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Vuelta Ciclista al Pais Vasco 2017: Stage 5

Welcome to Cyclingnews' live coverage of the queen stage of the Vuelta al Pais Vasco. 

 

Stage 4 report: Roglic pulls off solo win in Bilbao

Contador presses on after a painful day in the Basque Country

Vuelta al Pais Vasco race hub

 

 

 

Hello there. Four stages in, and the time gaps are minimal at the Vuelta al Pais Vasco, but that won't be the case for much longer. Today's the queen stage and the first instalment in a two-part finale that will be decisive for the overall classification.

 

There are no fewer than six categorised climbs on today's 140km route, three of which are first-category ascents, including the final hike to the finish line above Eibar. Big day in store!

Here's the stage profile. Almost, but not quite a true summit finish, given the twi-kilometre dip to the line. 

 

 

The riders have all signed on and are lined up on the start line in Bilbao ready to get underway. That's right, full live coverage, start to finish, from us today. 

 

It never rains - it pours. Alberto Contador, after a crash, a mechanical, and a puncture on yesterday's stage, has punctured inside the neutralised zone, would you believe. The Spaniard's not having much luck lately. 

 

Alaphilippe does not start

 

Another rider who hasn't had much luck here is Julian Alaphilippe. The Frenchman lost time in a stage 3 crash and looked to be feeling the effects yesterday as he eased up in the latter part of the stage and lost another chunk of time. It seems his knee is bothering him and he has left the race to have a proper medical assessment and make sure he doesn't jeopardise his fitness for the Ardennes Classics later this month. 

 

It's not all about Alaphilippe for Quick-Step, of course, as they have David de la Cruz in the leader's jersey. They defended that jersey very well indeed on yesterday's tricky stage, but doing so again today is another challenge entirely. 

 

 

The flag drops and the race is officially underway. We should see plenty of early attacks here, with no shortage of breakaway applicants on a stage such as this. 

 

Plenty of attacks but nothing sticking so far. 

 

It took a good while for a breakaway to form yesterday, and it seems we might be in for more of the same. Naturally, the powers that be in the peloton have to be extremely wary about who they allow up the road, and the size of the group as well as its composition. 

 

GC riders may want to place a teammate in the break today to give them someone to link up with later one should they go on the attack ahead of the final climb. 

 

Speaking of early attacks, what can we expect from this man?

 

Alberto Contador said at the start of the year that racing with panache, putting on a show, is just as important as winning itself, if not more so - and he was true to his word on the final stage of Paris-Nice last month. Sergio Henao may have won the race, but much more memorable and talked-about was Contador's long-range assault on the leader's jersey on the final day, which came so agonisingly close to paying off. Might we see him take up arms today on one of the earlier climbs?

We now have a sizeable group of riders off the front. We'll get the names together while we see if it's going to stick.

 

Here's the group. There are 16 of them and this appears to be sticking

 

Omar Fraile and Adrien Niyonshuti (Dimension Data), Amael Moinard and Danilo Wyss (BMC), Matej Mohoric and Kristijan Durasek (UAE Team Emirates), Alexey Lutsenko (Astana), Tiago Machado (Katusha-Alpecin), Juan Jose Lobato (LottoNL-Jumbo),  Laurens Ten Dam (Sunweb), Maxime Monfort (Lotto Soudal), Alex Howes (Cannondale-Drapac), Matteo Montaguti (AG2R-La Mondiale), Luis Mas (Caja Rural), Mathias Leturnier and Yoann Bagot (Cofidis).

 

 

We can add Toms Skujins (Cannondale-Drapac) - in the break yesterday - to that list, along with a third DiData rider in Ben King.

 

So, 18 in there and they have 1 minute already. 

Alex Howes wasn't going to miss out today, was he? The American leads the mountains classification and just a glance at the stage profile tells you about the wealth of points dangling out there today. He has his work cut out, though, with Yoann Bagot - second in the classification and just one point behind - also in there. 

 

Welp, we're happy with the composition of #Itzulia breakaway. 18 away. We've got Mr. Polka Dot + yesterday's last m… https://t.co/r60p3Qt9HE

@Ride_Argyle Fri, 7th Apr 2017 12:36:24

1:20 is the gap at the moment as Quick-Step lead the peloton along with Movistar. 

 

The gap is coming down now. 18 riders - that's a lot. Perhaps the peloton ain't best pleased about this after all. 

 

And it's back up. Race radio tells us it's back around the 1:20 mark. As you were. 

 

So, 35 not-so-relaxed kilometres ridden, and that's most of the flat terrain done for the day. We're just a few kilometres from the first climb of the day, and from there it's up and down pretty much all the way to the line. 

 

The Pagatza Elgeta climb is just under 5km long and is classified as a second-category ascent. 

 

Niyonshuti attacks from the break as the climb begins

 

Niyonshuti dropped from the break, sorry. So that leaves us with 17 out front on the climb. 

 

The gap goes out to 1:50 as the leaders near the top of the climb.

 

Montaguti wins the fight to the summit, ahead of polka-dot jersey wearer Howes and Bagot. The Italian therefore picks up 6 important points in the mountains classification, with Howes collecting 4 and Bagot 2.

 

 

 

Montaguti was on 9 at the start of the day, so he's now in contention for that polka-dot jersey. Here's how it now stands provisionally.

 

Alex Howes (Cannondale-Drapac) - 20 points

Yoann Bagot (Cofidis) - 17 points

Matteo Montaguti (AG2R-La Mondiale) - 15 points

 

 

The gap comes down to 40 seconds as the peloton strings out on the descent. 

 

The gap is back at one minute as the breakaway riders approach the second climb of the day. 

 

74km remaining from 139km

Luis Mas takes maximum points at the first intermediate sprint after 65.1km, putting him back in the lead of that classification - taking back over from his teammate Jonathan Lastra. There are two more intermediate sprints to come. 

 

The breakaway begin the first of two ascents of the the first-category Izua. It's just under 6km long with some really stiff gradients. 

#itzulia @Sean_Bieke abandoned the race.

@Lotto_Soudal Fri, 7th Apr 2017 13:35:47

Omar Fraile puts in an attack on the lower slopes of the climb.

 

Fraile has a decent gap. Ten Dam and Skujins are chasing. But the peloton isn't far behind now either. 

Fraile crests the climb in pole position and begins the hairy descent. Ten Dam has dropped Skujins and is now a lone chaser. 

 

60km remaining from 139km

Meanwhile, the rest of the riders from that large breakaway have been reabsorbed into the peloton. 

 

Fraile leads the race by 12 seconds from Ten Dam, who is closing in. Meanwhile the peloton is a further 40 seconds or so in arrears. 

 

Ten Dam makes the junction. So we now have two men at the head of the race. 

 

57km remaining from 139km

25 seconds is the gap for the leading duo as they approach the next climb - the third-category Trabakua.

 

54km remaining from 139km

Fraile and Ten Dam look behind and see the peloton advancing quickly. It's game over for them. All together at the head of the race.

 

Orica-Scott are massed at the head of the peloton. Simon Yates lost a chunk of time on stage 3 and while thoughts of putting himself back into contention for the overall may be fanciful, they'd love to salvage their race with a stage win. 

 

Orica are setting a fierce pace here as the peloton strings out on the wide road. 

 

Lots of riders forced out of the saddle now in this main peloton. The main road is wide and belies what are some leg-sapping gradients. 

 

Alex Howes rolls through and clips off the front in a bid for more mountains points. 

 

Howes takes three points to extend his lead. No sign of Bagot. 

 

47km remaining from 139km

So, 47 kilometres and three climbs remaining. We now have a short descent back to the foot of the Izua climb. 

 

Orica continue their charge as the peloton rolls back into Eibar. 

 

39km remaining from 139km

Simon Spilak is off the back chasing with a teammate. Not a great moment to have a mechanical, with the climb about to being. 

Spilak's in big trouble as another teammate drops back. They're 40 seconds in arrears but such is the pace being set by Orica on the approach, they have a real fight on their hands. Spilak was one of the group of riders 3 seconds down on the overall lead. 

 

38km remaining from 139km

Orica lead us onto the second climb of Izua. It's 6.2km long with an average of 7%. First-category. 

 

Are we going to see an early attack from Simon Yates? Orica surely aren't doing all this for nothing. 

 

36km remaining from 139km

Orica have already lost men due to the work they've been doing. It looks like Jack Haig on the front now, with just a couple of other riders left in front of Yates. 

 

Movistar set up shop behind Orica. Then we see the yellow jersey of race leader David de la Cruz, with one Quick-Step teammate for support. 

 

35km remaining from 139km

One kilometre to the top. No attacks just yet, but Orica's pace-setting is deterring all thoughts of that at the moment. No favourites in difficulty, but the pace will be sapping the legs. 

 

The banks of fans at the roadside thicken towards the top of the climb, and there's raucous support out there for the riders - a great turnout as ever from the Basques. 

 

34km remaining from 139km

Haig, Basque flags being waved in his face, leads over the top of the climb. 

 

Fast, winding, and picturesque descent coming up. 

 

30km remaining from 139km

The kilometres tumble as the riders hit 70km/h and more. Orica still lead but the peloton is one long snaking line. 

 

The road flattens out now but it will soon be kicking up for the penultimate climb of the day - the third-category Urkaregi.

 

23km remaining from 139km

The climb is 5km long with an average gradient of 5.7%.

 

The bunch is still together as the road ramps uphill. Michael Matthews is still in there, but he and many of the others should be knocked out of contention on the steeper gradients of the final climb. 

 

22km remaining from 139km

Mechanical for Kwiatkowski, who's third overall. He gets a quick bike change. 

Kwiatkowski has a couple of teammates who've dropped back to help him back to the bunch, which is still being driven along by Haig. Another Australian youngster, Rob Power, sits behind him, then it's Kreuziger and Yates. 

 

20km remaining from 139km

Kwiatkowski gets back in.

 

Attack. Tosh Van der Sande (Lotto Soudal) comes through and pings off the front of the bunch. 

No panic from Orica, who continue to tap it out. Van der Sande has a small gap but it's not getting any bigger. 

 

19km remaining from 139km

Van der Sande is caught as the riders come over the top of the climb. 

 

17km remaining from 139km

Orica lead down the descent. There's a short section of flat before the final climb ramps up. 

 

Who's going to strike out on the final climb?

 

Send us your thoughts and predictions via Twitter - @cyclingnewsfeed

 

14km remaining from 139km

The riders come onto the lower slopes of the descent, and will soon swing into Eibar once more. It's strung out but no one has been dropped. 

 

Orica are still on the front as the riders hit the flat for this transition ahead of the final climb. 

 

The climb to Arrate is just 4km but it features some stinging gradients well into the double figures. It could be an explosive one. 

 

11km remaining from 139km

Movistar say thanks to Orica and come through to take it up at the head of this main bunch. 

 

10km remaining from 139km

The pace really ramps up on the approach to the start of the climb. 

 

There's a good deal of shuffling here as the favourites look to position themselves near the front - no one wants to have to come from the back on a climb such as this. 

 

8km remaining from 139km

Rory Sutherland drives the pace for Movistar with 8 to go. The climb starts to kick up with 6 to go. 

 

The road is already rising gently though, and riders are starting to lose contact at the back of the group. 

 

7km remaining from 139km

Vasil Kiryienka takes it up for Sky. 

 

This is a real grind at the moment. Quick-Step have two men up there near the front now riding in support of De la Cruz. 

 

6km remaining from 139km

Here we go then. The riders turn off the main road and the steep gradients are about to begin.

 

5km remaining from 139km

Movistar lead it with Orica still prominent. Contador is coming up through the pack now. 

 

5km remaining from 139km

Kreuziger takes it up for Orica as Ulissi and a number of others are dropped. 

 

5km remaining from 139km

The road narrows and the gradients enter the double digits. No attacks so far from the favourites. 

 

A Movistar man leads the way. Simon Yates, now without teammates, is in second wheel, while Valverde and Sergio Henao are up at the front as well. Cannondale's Michael Woods is also well positioned. 

 

4km remaining from 139km

Woods attacks!

 

It's a really tough effort as the Cannondale man eats into the stiff gradients, but he's got a gap here. 

 

Valverde leads the chase of Woods, Contador in the wheel. Henao and Yates are also there. Here's a selection being made. 

 

4km remaining from 139km

There's a single file line of around 10 or 15 behind this leading group of five. 

 

4km remaining from 139km

Valverde goes now! And Yates is dropped. 

Only Woods, Contador, and Henao can follow Valverde. They only have a small gap at the moment though. 

 

4km remaining from 139km

Valverde drives again.

 

David de la Cruz is slugging it out and is just about hanging in there. 

 

4km remaining from 139km

Woods attacks again now.

 

A great ride so far from the Canadian, who's setting his own pace out there. And he has a decent gap now. 

As the dropped riders make their way back up, Louis Meintjes sets off in pursuit of Woods. 

3km remaining from 139km

The roads are still narrow, the turns tight, the gradients brutal. Meintjes is about to catch Woods. 

 

De la Cruz is putting in an admirable defence of his jersey. 

 

Yates kicks now, with Henao, Contador, Valverde, and others in tow. 

 

Valverde goes again now. He's tracked by Henao. Up the road Meintjes reaches the back wheel of Woods - almost. 

 

Bardet his the front of this chase group now. 

 

De la Cruz is around 30 seconds down now, the jersey slipping off his shoulders. 

 

3km remaining from 139km

Woods makes his way through the fans. Meintjes is behind him. The chasing group left by Bardet is 10 seconds back. 

 

Meintjes comes through to take a turn. 

 

Valverde digs again now. And they're going to catch the leading duo.

 

2km remaining from 139km

The climb is about to end. The road flattens out and now dips down to the line. 

 

Meintjes, Woods, Uran, Contador, Valverde, Bardet, and BMC rider all in the front group of 7. 

 

Henao and Izaguirre are chasing behind. 

 

1km remaining from 139km

Contador leads the front group. Vital GC seconds are at stake. 

 

Bardet attacks! Valverde heads off in pursuit. 

 

1km remaining from 139km

Flamme rouge. It's Samuel Sanchez for BMC - the Spaniard loves this climb!

 

Sanchez crashes! Madness!

 

Valverde comes through to lead out the sprint. 

 

Valverde takes it!

 

Bardet was second there.

 

De la Cruz loses about 20 seconds - and with it the race lead. 

 

Henao and Izaguirre both lost several seconds there. Contador himself was a few seconds back, too, as Valverde, Uran, Bardet, and Woods came home in a group of four. 

 

That's Valverde's EIGHTH win of the season.

 

Cycling needs more descending finales. Great fun. #itzulia

@friebos Fri, 7th Apr 2017 15:30:34

Samuel Sanchez crossed the line with blood dripping from his jersey. It's unclear from the replays what exactly caused that crash. 

 

One rider conspicuous by his absence from the cameras on that final climb was Primoz Roglic. The LottoNL man would have been a good bet for the overall had he managed to limit his losses today, but it seems that he has lost a chunk of time. 

 

Top 10 on the stage

 

1 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar Team 3:26:32
2 Romain Bardet (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
3 Rigoberto Uran (Col) Cannondale-Drapac
4 Michael Woods (Can) Cannondale-Drapac
5 Louis Meintjes (RSA) UAE Team Emirates
6 Alberto Contador (Spa) Trek-Segafredo 0:00:03
7 Jon Izaguirre (Spa) Bahrain-Merida 0:00:15
8 Sergio Henao (Col) Team Sky
9 Simon Yates (GBr) Orica-Scott
10 David De La Cruz (Spa) Quick-Step Floors 0:00:22

 

General classification after stage 5



1 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar Team 20:05:18
2 Romain Bardet (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale 0:00:00
3 Rigoberto Uran (Col) Cannondale-Drapac 0:00:00
4 Michael Woods (Can) Cannondale-Drapac 0:00:00
5 Louis Meintjes (RSA) UAE Team Emirates 0:00:00
6 Alberto Contador (Spa) Trek-Segafredo 0:00:03
7 Jon Izaguirre (Spa) Bahrain-Merida 0:00:15
8 Sergio Henao (Col) Team Sky 0:00:15
9 David De La Cruz (Spa) Quick-Step Floors 0:00:19
10 Patrick Konrad (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe 0:00:22

 

The yellow jersey transfers over to Valverde

 

Valverde is now just a time trial away from his third stage race victory of the season. The Spaniard is strong in the short time trials but this one is a 27.7km effort with a climb at the start, so we're in for a tense final day tomorrow, with the GC so tight. Rigoberto Uran has put in some quality TT's over the years, while Ion Izaguirre has to be considered a big threat at 15 seconds. 

Here's our report page:

 

Valverde wins queen stage of Vuelta al Pais Vasco

 

That's it from us for today. Thanks for joining us, and make sure you do so again tomorrow for live coverage of the final time trial, which will decide this race!

 

 

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