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Itzulia Basque Country stage 2 – Live coverage


Hello and welcome to the Cyclingnews live coverage of stage 2 of the Itzulia Basque Country stage race. 

As the Cyclingnews blimp takes height, we can see the grey rain clouds that cover the area. We're expecting a wet race but a fast race on the hilly and twisting 154.8km stage.

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The stage starts in Zalla to the south-east of Bilbao and then rolls through the lush green hills of the Basque Country covering several different loops before a hillier finale and the finish in Sestao close to the estuary that flow into Bilbao.

As well as rain, it is also cold, with temperatures around 12C. The forecast is for the weather to improve during the stage. 

The riders have signed on and are gathering for the roll out. 

This is the twisting route of stage 2.

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Here we go!  

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The riders face  a 5.2km neutralised sector. 

Primož Rogliž (Jumbo-Visma) wear's the race leader's yellow jersey after he won the 13.9km individual time trial in Bilbao on Monday.

He beat Brandon McNulty (UAE Team Emirates) by two seconds, with Roglič's teammates Jonas Vingegaard and Tobias Foss finished third and fourth, 18 and 24 seconds back, respectively. 

Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) crossed the line in fifth place, 28 seconds down, just ahead of Volta a Catalunya winner Adam Yates (Ineos Grenadiers). 

Roglič was the 10th rider out of a total of 167 competitors to take the start on the 13.9km TT course. He was in the hot seat for close to two hours then stepped on the awards stage to accept the leader's jersey.

Asked why he had decided to start so early, the 10th rider off, Roglič cracked a joke by way of response, telling reporters, “the faster you start, the faster you finish.”

But he denied that his beating Pogačar so clearly was in any way revenge for what had happened on the second to last day of the 2020 Tour de France.

“Everybody says it’s just about me racing against Tadej and him racing against me, but there are really a lot of strong guys here," he said. “Still, it’s OK, this is just stage one and there’s a lot of racing coming up. It’ll be fun to watch.”

Roglič’s excellent start was arguably exactly what the Slovenian needed after his disastrous final stage in Paris-Nice, where his seeming iron grip on the race suddenly disintegrated in a welter of crashes and a dislocated shoulder.

It will also revive memories of how he won the Itzulia Basque Country back in 2018, with a victory in the mid-race time trial at Lodosa, as well as taking a win against the clock on a very tricky, hilly course in Eibar back in 2017, one of his earliest career wins.

As for the time trial itself, Roglič recognised that it was not the most straightforward of courses. But whereas other rivals like Pogačar later said that they went off too fast, the Slovenian calculated the course to perfection, perhaps recollecting his strategy at a similarly brutally-steep uphill time trial finish in Ezaro in last year’s Vuelta a España.

“The TT was a little special like they always are here in País Vasco, but I really like racing here. It’s a nice challenge, some downhills and difficult corners, but it was good to do and I’m really happy with my performance,” Roglič said.

“For sure I’d like to have [the leader's jersey] after the last stage, but we’ll see how it goes. No matter what happens, we’ll give it everything.” 

And for now, he certainly could not have got off to a better start.

Race radio has confirmed that all the 165 riders who finished the TT have started today's first road stage.

As soon as the flag dropped, riders attacked. 

A group of 11 got a gap but when they were caught, another six made a move.

The early climb into the hills offers a perfect place to attack. 

With the roads wet, the riders are took it carefully at junctions as they started racing. 

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135km to go

After a fast start on the climb, the riders are on the gentle descent. 

The six attackers are:  

Quinten Hermans (Intermarché - Wanty) 

Martijn Tusveld (Tream DSM)

Ben Gastauer (AG2R)

Jon Irisarri (Caja Rural) 

Oscar Cabedo (Burgos-BH)

Mikel Iturria (Euskaltel - Euskadi)

They lead the USA's Kevin Vermaerke (Team DSM) by 30 seconds. The peloton has eased and is at 1:30.

After a fast 25km, Kevin Vermaerke has made it across to the break, so  Team DSM now have 2 riders in the move.

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The Euskadi team are rightly proud to have one of their riders in the break in their home race.

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The peloton is 3:30 down on the attack. It will be up to Jumbo-Visma to lead the chase on defence of Roglic's lead. However they know it will be a tough day out. 

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Everyone is expected a duel between Roglic and Tadej Pogacar at the Itzulia Basque Country but yesterday Pogacar lost 28 seconds.

Teammate Brandon McNulty was much better, finishing only 2 seconds slower.


After marking the fastest time on the early part of the technical, double-climbing course on La Itzulia’s opening stage, five seconds up on Roglič, he finally finished a mere two seconds adrift of the Slovenian’s winning time in the runner-up spot. McNulty’s near miss in Bilbao could arguably mark a new high point in the WorldTour for the 23-year-old from Arizona.

“It was pretty much a case of going full gas on the first climb, keeping going full, then recovering a bit on the descent, and doing all out to the finish,” the former junior time trial world champion told reporters afterwards.

“We’ll have to see what happens now. I’m really happy with this result. Obviously I got close to the win which would have been amazing, but I gave it my all, so no regrets.”

Click below to ready out story on the talented American.

McNulty narrowly misses a victory at Itzulia Basque Country (opens in new tab)

GIEN FRANCE MARCH 09 Brandon Mcnulty of United States and UAE Team Emirates during the 79th Paris Nice 2021 Stage 3 a 144km Individual Time Trial stage from Gien to Gien 147m ITT ParisNice on March 09 2021 in Gien France Photo by Bas CzerwinskiGetty Images

(Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

105km to go

As the riders approach the first of two intermediate sprints, the Jumbo and Movistar teams are leading the chase.

In other news, the big-name transfer market is warming-up with further reports about Peter Sagan's future.  

After Sagan told Cyclingnews that he would look for a new team if Bora-Hansgrohe are not interested in renewing his contract, Deceuninck-QuickStep have emerged as the most logical destination, with bike sponsor Specialized likely to play a key role in ensuring the three-time world champion moves to the Belgian team. 

Deceuninck-QuickStep won the Tour of Flanders with Kasper Asgreen on Sunday, yet again confirming their ability to win the biggest Classics in the sport. Team manager Patrick Lefevere has revealed he is close to securing the future of the team and he wants to begin a new phase of development that would see Remco Evenepoel lead the team in Grand Tours. 

Click below to read the full story on Sagan and Deceuninck-QuickStep.

Peter Sagan linked with move to Deceuninck-QuickStep for 2022 (opens in new tab)

Milano Sanremo 2021 - 112th Edition - Milano - Sanremo 299 km - 20/03/2021 - Peter Sagan (SVK - Bora - Hansgrohe) - photo Tommaso Pelagalli/BettiniPhoto©2021

(Image credit: Bettini Photo)

95km to go

Our man on the ground at Itzulia Basque Country has sent an update from the finish in Sestao.  

"No rain here,  though some cloud and road surfaces still very wet. 

"No wind. The descent from the final second cat climb is technical and fast so could be risky. 

"The final drag to the finish is not very long on normal city streets, that kicks up with about 600 metres to go. There's a little wiggle left and continues to climb, about seven eight percent. 

"It only levels out in last 200 metres. It's a good one for Valverde if he's on form but probably a bit too hard for what few sprinters there are here."

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We are close to the mid-point of the 154km stage but the second half is much hillier, with three categorised climbs.

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The break is on the San Cosme climb, a 4km climb at 4%. 

Fortunately the roads are now dry, even if the skies is grey and loaded with rain.

70km to go

The Movistar are massed at the front, helping the lone Jumbo rider with the chase. 

There are another 4 climbs in the final 70km, with the last one coming just 14km from the finish.

In the peloton riders are taking off their warm clothing ready for the hilly finale. However there is a risk of more rain very soon. 

Roglic played down his ambitions for today's stage. Indeed Jumbo haver placed just
Christoph Pfingsten on the front to lead the chase.

Behind Christoph Pfingsten are a string of Movistar riders, with Jumbo and Roglic just behind them. 

This was Roglic and Pogacar at the start of the stage. 

Primoz Roglic and Tadej Pogacar at the Itzulia Basque Country

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Pogacar seemed relaxed despite losing 28 second to his fellow Slovenian in Monday's time trial.  

Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates)

(Image credit: Getty Images)

This is the break of the day. They lead by 2:45 now but they will surely suffer in the hills of the final 60km. 

The early break of the day

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Our race photographers spotted Tao Geoghegan Hart in the peloton. 

The Giro winner is back racing after suffering with concussion.

Tao Geoghegan Hart was back racing at the Itzulia Basque Country

(Image credit: Getty Images)

This is the profile of the Bezi climb. It will hurt.

The Bezi climb of stage 2

(Image credit: Itzulia Basque Country)

The riders stayed wrapped up due to the rain. 

Marc Hirschi (UAE Team Emirates) was back racing

(Image credit: Getty Images)

The Bezi climb is starting to hurt now.

Movistar seem to riding for Valverde, while Trek are protecting Bauke Mollema and Bahrain are riding for local hero Mikel Landa.  

The gap to the break is falling fast and is now. 1:45. 

That's a clear sign that the teams behind want to fight for the stage victory.

In other news, Remco Evenepoel has agreed a new- five-year contract with Deceuninck-QuickStep.

Click below for the full story. 

Remco Evenepoel extends with Deceuninck-Quickstep through 2026 (opens in new tab)

Il Lombardia 2020 114th Edition Bergamo Como 231 km 14082020 Remco Evenepoel BEL Deceuninck Quick Step photo Luca BettiniBettiniPhoto2020

(Image credit: Bettini Photo)

50km to go

There's a crash on a touch of wheels on a narrow road. 

After the Bezi climb, the riders face a descent to Zalla and the second intermediate sprint.

Other teams are also moving up to the front, including David Gaudu of Groupama.  

The race is back in Zalla, where they started earlier. They face a steep ramp up soon and then a descent to the foot of the final climb, which comes after 133km of racing.    

UAE are also moving up through the middle of the peloton to protect Pogacar.

The break is holding out in Zalla and contesting the sprint. 

Mikel Iturria of Euskaltel won the sprint to take the prime, the points and the three-second time bonus.

Behind, Movistar are still driving the peloton in pursuit. They're really taking on the race today, with all the other teams happy to sit in their wheels and let them do it.

All the capes, leg warmers and warm clothing have been taken off as the Finale of the stage near.

35km to go

The break is still 1:15 clear but this uncategorised climb is hurting the seven riders after a hard day out in the Basque hills.

After a fast descent, the riders face the La Asturiana climb.  This is the profile, with the graphic on the right showing the rise to the finish in the final kilometre. 

The profile of the climb

(Image credit: Itzulia Basque Country)


Wilco Kelderman has crashed.  

Knox of Deceuninck was also slowed. Bora are chasing to  bring Kelderman back into the peloton before the final cat 2 climb. 

30km to go

Ineos Grenadiers hit the front on the descent, they know this is a key point in the race.  

Kelderman is chasing with a teammate and some help from his team car. 

Kelderman is diving through the team cars. This is dangerous.

Giovanni Aleotti helped Kelderman back into the peloton. It was a high-speed chase but he is back on. Though Kelderman has cut his finger.  

Astana are on the front of the peloton as the start of the climb nears. 

This is high-speed racing to start the climb in the best possible position. 

23km to go

This is the fight for position.

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Ineos lead on one side, with Israel on the other side. 

This group is surely going to explode on the climb.

This is Kelderman's bloody finger

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Cofidis are also chasing to bring back Martin after a problem.   

Meanwhile the La Asturiana climb has started. The road is very narrow and so will split the peloton.

The climb is 7.4km long, with the steepest sectors early on.

There are two super steep sectors with gradients of 14%.  

Riders are already being distanced as Cabedo of Burgos fights to be the last rider off the front. 

There are some steep hairpins that line-out the peloton. 

Movistar are setting a high pace on the front of  the pack as they sweep up the remains of the break.  

Pogacar is well-placed near the front. 

So is Roglic, in a reduced, 50-rider front group.

Adam Yates is there too. McNulty too.

Gaudu is also dancing on the pedal at the front. 

Cabedo is suffering and only has a 10-second lead.

Gaudu attacks! 

Pogacar is there too as Carapaz crashes on a fast hairpin.

There is still 4km to climb but the race has exploded.  

Movistar are chasing Pogacar and Gaudu, as are Ineos. 

The riders are spread down the road. This is hurting.

Michael Woods surges across to Gaudu and Pogacar. 

Roglic drags everyone across too. 

The roads is wet and slick. This is the climb, What about the descent? It will be a race of nerves.

The gradient has eased for the final 2km of the climb. There are 25 or so riders in the front group now but the attacks are coming. 

Schachmann attacks!

Roglic is there. McNulty too.  

So is Higuita, creating a 4-rider attack.

They have a gap.

Schachmann is driving the attack along. his head bobbing in movement. 

The chasers are 150m behind.  

The road is almost flat overt the summit. The chase is on behind.

It will all be about the descent to the finish now and the kick-up to the line.

Fortunately the road are dry. 

The descent starts with a covered cattle grid and rutted concrete roads.

It's like descending on cobbles... 

McNulty and Higuita lead but this is set to comeback together. Watch out for the counter-attacks. 

Alex Aranburu of Astana attacks now and gets a gap.  He wants this on local roads. 

Aranburu can chose his own lines on the fast descent on the series of hairpins.

The roads are wet and dry but he's diving into the hairpins.

Aranburu is careful not to go into a supertuck position that could see him disqualified under the new UCI rules.

Aranburu leads by 25 seconds with 6km to go.

Aranburu was 9th in yesterday's TT and so could also take the race lead if he stays away.

There are bonus seconds of 10, 6, 4 seconds at the finish. 

Aranburu leads by 35 seconds, as his teammates try to slow the chase.

Aranburu looks under his shoulder but he is well clear on and the way to the stage victory.

2km to go

Back on the flat roads, Aranburu has to time trial to the finish now. 

He should win and should also gain a chunk of time.

Aranburu's biggest problem is the kick-up to the finish. 

Kelderman and Carthy are leading the chase group but Aranburu has gone. 

Last Km! 

Alex Aranburu (Astana) wins the stage!

Here comes the chasers.

Omar Fraille takes second, with Pogacar third.

Fraile punched the air to celebrate Astana's 1-2. 

I don't think Aranburu hasn't taken enough time to take the race lead. 

It will depend on the gaps in the front group. 

Aranburu attacked with 10km to go when the group had chased down Fraile. Astana had clearly planned their attacks today. 

Aranburu then dived down the descent and held off the chasers.

The chasers were only 16 seconds behind Aranburu. He took a 10-second time bonus but that will probably not be enough to gibe him the race lead. 

We need to carefully check Roglic's placing and any time gaps.

In provisional results, Roglic keeps the race lead. Aranburu is up to 2nd at 5 seconds, with McNulty third at 6 seconds..

Pogacar is fourth at 24 seconds.

We have the first images of a very happy Alex Aranburu. 


(Image credit: Getty Images)


(Image credit: Getty Images)


(Image credit: Getty Images)

These are the provisional results.

Aranburu and Fraile celebrated their 1-2 after the finish. 

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This is the new top ten on GC:

This is how Aranburu attacked, after the chasers had pulled back teammate Fraile.

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To see out full photo gallery, full stage report and full results, click below. 

Itzulia Basque Country: Basque rider Aranburu wins stage 2 (opens in new tab)


(Image credit: Getty Images)

Wednesday's third 167km stage is another day in the Pais Vasco hills.  

The stage starts in Amurrio and after a long loop south, ends in nearby Ermualde, with a steep 3km climb up to the finish. Some sectors of the climb are at 15 %!

Thanks for joining us today. We'll have full live coverage all week from the Basque Country as Roglic, Pogacar and all the other battle it out.  

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