Itzulia Basque Country
Stage 1) Zumarraga - Zumarraga
Vuelta al Pais Vasco: Strong start for Deceuninck – Quick-Step
The 59th edition of the Vuelta al Pais Vasco kicked off with an individual time trial, which had everything: a ridiculously steep climb, a technical descent and rain which only added to the difficulty of the stage. Antigua, which featured on the course for the third time in the last eight years, is a short hill (2.3 kilometers), but boasts very narrow roads and an insane maximum gradient of 30% just before the top, from where the riders plunged onto the downhill taking them to Zumarraga.
Enric Mas, the second Deceuninck – Quick-Step rider to leave the start house, defied the wet roads and put in a staggering display over the 11.2 kilometers of the stage, going into the hot seat with a solid time of 17:34. Best young rider of the previous edition, when he nabbed his maiden pro win, Enric enjoyed a lengthy stint at the top of the provisional standings until the final hour of racing, when he was bumped from the podium by several riders who improved his time for a matter of seconds.
World Individual Classification Leader Julian Alaphilippe, who made his first appearance since conquering Milano-Sanremo, was the last rider of the team to start the testing individual time trial and showed a good form on the drier roads of the Basque Country, stopping the clock in 17:22 and slotting into fourth, a result auguring well for the rest of the week, which contains a total of 22 classified climbs and six dirt road sectors that will spice up the fight for the general classification.
Photo credit: ©Gonzalo Moreno Arroyo/ Getty Images