After a failed launch of the first Itzulia Women's stage race in 2021, the new Women's WorldTour three-day race takes centre stage this year from May 13-15. A total of 22 teams, including 12 of the teams on the top tier, will line up for the Basque race.
The race route travels a total of 363.6km and passes through all three territories of Euskadi - Alava, Bizkaia and Gipuzkoa. There are 13 classified mountain climbs and six intermediate sprints scattered across the stages, with a familiar look on the third and final day as it will finish along the same route that organisers used for the Clásica San Sebastián.
The race opens with a 105.9km stage from Vitoria-Gasteiz to Labastida. The first categorised climb, category 3 Zaldiaran, strikes immediately with the crest of the climb coming just 5.4km from the start. The first intermediate sprint at Bodegas Soaguen is on a slight uphill at kilometre 44.5, and the road goes upward from there to a pair of obstacles, the second-category Mirador de Rivas (5.5km at 5.5 per cent) followed immediately by the third-category Herrar (6.8km at 5.3 per cent).
The main climbing is done and after an intermediate sprint in Laguardia, the final 25km roll up and down to the finish line.
“This stage includes a demanding start and a Cat. 3 mountain pass, where a breakaway could form. The route follows good roads to Labastida at approx. km 45, but thereafter commences a more demanding section, with two consecutive mountain passes,” noted Roberto Laiseka, race technical director.
Stage 2 rolls for 117.9km from, and back to, Mallabia. It includes a full day of Biscayan inland terrain with continuous uphill and downhill sections, including six categorised climbs, five of them category 3.
Like the opening stage, the second day begins straight away with a categorised ascent, this time a category 3 ascent of Areitio. Less than 18km later the peloton faces a double category-three challenge of Montecalvo (2.9km at 7.3 per cent) and Bizaiko Begiratokia (2km at 4.3 per cent). A long descent of almost 20km leads to the next categorised pairing - Milloi (3.5km at 4 per cent) and Trabakua (3.3km at 7.1 per cent).
The first of two intermediate sprints is placed on an uncategorised climb, 38km from the finish. That sets up the Karabieta, the longest and highest of the ascents on the menu, this one reaching 565 metres in elevation after a long 6.7km climb. A fast descent leads straight to the final sprint in Eibar, then a slightly uphill path for six kilometres to the finish back in Mallabia.
“It will be a difficult stage for the leaders of the different teams to take control of the race as there are no demanding climbs to break the peloton. The stage will end with a slightly uphill finish,” Laiseka commented.
The third and final stage for Itzulia Women 2022 is the longest of the race at 139.8km and has four categorised climbs. It follows the same route as the last two editions of the Donostiako Klasikoa Women’s race, the start and finish in Donastia-San Sebastián.
The opening 17km are relatively flat to Orio, and then the peloton will hit a relatively-mild 8.9km climb of Aia. The road then drops back down to Orio for 44 rolling kilometres before encountering the Jaizkibel pass, 7.9km at 5.6 per cent gradient. A pair of intermediate sprints bookend the cat 3 Gurutze (2.7km at 5.2 per cent) and the peloton is set up for a final opportunity for attacks.
The final categorised climb for the race is the Murgil-Tontorra, at only 21.km in length. But this ‘wall’ has a gradient of 10 per cent, and higher in sections, with just 8km all downhill to the finish line.
“This stage follows the same route as the last 2 years, the same route as the Donostiako Klasikoa Women’s race. This is the longest stage of Itzulia Women 2022, where the Jaizkibel pass will define the tactics of each of the teams wishing to harm the virtual leader of the race, and the Murgil “wall” will be the ultimate judge of the stage and possibly of the final winner of the Itzulia Women 2022," said Laiseka.
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