Itzulia Basque Country
Stage 3) Amurrio - Ermualde (Laudio)
Spain Wednesday 07 April 2021 167.7 km
Deceuninck – Quick-Step animates Pais Vasco stage 3
Vuelta al Pais Vasco reached the mid-point of this edition, but the hard climbs continued to come thick and fast and sap into the riders’ legs, who had to face the hardest day so far, a 154.8km stage from Amurrio to Ermualde culminating with a short climb averaging out at a lung-bursting 11%.
Mikkel Honoré and six other riders attacked once the peloton crested the Altube – the first ranked climb of the day – building a healthy lead that made them hopeful they could hold off the chasers and go on and fight for the victory, but an injection of pace in the bunch erased more than half of the deficit at the start of the penultimate climb, Malkuartu. With the gap coming down rapidly, Mikkel threw in one last effort and dropped his companions but despite leaving it all out there, he was caught by the charging peloton two kilometers from the top.
Nobody risked on the descent, but as soon as the road began to go up again, attacks began coming and Mauri Vansevenant was among those trying to get away. The yellow jersey favourites reacted swiftly, but this didn’t deter the ambitions of the Belgian, who remained active and went again, opening a small gap. The steepest gradients appeared ahead of the flamme rouge and that’s where Mauri was caught and distanced, but the 21-year-old continued to climb solidly, together with teammate James Knox, who in the meantime had managed to bridge across.
The two Deceuninck – Quick-Step youngsters combined well and reduced the gap to the front duo, from where Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) took the win, coming home just 16 seconds behind them. Their strong display on the Ermualde was rewarded at the end of the day, both gaining several places in the general classification of the Vuelta al Pais Vasco, where Mauri is now tenth, which makes him the best Belgian rider at the week-long stage race, and James sits in 16th position.
Photo credit: ©David Ramos / Getty Images