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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Friday, April 9, 2021

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Vuelta al País Vasco stage four team reports

We posted the report from the race organizer with the results.

Here's the report from stage winner Ion Izagirre's Team Astana-Premier Tech team:

Ion Izagirre sprinted to a sensational win on stage four of Itzulia Basque Country to deliver the second victory of the week for Astana – Premier Tech, after Alex Aranburu’s success on stage two.

Ion Izagirre

Ion Izagirre wins a close one.

In a show of strength and tactics from the Basque rider, Izagirre sprinted to the win from a six-rider group after a late attack proved fruitful, and in doing so, secured the first Itzulia Basque Country stage win of his career.

“The wind was coming from the front and we were all thinking about the final kilometers, for the sprint. Buchmann was the first to attack but Chaves made the good move to make a gap. I waited for Buchmann and McNulty to launch the sprint and I took their wheel. I waited because of the head wind. It was very very tight but luckily I could win and I’m really happy. I truly thought Pello had won. He was coming from behind and he raised his arms so I really thought I had lost. I congratulated him and assumed that I was second. When the soigneurs told me that they were checking the photo finish I wanted to be careful and I didn’t wanted to celebrate. It feels really good after the the time trial. I came here very motivated and to start by losing 1’10” in the TT on the first day was hard to accept. After Alex’s victory, winning again at Itzulia Basque Country feels really good,” said Izagirre.

“The team worked really well today with Oscar and Stefan controlling the situation in the group and Omar and Alexey trying to escape. Also Jakob was a great help for me at the end. I won the General Classification in 2019 but without a stage and now I am celebrating a stage win and it is a very special to me. I am just enjoying the moment. We still have two very difficult days ahead and the race is still open and many things can happen.”

A fast and furious start saw a huge battle for the breakaway play out for more than 100 kilometres with Omar Fraile and Alexey Lutsenko launching several attacks on the Deskarga climb before four riders were able to go clear.

The peloton kept the group on a short leash on the early slopes of the iconic Jaizkibel climb, where Izagirre’s Astana – Premier Tech teammates helped take control of the chase. A counter move from the reduced peloton and attacks from within the breakaway didn’t stand up against the strength of the General Classification group with the riders being reeled in approaching the final 25 kilometres, setting the stage for more attacks.

Jakob Fuglsang was one of the first riders to try and go clear on the climb but it was an attack of the descent that would prove to be a decisive move. Izagirre used his intuition and home soil advantage to jump on the wheel and form part of the six-rider lead group that went on to gain a one-minute advantage inside the final 10 kilometres.

The group pushed on and despite the chase from behind, where Fuglsang and Alex Aranburu were covering moves, Izagirre’s group managed to maintain their advantage in the final kilometres to all but ensure it would be a six-man sprint for the line.

In a nail-biting finish, Izagirre launched his sprint with 300 metres to go and dug deep to edge out fellow Basque rider Pello Bilbao on the finish line in Hondarribia. Unsure of whether he had secured the win, Izagirre waited until he had official confirmation from the photo finish before raising his arms in joy and celebrating the win with his teammates.

“It was a stage where we really wanted to go in a break as it looked really good for it, but it was not the case. The stage started very fast and although we tried for many times, it was impossible to break away. When a small group finally broke away we decided that we couldn’t lose this day so we worked in front to bring the break back. At the last climb our plan was to always have someone in front as we had three options with Alex, Jakob, and Ion. The climb was a bit too hard for Aranburu but Fuglsang and Izagirre did everything in the best possible way. In the end, luck was on our side and Ion was able to do a good sprint. It was a close one but we won and we a super happy with another win here,” added Giuseppe Martinelli, Sports Director

With 49 seconds separating Izagirre and the main GC group at the finish line, the 2019 defending champion moved up to ninth overall ahead of the final two stages, 1’15” behind new race leader Brandon McNulty.

Here's the report from new GC leader Brandon McNulty's UAE Team Emirates:

Brandon McNulty is the new leader of the General Classification at Itzulia Basque Country.

In today’s fourth stage, the young American rider was up in the heart of the action in the last 25km, first attacking and then controlling the group of five riders who went in the break with him.

In the final sprint McNulty took third place behind Ion Izagirre (Astana – Premier Tech) and Pello Bilbao (Bahrain – Victorious), taking hold of the General standings with a lead of 23" advantage of his closest rival Primoz Roglič (Team Jumbo-Visma).

Brandon McNulty

Brandon McNulty will start stage five in yellow. Bettini photo

UAE Team Emirates are leaving a strong mark on the race with Pogačar, now 5th in the GC and leader of the mountains classification.

McNulty: “For sure we were aiming for the stage win without thinking too much about the leader’s jersey, but I’m obviously happy with the result today. I feel good and ready to face the last two stages. Tomorrow could be another tricky stage, while Saturday will be an epic day. We’ll do our best to defend the leaders jersey.”

Tomorrow is the flattest of the stages of this edition of La Itzulia, 160.2 km from Hondarribia to Ondarroa, with a rare chance for sprinters.

Esteban Chaves' Team BikeExchange sent me this report:

Volta a Catalunya stage winner Esteban Chaves came agonisingly close to the stage four victory today in Vuelta al Pais Vasco, after attacking away from a front group of six riders in the final kilometre, only to be caught metres from the line.

Displaying grit and determination, Chaves was on fire throughout the 189km stage, attacking on the final first category climb, Erlaitz, before being caught and then attacking once more on the descent to force the race winning move.

The Team BikeExchange rider dragged Pello Bilbao with him, followed by four more riders with just 20km remaining and their gap increased out to over 50 seconds on route to contesting the stage win.

Biding his time, Chaves waited in the wheels before pouncing in the final kilometre in a bid for a second solo victory of the season. The Colombian climber came close, but behind the five chasers made a huge acceleration and flew past the 30-year-old just metres before the finish line to snatch the stage win from his grasp.

Chaves now moves up the overall to 15th after a stellar performance throughout the day and with two hard stages still to go.

Esteban Chaves - 6th:
"I really wanted to do really well today. Today, this type of race, on paper suits me better and Saturday, and I know all the routes. I spent a lot of time with Imanol Iza up here, I feel like it’s home, I know all the roads really well.

I tried in the final on the climb and I tried after the climb at the top, and I tried in the final again. Hats off to all the work the boys did today, I wanted to pay it back and it was really close.

I did everything I could and more, I almost died! But this is what it is, this is cycling and it’s a beautiful thing and we need to be happy. Of course a little bit disappointed, but the important thing is to play the game."

Dave McPartland - Sport Director:
“The guys set Esteban up for the final really well and he showed the condition he is in; I think he was the strongest there in the group. He attacked multiple times and McNulty was riding to get the biggest gap possible so they stayed away.

He was caught so close to the line; it is frustrating but it really shows the condition he has got and that doesn’t go away overnight so we will keep fighting.”

And here's the report from Emanuel Buchmann's Bora-hansgrohe team:

The Tour of the Basque Country’s 189 km long fourth stage consisted of a demanding course with four climbs. After the last climb followed 20 km of downhill road, with a flat end to the stage in Hondarribia. Although there were several breakaway attempts during the first 100 km, no group was able to successfully distance itself from the peloton until a quartet managed to break free with 85 km remaining.

However, it was only a matter of time before they were caught, and the last climb saw a battle among a reduced group of favourites. Eventually, a group of six riders, including Emanuel Buchmann, managed to break free and fight out the stage honours amongst themselves.

Emanuel rode strongly at the head of the race, but despite launching several attacks, his attempts remained fruitless, with the stage being decided by a sprint from that group in Hondarribia, taken out by Izagirre. Emanuel finished fifth and thereby also moves up to 7th place in the general classification.

From the Finish Line:
"I felt pretty good today, better than on the previous stages here. And so I tried to counter the attacks that came on the last climb. That went pretty well and I managed to get into the small leading group. I attacked several times there to try to avoid the stage coming down to a sprint, but that didn't quite work out. Nevertheless, I'm happy with my performance, and I'm now in 7th place overall." - Emanuel Buchmann

"We can definitely be satisfied with the stage today. First of all, we tried to get into the break, but unfortunately that didn’t happen, due to the way the race played out. It became clear that the stage would be taken by the field, and so we concentrated on Emanuel and Maximilian. We wanted to try something on the last climb and that worked out pretty well. Emu put in a strong performance today in the first group. Max, on the other hand, didn't have such a good day, but he still managed to come back in the end. So overall we are quite happy with the result today. Emu tried everything, he rode very offensively, especially in the finale, and is now 7th overall, so a pretty good day for us." - André Schulze, Sports Director

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