2022 Itzulia Basque Country Stage 4 Preview

Gasteiz > Zamudio 185km

Another day with brutal gradients! With 2729m of climbing, this stage is easier than today, but it could still be selective.

Weather

A nice day with temperatures getting above 20 degrees.

Key Points

This stage is all about the last two climbs, the first of which is 1.9km at 11.1%. 

The final climb of the day is officially 6.3km at 5.9%, but that hides the horror contained in the opening 2km where the gradient averages almost 11%. From the crest there is just under 20km to go.

Picture

This is the final 300m, you can see it’s got a nasty kick up to the finishing line, much harder than the first two stages.

Tactics

Does the break have a chance? Of course, it does. Today we saw Ineos keen on setting the pace, but there’s no guarantee they do that again in this stage. Jumbo-Visma aren’t going to be overly keen on wasting energy chasing down a move when Roglič already has a stage win, and we have a huge stage to come on Saturday. Do QuickStep want to ride for another Alaphilippe sprint? They didn’t start with a full complement of riders, and with two high on GC, they don’t have the numbers to ride all day. This will give the breakaway riders the sniff of a chance, but the flat start isn’t great news for them. 

It’s not the hardest looking stage, but the final two climbs are very difficult. We saw today that we have several riders who are well matched, it’s going to be hard to make big differences in this stage. Today we witnessed Ineos, QuickStep and Jumbo-Visma all riding for the same outcome, instead of grouping together and putting pressure on individual riders. I get the feeling something similar could happen in this stage, they’ll realise this isn’t the stage where big differences can be made.

Contenders

Julian Alaphilippe – looked like he was going to claim his second stage today, but he just faded in the final metres. To be fair, he did spend almost all the final 10km stuck at the back of the pack, not looking at his best. This stage is another opportunity for him, he should love the finish. If he has Remco to lead him out, he’ll have another great chance of winning his second stage.

Primož Roglič – he tried to jump on Alaphilippe’s wheel just before the final corner, but he was chopped (fairly) by Bilbao, and his stage hopes were over. His tactics on the climbs were interesting, his lack of presence at the front of the group was noticeable. There are a couple of ways of looking at this, either he was in a little bit of trouble, or he was trying to force others into covering moves. If the stage ends in a sprint, he’ll fancy his chances of challenging for the win, especially as it ends with a 7% slope.

Pello Bilbao – took a brilliant win today, that one would have been special on home roads. Given the speed of his sprint, this is another chance for him. His DS did say that he was in great form, but after his performance on the final climb in GP Miguel Indurain I had mistakenly written him off. Today he didn’t have any teammates to help in the closing stages, he’ll be hopeful that he’ll get some help in this stage.

Remco Evenepoel – needs to attack in the closing kilometres, but he’ll likely ride for another Alaphilippe sprint.

Alessandro Covi – breakaway hopeful number 1. 

Mauri Vansevenant – breakaway hopeful number 2.

Victor Lafay – breakaway hopeful number 3.

Lennard Kämna – breakaway hopeful number 4.

James Shaw – breakaway hopeful number 5.

Prediction Time

This one is in the balance; it all depends on the strength of the break. Today was super hard, with lots of tired legs and some already worried about Saturday, there is a chance for the break to go all the way, especially if it contains a QuickStep rider. I’ll take a win for Mauri Vansevenant.

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