Two Basque riders from Astana-Premier Tech made a memorable one-two in Tuesday’s second stage of Itzulia Basque Country, and Michael Woods placed fifth to haul himself into the top-20 on GC. Astana-Premier Tech hit the favourites group with the ol’ left-right on a flat section of a descent near the finish, and it was Alex Aranbaru who dashed away and stayed clear to grab his first WorldTour victory. Despite Aranbaru’s threat to his leader’s jersey, Primoz Roglič stayed atop the GC.
In typical Spanish stage race fashion, there’s plenty of climbing at the Itzulia Basque Country. Two Cat. 3s and a Cat. 2 were situated in the latter half of 154.8 km. The Cat. 2, La Asturiana, was 7.5 km of 6.2 percent, but the first 3 km was 9.2 percent, inviting attacks. After a hairy descent, a 1 km ramp of 5.4 percent led to the line, its middle section 10.2 percent. Bonus seconds were on offer in Sestao. It was a chilly day.
— Deceuninck-QuickStep (@deceuninck_qst) April 6, 2021
After Monday’s time trial, Tadej Pogačar wore the white-on-red polka dot climber’s jersey. Seven fugitives palled up soon after the start in Zalla with aspirations to take it from him. Quinten Hermans (Belgium/Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert), in only his second day of racing this season, collected the maximum KOM points atop Cat. 3 San Cosme. In the peloton, Jumbo-Visma and Movistar were prominent at the front.
Hermans took the jersey from Pogačar on the road by tipping over Cat. 3 Bezi first. Hermans and his breakmates wouldn’t make it to the top of Cat. 2 La Asturiana before the peloton, racing with intent, swept them up. With the final fugitive just up the road, David Gaudu lit the fuse in the peloton. Pogačar went with him.
Woods chased on with a few others.
Max Schachmann, Roglič, Sergio Higuita and second-place Brandon McNulty pulled away. They crested with 10 seconds on the Woods/Pogačar group. There were 14 km to race.
The chase nabbed the four out in front on the nasty descent. Astana-Premier threw punches via Omar Fraile and Aranbaru, the latter of whom dropped clear of the favourites group. With 6.5 km remaining, Aranbaru had a 24 second gap. The Spaniard had a fine opening day time trial and was soon in the virtual race lead.
Bora-Hansgrohe’s efforts in the chase group doomed Aranbaru’s big to pull on the leader’s jersey. Fraile took second place to give Astana a one-two. Pogačar claimed the last of the bonus seconds to yank his compatriot a little closer on GC. Woods was fifth place, jumping 21 spots on the GC.
Wednesday’s stage ends on a taxing 3.1 km, 10.2 percent climb.
2021 Itzulia Basque Country Stage 2
1) Alex Aranbaru (Spain/Astana-Premier Tech)
2) Omar Fraile (Spain/Astana-Premier Tech) +0:15
3) Tadej Pogačar (Slovenia/UAE-Emirates) s.t.
5) Michael Woods (Canada/Israel Start-up Nation) s.t.
2021 Itzulia Basque Country GC
1) Primoz Roglič (Slovenia/Jumbo-Visma) 4:03:04
2) Alex Aranbaru (Spain/Astana-Premier Tech) +0:05
3) Brandon McNulty (USA/UAE-Emirates) +0:06
19) Michael Woods (Canada/Israel Start-up Nation) +1:07