The Sports Examiner

CYCLING Preview: A British battle for the Itzulia Basque Country?

The sixth multi-stage race in the 2019 UCI World Tour is the Itzulia Basque Country, a six-leg race through northeast Spain that traces its roots all the way back to 1924.

No prior winner returns to this year’s race – also known as the Tour of the Basque Country – but there are five former medal winners in the race:

● Sergio Henao (COL) ~ Second in 2015 and 2016; third in 2013
● Michal Kwiatkowski (POL) ~ Second in 2014
● Mikel Landa (ESP) ~ Second in 2018
● Ion Izagirre (ESP) ~ Third in 2017 and 2018
● Blake Mollema (NED) ~ Third in 2012

So who’s the favorite? Based on form, the race could shape up as a battle of British riders, notably Adam Yates, runner-up in the Tirreno-Adriatico and in the Volta a Catalunya, both in March of this year, and the reigning Tour de France champ, Geraint Thomas, who didn’t finish at the Tirreno-Adriatico last month.

Also among the favored is France’s Julian Alaphilippe, who won the Strade Bianche and Milan-Sanremo, one of only three men to win more than once on the 2019 World Tour. Jakob Fuglsang (DEN), second at Strade Bianche and third at Tirreno-Adriatico, also must be counted among those to watch.

After the opening Time Trial, won by German Maximilian Schachmann on Monday, this is a climber’s race and Colombia’s Henao figures to be exceedingly dangerous, having finished on the podium in three of the last six years. Stage summaries:

UCI World Tour/Itzulia Basque Country
Spain ~ 8-13 April 2019
(Full results here)

Stage 1 (11.3 km Individual Time Trial): 1. Maximilian Schachmann (GER), 17:10; 2. Daniel Felipe Martinez (COL), 17:19; 3. Michal Kwiatkowski (POL), 17:20; 4. Julian Alaphilippe (FRA), 17:22; 5. Adam Yates (GBR), 17:26. Also in the top 25: 13. Lawson Craddock (USA), 17:44.

Stage 2 (149.5 km): Zumarraga to Goraiz (hilly)
Stage 3 (191.4 km): Sarriguren to Estibaliz (mountains)
Stage 4 (163.6 km): Vitoria to Arrigorriaga (hilly)
Stage 5 (149.8 km): Arrigorriaga to Arrate (mountain finish)
Stage 6 (118.2 km): Eibar to Eibar (mountains)

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