Basque Country, one that hopefully the fans enjoyed, and even if circumstances still don’t allow us to really enjoy their presence, I really felt the warmth of the fans, all that you can feel it in these pandemic times, so I thank them for their huge support.”

Tadej Pogacar: “We hoped that the stage would go a little differently for us. We tried to control the race initially, but when Astana attacked they managed to build up a gap quickly, forcing Marc Hirschi and me to lead the chase, even though it was a little too late. We then arrived at the most challenging point of the stage, and Brandon got detached. It was then up to me to fight for the podium and I had to push really deep for 40km. It was one of the most demanding stages both mentally and physically that I have ever done in my career”.

David Gaudu’s Race
“It was insane!” David Gaudu. “As expected there were riders all over the place straight away and it never stopped” said FDJ’s Franck Pineau. “The race opened up early and it all came down to the legs.” It was then a small bunch of around thirty riders that tackled the first big climb of the day, after fifteen kilometres. A few riders went away, but since the intensity never decreased, the gaps remained quite small.

At the top of the fourth climb, around ten men were just a minute ahead of the yellow jersey group, which featured David Gaudu. The Frenchman was actually perfectly on the alert when the race’s first turning point occurred, in the Elosua’s downhill. “At the briefing, we made it clear that the race could be played as much in the downhills as in the climbs,” said Franck. “Like all week, it was necessary to be well positioned at the top of the climbs. We were sure that some would try to make the race harder there. Luckily, David has great skills, but he still needed to be in good position”.

The two-time stage winner on the Vuelta was and could then enter the right move that made a gap on the rest of the bunch, and in particular on the yellow jersey Brandon McNulty and his teammate Tadej Pogacar. On the valley leading up to the next climbs, some leaders made perfect use of their teammates to make the gap grow even more. Shortly after halfway, David Gaudu then tackled the “first” climb of Arrate in the leading group.

He was also the only one, along with Hugh Carthy, to be able to hold the wheel of Primoz Roglic when the Slovenian decided to accelerate on that climb. “When the three of us got away, I realized I might be one of the strongest on the day,” Gaudu said later. At first, he let the Slovenian pull on his own. “He’s the champion, and he was going for the overall,” Franck said.

“Then I told David to take some turns because we could hope for the win, and it was easier to get rid of two riders than fifteen”. It was then with a 40-second advantage over the chasing group that the trio got to the bottom of the Arrate’s final climb. “Roglic told me he didn’t care about the stage,” David said. “I knew that if I took him to the finish on the last climb, he would let me have the victory. But I needed to get rid of Carthy first. I attacked, and when I saw he was dropped, I gave it my all. I was going flat-out! Franck was yelling on the radio, the Basques were also shouting on the side of the road. My legs didn’t even hurt anymore! I was having Goosebumps, it was crazy, mental!”

After he did the entire climb in the front and held back the chasers, David Gaudu could start to enjoy his victory when Roglic congratulated him in the last kilometre. He then celebrated his second win of the season, but also one of the finest of his career. “It was an incredible day. I hadn’t experienced any other like it before”, he added. “I was always calm and confident. I didn’t think too much, I raced the way I wanted to and it paid off.”

“I especially want to remember how I won. It came down to the legs the whole day, from the beginning to the end, and I came away with the win. Maybe this is what makes me happy the most.”

Esteban Chaves: “It was pretty aggressive, intense and like I said at the beginning, we need to be realistic, on paper this is not a climb that suits me, but in comparison to the first day, I did really well. I finished in the top-10 today and also moved up some spots on the GC, so this is really nice.

It was a really hard stage, all day just riding in one line. The team, like always, did really well, the positioned me really well at the beginning and we can say it’s a really good performance for the team, for the whole tour.

These first two races have been really good for me, so I’m happy, disappointed for sure as we wanted to have a stage win here, but we tried, we went close. I think the intention and performance of the team is really good, we were part of the race, we were part of the game.”

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