Itzulia Basque Country stage 3: Tadej Pogačar bests Primož Roglič in brutal uphill finish


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Tadej Pogačar (UAE-Team Emirates) won stage 3 of the 2021 Itzulia Basque Country, once again showing his climbing prowess to be among the best in the business.

“In the morning we had gone by car to see the finish and the team manager Matxin had explained the route to me well, so I was aware of the toughness of the climb and I knew that it would be crucial to be in first position on the final crest to launch well into the final meters downhill towards the finish,” said Pogacar.

The young Slovenian bested his compatriot and race leader Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) by less than a bike length, after trading attack after attack in the final three kilometers.

American Brandon McNulty, a teammate of Pogačar, spent another day in third place overall after a strong stage finish.

“There are still three days of racing, all quite hard,” added Pogacar. “I’m pretty optimistic because the condition is good and the team is racing very well together.”

How it happened

While seven men had escaped early, the GC favorites appeared to be unconcerned with the nearly three-minute advantage as the final 20km was climb-heavy, with technical descents which would prevent the front group from staying away until the finish banner.

The Ineos Grenadiers squad sat back, with favorites Richard Carapaz — who took a minor tumble yesterday — and Adam Yates saving their legs for the final 3km.

Oier Lazkano (Caja Rural), showed interest in the KOM competition jersey and went off the front of the break at 27km to go.

The remaining six from the brake pressed onward but ceded tens of seconds with each kilometer ridden in the final hour of racing.

As the break was absorbed one by one on the penultimate climb, Jumbo-Visma delivered Roglič to the front but could do no more to protect him.

Seeing this move, Ineos Grenadiers responded, bringing Carapaz and Yates up behind the Slovenian, with Team BikeExchange advancing Esteban Chaves’ position in the field.

EF Education-Nippo massed around Sergio Higuita, bringing yet another climber to the front of the mix. This move at 12km to go reeled in the sole survivor of the break, Lazkano.

On the following very fast descent, Astana took over the lead with Jakob Fuglsang, Omar Fraile, and Alexey Lutsenko ripping down the narrow and slippery roads with only Mikel Landa (Bahrain-Victorious) seeming to be interested in staying with the Kazakh team on the front.

On the flat roads in a small town at the bottom of the final descent of the stage, the peloton had to navigate several turns before they were on to the final climb. Israel Start-Up Nation’s favored climber Michael Woods and Wilco Kelderman (Bora-Hansgrohe) went down. And while Woods looked to quickly resume the chase, Kelderman struggled roadside.

Into the final 4km, Higuita was the first to attack, bringing along Carapaz, Pogačar, and Roglič. Carapaz, seemingly recovered from the previous day’s mishap tried to escape around Higuita, but was marked by the Slovenian duo on the first stretch of 20 percent grade in the final 2.5km.

Roglič was first to counter with Pogačar on his wheel. Yates bridged up to the quartet, bringing Hugh Carthy (EF Education-Nippo) and Landa.

As soon as Yates made contact and appeared to try to settle in, Pogačar attacked with only Roglič able to respond to the explosive move.

With less than 1,500m to go, the two grand tour winners again tried to separate themselves again from the rest of the bunch.

Roglič took over the front with a small surge, but the younger Pogačar marked him, but again the others made contact.

David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ) who had chased with Yates launched just inside of the red kite, but this move was quickly brought back.

Roglič again went away, but this time only Pogačar had the legs to respond. The two immediately put daylight behind them going into the final half kilometer.

“I am happy that I am doing well and that I am still in the lead,” commented Roglič following the back-and-forth slugfest with Pogačar in the stage’s closing kilometer.

With the finish right after a left bend in the route, Pogačar surged ahead and while Roglič responded, the 2020 Tour de France winner was able to escape for the win.

Itzulia Basque Country Stage 4 profile. Photo: PCS

What’s to come

If any sprinter can survive two cat 3 climbs in the first half of the stage, followed by a cat 2 climb, and a cat 1 climb that leads to a descent and flat run-in to Hondarribia, they could be favored for a win. But they will also have to overcome the numerous vertical punches between the categorized climbs, too.

Pogačar’s teammate McNulty slipped from the youth category leader on the time bonus awarded to his team captain for today’s stage win, however, the American is still in third. He will have to have his climbing legs ready for stage 4. Yates trails McNulty by just nine seconds, and will also be looking to up his position through another climb-heavy stage.

Itzulia Basque Country Stage 3 Results





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