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Itzulia Basque Country stage 6 - Live coverage


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

As the Cyclingnews blimp takes height, the riders are signing on and gathering for the start.

The stage rolls out in 15 minutes for the decisive 112km stage. 

It is a short but nasty final day in the Basque hills, with 3200m of altitude across five steep climbs. 

The riders have been understandably warming up before the start. 

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The decisive stage offers seven classified ascents in just 112 kilometres. 

Former winners on Arrate in the 2021 peloton range from Alejandro Valverde (both in the Vuelta a España and the Itzulia) to Emanuel Buchmann (Bora-Hansgrohe) in 2019, and Enric Mas (Movistar) in 2018. 

Its most recent winner, though, is Roglič, in the opening stage of the Vuelta last October. Can he win again and overturn his 23 deficit on the young American? 

We'll bring you all the best updates so you can follow the race.

These are the six nasty climbs the riders face today.

The climbs of stage 6 of the Itzulia Basque Country

(Image credit: Itzulia Basque Country)

This is the Jumbo team that will try to set up Roglic for victory. He's racing in the green points jersey today. 

With time bonuses of 10, 6 and 4  seconds at the finish, Roglic needs to distance McNulty by at least 13 seconds on the climb to the finish.

They're off! 

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Today there are 3.9km of neutralised riding, then the 111.9km stage kicks off and the climbs start straight away.  

Our man on the ground in the Basque Country Alasdair Fotheringham has updated us on the weather. 

After early rain, it is better, slightly sunny and the cloud is lifting. But there are still strong wind and weather changes very fast in the rolling Basque Hills.

As Alasdair wrote after stage 5, Brandon McNulty (UAE Team Emirates) has promised that he will give everything to defend the leader's jersey of the Itzulia Basque Country on Saturday's toughest mountain stage and the final ascent to the Alto de Arrate in what could be the biggest day of his professional career to date.

The margins are tight as McNulty faces no fewer than seven classified climbs, three of them ranked first category in just 111.9 kilometres of racing. But Itzulias have been won by less than 23 seconds, too, most recently in 2017 when Alejandro Valverde won by 17 seconds against Alberto Contador.

This is McNulty's first outing at Itzulia Basque Country. He did not do the Vuelta a España last year when the riders also tackled the Arrate, meaning he has never been up the region's most emblematic ascent.

McNulty recognised after stage 5 that the chance to fight for his first WorldTour title was "a great opportunity, super exciting and I'll give everything I can to defend the jersey.

"Obviously, it is a huge goal for me to be there and I will do everything I can to be in it."

ONDARROA SPAIN APRIL 09 Podium Brandon Mcnulty of United States and UAE Team Emirates Yellow Leader Jersey Celebration during the 60th ItzuliaVuelta Ciclista Pais Vasco 2021 Stage 5 a 1602km stage from Hondarribia to Ondarroa Mask Covid Safety Measures itzulia ehitzulia on April 09 2021 in Ondarroa Spain Photo by David RamosGetty Images

(Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Having a defending Tour de France champion in Pogačar in support is not something that happens every day, and McNulty recognised that.

"It's great to have him by my side. Tadej is very strong. If I blow up, then he's the next best option."

Pogačar made it clear, too, in a brief interview with local TV that he would be happy to provide that support. He is fifth overall, 43 behind his teammate. 

Asked if he wanted to win La Itzulia, Pogačar said, "I hope we, as a team, will win it. Brandon has the yellow jersey and it's probably easier to defend it than attack. I hope we can defend it."

Cyclingnews understands that this morning, both riders studied the Arrate climb by car so that they better understand the challenge they face.

The flag has dropped and we've seen immediate attacks on the short first climb.

Britain's Hugh Carthy is the first to try his hand but is chased down. 

Movistar and Israel Start-Up Nation are controlling the peloton.

Carlos Verona was the first to the top of the Arribinieta climb. Now it's time for the
Elkorrieta. It's 2.6km long at 6.3%.

These are the early climbs and are only Cat 3. The nasty climbs are all later on.   

This was Carthy's early attack.

Itzulia Basque Country 2021

(Image credit: Getty Images)

First attack.

Bevin, Jensen and Tolhoek are on the move. 

The trio have just 20 seconds, with Movistar leading the chase.

This shot of Carthy showed how Movistar lead the peloton.

Valverde is Movistar's best-placed rider but he is at 1:13. The efforts of the Spanish team will help UAE save their riders for later. 

Itzulia Basque Country 2021

(Image credit: Getty Images)

The riders are now on the Azurki climb. 

It is 5.4km long at 7%. It has one section at 16% Ouch!

It's interesting to see that Jumbo have sent Tolhoek in the attack.

He could be useful later but will have join forces with Roglic at the right moment.

And now they are 4! 

Carthy has crossed to the attack. 

Itzulia Basque Country 2021

(Image credit: Getty Images)

85km to go

On the descent of the Azurki, seven riders have formed on the front now. 

Other riders are trying to go across to them. The race is on. 

There are only 30 or so riders in the peloton.  

They're back on to the main road but they will soon hit the Elosua-Gorla climb. 

It's 9.6km long at 5.7%. 

Ben O'Connor (AG2R) is up front, as is Enric Mas (Movistar).

UAE have two riders on the front leading the chase. They are at 30 seconds. 

The peloton seems happy to let the break go clear. 

The big fight for overall victory will surely come on the final climb.

Up front are 7 riders.

The peloton has eased and so the gap is up to 1:00. 

The 7 attackers are: 

Enric Mas (Movistar), Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers), Patrick Bevin (Israel Start-Up Nation), Hugh Carthy (EF), Ben O’Connor  (AG2R Citroen), Omar Fraile (Astana-Premier Tech) and Antwan Tolhoek (Jumbo-Visma). 

We spoke too soon about the peloton. Several riders are attack to try to get across to the attack. 

However the race is very fluid right now as the climb hurts.

Tolhoek is pushing on the attack as Mark Padun (Bahrain) and Carlos Verona (Movistar) get across.  

The 9 lead by just  30 to go as Roglic leads the peloton. 

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Marc Hirschi on the front of the peloton setting a fast pace to try to limit the counter attacks. 

There are still 4km to climb as more attacks go off the front of the peloton. 

Guillaume Martin has crossed the gap and others are trying their hand.

Sam Oomen is the next to kick off the front. 

Mauri Vansevenant (Deceuninck) tries too but the pace is high and the gap to the peloton is only 40 seconds. 

UAE have Ulissi and Majka riding to protect McNulty and Pogacar.

Hirschi marked a move across to the break. We now have 14 riders up front  but more attacks are coming on the descent. 

60km to go

The descent is causing as much damage as the climb.

Carapaz has dived down the descent and split the 14-rider attack. 

Ben O'Connor was first over the climb and has joined Carapaz and Pat Bevin.

The rest of the attack and the peloton is spread further down the road. 

A group with Roglic is at 40 seconds and joining the remains of the break. 

Where is McNulty? 

The race is on a flat 15km section of road before he next big climb.

The attacks have forced Pogacar to hit the front and lead the chase.

UAE have called Hirsch back from the attack to help drag McNulty across to the Roglic group. 

however up front Astana are riding hard to drag the group away. The gap is 20 seconds. This is a key moment in the race.

Movistar are riding for Vlaverde, Bahrain for Landa.

The gap is close to 30 seconds. 

The Roglic/Astana group has swept up the three attackers to create a 19-rider move. 

Astana are driving it along at high speed, giving Roglic a ride away from McNulty.

McNulty and the chasers are at 40 seconds. The final 50km will be a hectic pursuit match but the elastic could soon snap. 

The race hits the Krabelin climb, one of the hardest climbs of the stage. It is only 5km long but has sectors at 17% and an average of 9.6%. 

It will be up to Pogacar to work for McNulty and see if they can reduce the gap.

Carthy is in the front group after dropping off our radar on the fast descent. 

There will be a race for the stage within the battle for the GC. 

McNulty has cracked! 

He's been distanced by Pogacar on a steep sector. 

The attackers are within sight but almost impossible for McNulty to catch.

Up front Roglic is riding to keep McNulty off the back and make Pogacar suffer as he tries to cross.  

The Roglic group is down to the six best climbers.

There are 2km of climbing left to go of the Krabelin.  The gradient eases now. 

Where is Pogacar? He is at 20 seconds. McNulty is at 1:10.  

Roglic's pace on the climb has shaken out Valverde and others. 

There are just Gaudu and Carthy with him now. 

Behind Pogacar is at 30 seconds with Valverde with him, Landa is there too and Adam Yates. 

40km to go

At the summit of the Krakelin climb, McNulty fights on but is at 1:30 and solo. 

It was a big decision for Pogacar to leave McNulty and try to catch Roglic and ride for himself. 

Roglic is having to do most of the work on the flat road to make sure the trio of attackers stay away. 

They're gaining time on the Pogacar group, which is at 45 seconds, with McNulty at 1:30. 

This race is still finally balanced.

Roglic seems to be time trialing away to overall victory. But he faces a lot more climbing, including the final steep Arrate climb. 

Roglic leads through an intermediate sprint and so takes 3 bonus seconds.  

There is another sprint coming up soon and also 10, 6 and 4 seconds awarded at the finish. 

They could all be vital today in deciding overall victory. 

Roglic's efforts have pushed the gap out to 1:00. 

Gaudu is also helping Roglic to boost his own GC position.

McNulty has timed trialed along the valley. He is at 1:40 but only 40 seconds down on teammate Pogacar. 

UAE faced a difficult tactical call today but they seemed to have been exposed and divided.  

25km to go

Carthy is also working up front, as Valverde attacks from the break to distance the riders hanging on. 

Pogacar is frustrated and stuck in the move.

Adam Yates drags the group back up to Valverde as other riders close the gap from behind.

But McNulty is solo at 1:45 and looked tired and downbeat. 

The chase group is tired but they are more numerous than the Roglic, Gaudu and Carthy trio. 

This is a big ask for Roglic but if anyone can pull it off, he can. He has so often been on the other end of final stage attacks. 

The trio pass over the Trabakua climb. They all take on a bidon, a final drink before the descent and then climb up to the finish.

Here's Roglic when he blew the race apart. 

ARRATE EIBAR SPAIN APRIL 10 Primoz Roglic of Slovenia and Team Jumbo Visma Green Points Jersey David Gaudu of France and Team Groupama FDJ during the 60th ItzuliaVuelta Ciclista Pais Vasco 2021 Stage 6 a 1119km stage from Ondarroa to Arrate Eibar 535m Breakaway itzulia ehitzulia on April 10 2021 in Arrate Eibar Spain Photo by David RamosGetty Images

(Image credit: Getty Images)

16km to go

Adam Yates does a turn and so helps Pogacar but the gap to the Roglic group is still 55 seconds.

Nobody is able or willing to help Pogacar chase the trio.

Gaudu and Carthy are riding with Roglic. 

They want to stay away and fight for the stage victory on the final climb to Arrate. 

Behind Pogacar eases off the front and waves in desperation at the other riders in he group who refuse or are unable to help with the chase. 

Tragically McNulty is alone and at 3:10.

Itzulia Basque Country

(Image credit: Getty Image)

Roglic accelerates to lead through the intermediate sprint and 3 bonus seconds.

He has swept up 6 seconds today. 

Vingegaard is second on the virtual GC,  possibly giving Jumbo-Visma a 1-2 overall. 

The Roglic trio are about to start the final Arrate climb. It is officially called Usartza. 

It's 4.5km long but has a steep average gradient of 8.8%. 

Expect attacks for the stage and attacks from behind as Roglic tries to defend his lead. 

Gaudu kicks off the attacks for the stage win.

Roglic joins him but Carthy has been distanced.

Incredibly and impressively, Pogacar is still going all out. He's spitting riders out of the group and the gap is down to 40 seconds. 

Can the day change yet again? 

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Carthy is swept up by the Pogacar group as Valverde attacks.  

The veteran is chased by Pogacar and jonas Vingegaard

Gaudu and Roglic ride together through the  screaming Basque fans. 

3km to go

Pogacar is still chasing to try to secure third place overall.

Pogacar may be questioned about UAE's tactics but he is strong today.

1km to go.

Roglic eases to let Gaudu win the stage but Roglic wins the GC after a smash and grab ride.

They hug in a double celebration.

Behind Valverde wins the sprint at 35 seconds.

Wow, what a stage and what a finish.

Thanks to his huge effort, Roglic secured overall victory by 52 seconds.

His Jumbo-Visma teammate Jonas Vingegaard, who marked Pogacar all the way to the finish was second overall, giving Jumbo-Visma a clean sweep of the different classifications.  

Pogacar got some reward for his chasing, finishing third overall at 1:07. Adam Yates (Ineos Grenadiers ) was fourth at 1:26, one second ahead of Gaudu.

This is the top ten for the stage: 

This is the final GC that will make Roglic happy.

Gaudu and Groupama are very happy to win thew stage.

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Both Gaudu and Roglic celebrated at the finish.

Itzulia Basque Country

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Valverde won the sprint for 3rd at 35 seconds.

Itzulia Basque Country

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Pogacar finished fifth to hold onto third overall.  

Itzulia Basque Country

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Gaudu and Roglic praised each other and celebrated their day of success. 

"I’m incredibly happy to win this stage. I haven’t had a major win for a while it doesn't happen everyday that you finish with Primoz Roglic, he’s such a strong rider and his work was very important for my win," Gaudu said.   

"It was a hard day out there. I was very motivated for it and with the help from my team, we got the cake in the end." 

Sadly there was no cake for Britain's Hugh Carthy (EF), he made the final attack with Gaudu and Roglic but was distanced on the final climb to the finish.  

Itzulia Basque Country

(Image credit: Getty Images)

McNulty finished off the pace and alone.

Itzulia Basque Country

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Roglic rode a  smart race, perhaps knowing that McNulty would suffer on the steep Krabelin climb mid-stage. He also ride mart before that, going with the Astana/Movistar surge on the earlier descent to put UAE under pressure. 

Itzulia Basque Country

(Image credit: Getty Images)

To read our full stage report, see our growing photo gallery ands full results, click below. 

Primoz Roglic wins Itzulia Basque Country (opens in new tab)

BILBAO SPAIN APRIL 05 Podium Primoz Roglic of Slovenia and Team Jumbo Visma Celebration during the 60th ItzuliaVuelta Ciclista Pais Vasco 2021 Stage 1 a 139km individual time trial from Bilbao to Bilbao Mask Covid safety measures Trophy Flowers itzulia ehitzulia ITT on April 05 2021 in Bilbao Spain Photo by David RamosGetty Images

(Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Thanks for joining us for full live coverage. Sadly there is no Paris-Roubaix on Sunday so our live coverage returns next week.  

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