One of the numerous races to be cancelled last year, the Vuelta al Pais Vasco returns this spring with its 60th edition, one which will start with a 13.9km individual time trial in Bilbao featuring some brutal 19% gradients in the last kilometer, enough to set the pecking order ahead of the hilly stage to Sestao. Ermualde, just outside Laudio, promises plenty of fireworks on Wednesday, when the yellow jersey contenders will have another big opportunity to gain time on the slopes of this short but excruciating climb (3.1km, 11.1%).
Packing four classified climbs, stage 4 to Hondarribia will be the longest of the race and should be an excellent opportunity for the breakaway specialists to shine before a visit to Ondarroa, where the fast men should hit the spotlight. The last stage promises to deliver full gas racing right from the off, as the riders will take in six classified ascents before the finish on the mythical Arrate (6.4km, 6.4%), which will include a 14.9% stretch not far from the top.
UCI World Team Classification leader Deceuninck – Quick-Step will travel to the Basque Country with a strong squad consisting of Mattia Cattaneo, National ITT Champions Josef Cerny and Ian Garrison, Mikkel Honoré – who at last week’s Settimana Internazionale Coppi e Bartali sailed to his first pro win – James Knox, Pieter Serry and Mauri Vansevenant.
“Pais Vasco is one of the toughest races of the year, with steep and tough climbs that make it very hard to control. The weather is another factor which can play a big role, with the rain and wind usually having the potential to be decisive in the outcome, and it doesn’t look like this year it will be any different. Our team is a mixture of youth and experience, the riders are all motivated and will go to the start having shown a strong form in their previous races, so we’re confident we can get some nice results next week”, explained Deceuninck – Quick-Step sports director Geert Van Bondt.