Hello there and welcome along to the finale of the 2022 Itzulia Basque Country!
It's a mouthwatering final stage stage today and we're already well underway, so we'll get straight to it...
We join the action with 55km to go. We have a three-man breakaway - Gallopin, Formolo, Oliveira - with a lead of 2:20 over the reduced peloton. Plenty has gone on and plenty more to come, but that's the basics of how it stands.
Today's stage packs seven categorised climbs - three of them cat-1 - into 135 kilometres. It's a brutal and explosive one and it's just starting to heat up.
What's happened so far?
So far, we've seen multiple breakaway groups form on the opening cat-3 climb. Our current break of Gallopin, Formolo, and Oliveira were part of the opening move. In fact, Oliveira bridged across to it late on. Also in there initially were Cristian Rodriguez (TotalEnergies) and Xabier Azparren (Euskaltel-Euskadi) but they've since fallen away.
We had a seven-man chase group form behind but they never made contact and, despite some lasting longer than others as the group exploded, they're all now back in the peloton. For the record, those riders were: Lennard Kämna (Bora-Hansgrohe), Tsgabu Grmay (BikeExchange), Romain Combaud (Team DSM), Hugo Houle (Israel-Premier Tech), Angel Madrazo (Burgos-BH), Kenny Elissonde (Trek-Segafredo), Igor Arrieta (Kern Pharma).
As for the GC contenders, we've seen no super long-range fireworks. However, after race leader Remco Evenepoel's QuickStep teammates did the early controlling of the breakaway, Ineos Grenadiers soon came to the fore and having been setting the tempo for much of the day. They have Dani Martinez second overall just two seconds down.
Feed zone time. We've just come off the descent of the Gorla climb (well, the riders have, I haven't), and we've got a brief respite (plus a somewhat irrelevant intermediate sprint) before the next climb, which is where things should start to light up.
47km to go
The breakaway trio roll through the sprint. They have 2:30 in hand again.
The next climb is the Krabelin and is arguably the hardest of the day. It's 4.1km at an average gradient of 10.5 per cent. Brutally steep.
From there, it's a descent, then the gentler Urkaregi climb before another drop down and a drag up before the final climb of Usartza - another brute. It tops out a couple of kilometres from the line in Arrate in a finale familiar from last year.
A reminder of the overall standings before things light up
1 Remco Evenepoel (Bel) Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl Team 18:12:29
2 Daniel Martinez Poveda (Col) Ineos Grenadiers 0:00:02
3 Pello Bilbao Lopez De Armentia (Spa) Bahrain Victorious 0:00:20
4 Ion Izagirre Insausti (Spa) Cofidis 0:00:21
5 Aleksandr Vlasov (Rus) Bora-Hansgrohe 0:00:22
6 Jonas Vingegaard (Den) Jumbo-Visma 0:00:29
7 Enric Mas Nicolau (Spa) Movistar Team 0:00:37
8 Primoz Roglic (Slo) Jumbo-Visma 0:01:05
9 Adam Yates (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers 0:01:15
10 Marc Soler (Spa) UAE Team Emirates 0:01:30
The breakaway hit the Krabelin climb.
Geraint Thomas and Omar Fraile are the two Ineos riders who've been doing all the work today. Tao Geoghegan Hart looks poised to take over soon.
Gallopin is dropped from the break as the climb bites.
Fraile pulls aside, done for the day. Thomas picks it up.
And that's the last turn from Thomas. He pulls off now. Geoghegan Hart springs out the saddle and takes it up.
Formolo spins an acceleration and Oliveira starts to fall away now.
Ineos' second line have now moved up. Carlos Rodriguez and Ben Tulett have moved up to join Martinez on the wheel of Geoghegan Hart.
We're on the narrow super steep stuff now and the Slovenian is going for it from range! He lost the leader's jersey yesterday and slipped well down but he's giving it a go here.
Martinez follows it, Mas and Vlasov respond. Big moment this.
Evenepoel is not across and is on the front of the shattered group behind. He doesn't have any teammates left here.
Roglic is 8th overall at 1:05. He has teammate Vingegaard 6th at 29 seconds so Jumbo are playing their cards here.
Juanpe Lopez attacks from the Evenepoel group. Vingegaard goes with it...
Izaguirre goes across now, too. Evenepoel not panicking. He's not closing the gap but he's not losing much ground here.
Evenepoel is dropping the rest as he looks to limit the damage.
Roglic continues to drive this on as they haul themselves up these savage ramps. They have to go way wide on a hairpin just to make the gradient bearable.
Into the last kilometre of the climb and Evenepoel makes contact!
The race leader drags Soler across in the process. Felix Gall and Rigoberto Uran are also there now.
Enric Mas attacks!
The Spaniard gets a gap. Izaguirre sets the pace behind.
Vingegaard accelerates behind!
Evenepoel loses contact again as the group splinters once more.
39km to go
Formolo reaches the top of the Krabelin climb. He leads alone by 1:20
Vingegaard is across to Mas and Martinez is there with him, as are Izaguirre, Vlasov, and Soler.
Vingegaard accelerates again at the top and now Vlasov and Soler lose contact.
Evenepoel crests the climb alone some 15 seconds down. He has lots of class riders behind him, but he has lost contact with the best riders a couple of times on that climb.
Vlasov and Soler get back in as a plateau precedes the descent.
Roglic is now in a group with Pello Bilbao. They're just behind Evenepoel.
So, we have a lone leader in Formolo, a breakaway chaser in Oliveira, then a first select GC group of Vingegaard, Mas, Martinez, Vlasov, Soler, Izaguirre. Then we have Evenepoel chasing alone, then a group with Bilbao, Roglic, Uran, Gall, Woods, Mader, Lopez.
Oliveira has sat up and waited for Mas and has now switched duties to helping drive this selection forward.
35km to go
Formolo swoops downhill with a lead of 40 seconds.
Bilbao has attacked on the descent and has made it across to the first GC group.
Evenepoel has been completely overtaken by Bilbao there. The race leader has had to settle back into the group that Bilbao was in, the one with Roglic, Gall, Lopez, and Mader. He won't find much help there.
Bilbao has not only got himself back in but has shot straight to the front and has split the group as he tears downhill.
Crash! Enric Mas is down.
Mas couldn't follow Bilbao's sharp lines. He managed to scrub off some speed before going down but fell before clattering into a roadside barrier.
Oliveira also came down behind his leader. Nightmare for Movistar!
That crash has split the group. Martinez and Soler have fallen away.
27.5km to go
Up front are Bilbao, Izaguirre, Vingegaard and Vlasov.
Those four catch Formolo. That's the front of the race.
Formolo can't see his teamamte, Soler. He'll sit on the back here but will turn to domestique duties now and figure out when to link up with Soler.
Martinez is back in the Evenepoel group. A reprise for the race leader, who will now find some assistance.
The new situation
Vingegaard, Vlasov, Izaguirre, Bilbao, Formolo
Chasers - at 35 seconds
Evenepoel, Martinez, Soler, Roglic, Mader, Gall, Lopez
Crashed - Mas
25km to go
We're onto the Ukaregi climb now. It's 5km at 4.8 per cent.
Evenepoel has become frustrated in the chase. Mader reminds him that his teammate Bilbao is up the road and in the virtual lead of the race.
Roglic has Vingegaard up the road and doesn't need to work, while Soler is down in 10th and doesn't have the same pressure. Lopez and Gall, meanwhile, aren't in the GC picture and have no real responsibility to chase.
It's down to Evenepoel and Martinez - first and second on GC - to form an alliance.
This is one of the gentler climbs and the front four (it's a five but Formolo is not contributing) have an advantage over the pair pulling behind as they all look willing to work together.
Still, Evenepoel and Martinez are limiting the damage to 25 seconds here.
The next descent will be interesting, and then the subsequent bit of false flat, but the race will come down to legs on the brutal final climb. Either way, this is already a thrilling final stage.
20 seconds is the gap as they hit the upper reaches of this climb.
22km to go
Top of the Urkaregi climb. Izaguirre leads the front group over the top.
Evenepoel leads the chase group over the top at 20 seconds.
The gap falls to 15 seconds and now Bilbao looks to do his thing again as the descent steepens. Evenepoel leads the chase downhill.
There are plenty of pedalling sections on this descent and Evenepoel is giving his all. Martinez is tucked in the wheel and just following now. The gap comes down to 10 seconds.
Six seconds! Evenepoel is dropping his group as he tears downhill.
Perhaps a timing problem, as the gap springs back out to 14 seconds...
15km to go
The leaders drop into town and head out along the river. That's the descent done and it's now false flat towards the final climb.
Evenepoel and Martinez have dropped the rest of their group. That was Evenepoel's doing, but Martinez managed to hang on and avoid getting dropped and being left out in the wind like the rest of them in that fragmented group.
They're going to bridge across here.
The leaders look around and Evenepoel finishes the job. He and Martinez are back in.
But now Izaguirre attacks! And Martinez goes with it.... Evenepoel is talking to Vingegaard!
Martinez can't believe his luck! He's away here and no one is responding...
Formolo went with that Izaguirre move as well so it's three out front with a gap now. Evenepoel is right back in chase mode.
Vlasov attacks from that group now.
Evenepoel did such a good job to get back in but he relaxed, sat up, started arguing with Vingegaard, and took his eye off the ball at a crucial moment.
Evenepoel is desperately chasing alone again as Bilbao and Soler also jump away from him and across towards the lead group.
Evenepoel gets back in and now does an attack himself! A better form of defense for sure
11.5km to go
Vlasov is straight on it and now Martinez drags his way across. Gripping stuff, this.
Intermediate sprint with bonus seconds coming up ahead of our brutal final climb.
The race calms down briefly. We have in the front group: Evenepoel, Martinez, Bilbao, Izaguirre, Vingegaard, Vlasov, Soler, Formolo.
A brief dig from Formolo. He was in the day's breakaway.
Here's the intermediate sprint, and it's Evenepoel who rips out of the saddle in pole position...
9km to go
Evenepoel holds off Martinez to take three bonus seconds, Martinez takes two, and Bilbao grabs the remaining one.
That means Evenepoel increases his lead over Martinez to three seconds.
Here we go! The road kicks uphill ahead of the final climb proper. Formolo attacks.
Mader takes it up behind for his teammate Bilbao.
This climb of Usartza is 4.5km at 8.8%. It tops out a couple of kilometres from the line in Arrate.
Formolo crests the first steep section which is not really part of the official climb. Onto a flatter main road before the real deal.
6.5km to go
And now Formolo hits the official climb. He has around 10 seconds in hand. He was in the day's break and the odds are stacked against him.
But they're going slow behind!
No urgency whatsoever here. No one wants to take it up...
The gap to Formolo balloons out to 40 seconds! They could be handing him the stage win here.
The pace is so slow that Juanpe Lopez joins from behind. And he pings straight out of the front. He's not a GC threat and that's a good move.
Izaguirre attacks! The detente is over but Formolo is a minute up the road
Mader drags it back as Izaguirre continues to take it up.
Gall is now far behind this group and there's Roglic several seconds further back.
Izaguirre eases clear now and catches Lopez. Mader digging in to drag it back.
Mader is done. Bilbao is alone
5km to go
The race leader can't follow and this looks terminal. He's losing the race here.
Martinez, Vlasov, Bilbao can all follow Izaguirre.
Lopez and Soler are also there as Evenepoel fights behind.
Vlasov accelerates now and Lopez is dropped from that group.
Martinez responds instantly and Vingegaard soon knocks it off. Martinez looks good for the overall title now.
Vlasov drives it on now and they come back to 20 seconds on Formolo 2.3km from the top!
Bilbao is dropped now
Vingegaard and Soler are dropped next!
Huge turn this from Vlasov. Vingegaard scrambles back with Soler just dangling.
4.3km to go
Formolo is fading up front! He has just 11 seconds now. Still 2km from the summit.
Martinez takes it up now. He'll look to control this and seal the title. This group is 30 seconds up on Evenepoel.
Izaguirre is down after a touch of wheels. Ona. double digit climb. Wow.
Vingegaard moved across and Izaguirre's front wheel is clipped and he goes down. Terrible luck.
Vlasov lights it up again as Formolo is caught and dropped!
1km to the top and it's Vlasov leading with Martinez, Soler, and Vingegaard in the wheel.
Izaguirre is desperately chasing behind as Bilbao falls away once more.
Vlasov digs in again. He was just a second down on Izaguirre at the start of the day.
Vlasov is riding his way into second overall.
Izaguirre is back! What an effort that was. An adrenaline-fuelled surge back through the fans.
Final 250m of the climb and Martinez takes it up
2.2km to go
Martinez, Vlasov, Vingegaard, Soler, Izaguirre - that's the front five at the top of the climb with 2.2km to the finish line.
Martinez has 20 seconds in hand over the riders in this group so he just has to stay upright on this dip to the line. As for the stage win, it's there for a late attack, otherwise it's a dash for the line with Izaguirre, Vingegaard and Martinez himself the fastest finishers.
Evenepoel is still chasing alone at 35 seconds. Another disappointing final day of a stage race for him.
Martinez kicks again on a false flat. Bilbao is desperately chasing behind but he's slipping off the podium.
Final kilometre! Martinez on the front
He gets a gap but Izaguirre is on it
Soler sweeps into the final straight.
Izaguirre opens it up, Vlasov on the wheel.
Izaguirre wins it! Vlasov second.
What a win for Izaguirre after that crash!
Izaguirre wins the stage, Martinez the overall. Results on the way.
Mas is at the finish with his face bloodied and muddied.
|Pos.||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Ion Izagirre Insausti (Spa) Cofidis||3:47:07|
|2||Aleksandr Vlasov (Rus) Bora-Hansgrohe|
|3||Marc Soler (Spa) UAE Team Emirates|
|4||Daniel Martinez Poveda (Col) Ineos Grenadiers|
|5||Jonas Vingegaard (Den) Jumbo-Visma||0:00:03|
|6||Pello Bilbao Lopez De Armentia (Spa) Bahrain Victorious||0:00:13|
|7||Remco Evenepoel (Bel) Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl Team||0:00:24|
|8||Juan Pedro Lopez Perez (Spa) Trek-Segafredo||0:00:52|
|9||Davide Formolo (Ita) UAE Team Emirates||0:01:29|
|10||Felix Gall (Aut) AG2R Citroen Team||0:01:41|
|Pos.||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Daniel Martinez Poveda (Col) Ineos Grenadiers||21:59:36|
|2||Ion Izagirre Insausti (Spa) Cofidis||0:00:11|
|3||Aleksandr Vlasov (Rus) Bora-Hansgrohe||0:00:16|
|4||Remco Evenepoel (Bel) Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl Team||0:00:21|
|5||Pello Bilbao Lopez De Armentia (Spa) Bahrain Victorious||0:00:32|
|6||Jonas Vingegaard (Den) Jumbo-Visma|
|7||Marc Soler (Spa) UAE Team Emirates||0:01:26|
|8||Primoz Roglic (Slo) Jumbo-Visma||0:03:18|
We're on the move. The riders roll out of Maastricht. It's just a short neutral of less than 2km so the race proper will be waved underway shortly.
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