Saturday April 10 — Ondarroa to Arrate (Eibar), 111.9km
Primoz Roglic bounced back in emphatic style to seal the overall victory at Itzulia Basque Country after David Gaudu won Saturday's final stage.
Much like the profile of the 112-kilometre stage from Ondarroa to Eibar, it was a rollercoaster of a final day of racing which saw overnight leader Brandon McNulty dropped around 45km from the line, leaving the UAE Team Emirates rider isolated while Jumbo-Visma team-mates Roglic and Jonas Vingegaard combined to turn over the young American.
As McNulty struggled on the steep slopes of the Krabelin climb Tour de France champion Tadej Pogacar, who started the day fifth on general classification, appeared unable to help his team-mate before pushing on in pursuit of his own ambitions of a podium spot. As McNulty laboured, Roglic formed a four-man alliance with Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ), Hugh Carthy (EF Education-Nippo) and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) while Pogacar bridged over to a group containing Vingegaard.
Vingegaard, the young Dane who is becoming an increasingly important cog in the Jumbo-Visma wheel, subsequently marked each every move Pogacar made. With little if any assistance, Pogacar did much of the heavy lifting but was unable to close the gap while Slovenian compatriot Roglic inched his way towards certain victory as each kilometre clicked by.
Valverde was the first to crack in the lead group following an injection in pace on a steep incline from an imperious looking Roglic, the type on which a younger more sprightly version of the Movistar rider once excelled. The next to blow was Carthy, the rangy Lancastrian, leaving Roglic and Gaudu set fair for the final duel of the day. In the end, however, the Slovenian fist-bumped Gaudu ahead of the short final descent to the line, happy for the Frenchman to take the final stage, safe in the knowledge he had sealed the overall, mountains and points jerseys while Vingegaard completed the set with the young rider's classification.
Stage five: Deceuninck-Quick Step duo escape to victory
Friday April 9 — Hondarribia to Ondarroa, 160.2km
Mikkel Honore led home what he described as a 'beautiful' Deceuninck-Quick Step one-two in the penultimate stage of Itzulia Basque Country on Friday while Brandon McNulty kept hold of leader's yellow jersey.
Having got into the day's six-man breakaway Honore and Cerny, along with Julien Bernard (Trek-Segafredo), took the lead in the final few kilometres before dropping the Frenchman and riding to the line side-by-side. It was the biggest win of the 24-year-old Dane's career and his second of the year after taking a stage at last month's Settimana Internazionale Coppi e Bartali, while the runners-up spot represented the best result for Cerny since the 27-year-old Czech joined Deceuninck-Quick Step from the now defunct CCC team towards the end of last year.
“It was our goal to be in the breakaway and once we got there, we worked very hard to remain as much as possible at the front,” Honore said in a statement. “With our gap standing at one minute on the climb, it looked like a hard task, but we gave everything there and continued pushing.
“In the closing kilometres, I jumped on the short hill and waited for Josef at the top so we could go together to the line. He was incredible today and I want to point out that this isn’t my victory, but a win shared by the two of us, because I wouldn’t have made it without him. Getting to the line together with a team-mate and celebrating a victory is one of the most beautiful things in cycling.”
American rider McNulty (UAE Team Emirates) finished safely in the bunch to keep hold of his 23-second advantage over Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma), while the Slovenian's team-mate Jonas Vingegaard goes into Saturday’s decisive stage a further 5sec down in third. There was very little change in the general classification, meaning Pello Bilbao (Bahrain Victorious) is fourth at 36sec, Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) is fifth at 36sec and Adam Yates (Ineos Grenadiers) remains the highest placed Briton sixth overall, 1min 2sec behind McNulty.
Saturday's sixth and final stage, the 111.9km run from Ondarroa to Eibar, features seven categorised climbs that though short, represent plenty of opportunities for any final shake-ups in the general classification.
Stage four: McNulty takes lead after Izagirre steals victory
Thursday April 8 — Vitoria-Gasteiz to Hondarribia, 189.2km
Ion Izagirre outsprinted Pello Bilbao at the end of a fiercely contested stage at Itzulia Basque Country to claim his first win of the season.
The win for Izagirre, the defending champion from 2019 following the cancellation of last year's race due to the coronavirus pandemic, came four hours 17 minutes and seven seconds after setting off from Vitoria-Gasteiz, requiring a photo-finish in Hondarribia to separate the Astana-Premier Tech rider and Bilbao, a fellow Basque from Bahrain Victorious.
Izagirre rode a clever finale as part of a six-man group alongside Bilbao, Emanuel Buchmann (Bora-Hansgrohe), Esteban Chaves (BikeExchange), Brandon McNulty (UAE Team Emirates) and Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma), waiting patiently within the group before making his move.
Having formed near the summit of the final climb of the hilly stage, the six-man group worked well together to hold off a chasing group containing overnight leader Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) and reigning Tour de France champion Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) on the narrow and twisty descent off the category one Erlaitz climb. Once onto the flat section on the approach to the line, however, it was every man for himself with Chaves, who has started the year well having won a stage at last month's Volta a Catalunya, being the first to hit out for glory.
It was not to be for the smiling Colombian, though, after he was caught 200 metres from the line by the galloping bunch following a counter-attack that was instigated by Buchmann. Sat on Bilbao's wheel, Izagirre was dragged forwards before opening up his sprint for the line. So close was the finish that Bilbao thought he had won the stage, while Izagirre appeared to congratulate his former team-mate before a video replay confirmed the Astana-Premier Tech rider had in fact won.
American rider McNulty again impressed finishing third, a result that propelled the 23-year-old into the leader's jersey 23sec ahead of Roglic. Vingegaard, another young rider that has started 2021 in good form, was fourth moving him up to third just 5sec behind team-mate Roglic.
Pogacar, who won Wednesday's tough stage, dropped three places to fifth overall and will start Friday's penultimate stage 43sec behind team-mate McNulty, while Adam Yates (Ineos Grenadiers) also dropped down to sixth on general classification and is now 1min 2sec off the pace.
Stage three: Roglic keeps his lead after Pogacar takes win
Wednesday April 7 — Amurrio to Ermualde (Laudio), 167.7km
Tadej Pogacar moved up to second at Itzulia Basque Country after the UAE Team Emirates rider got the better of Slovenian compatriot Primoz Roglic in Wednesday's 167.7km hilly stage from Amurrio to Ermualde.
Having lost 28 seconds to Roglic in Monday's time trial, Tour de France champion Pogacar clawed back some vital bonus seconds on his rival following a gripping battle between the pair on the brutal final climb to Ermualde that though short, pitched up to gradients of 20 per cent.
Moments after Michael Woods (Israel Start-up Nation), one of the favourites for the stage, had crashed along with Wilco Kelderman (Bora-Hansgrohe), Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers) was the first to attack on the early part of the 3.1km climb up to Ermualde. Once the road pitched up and Pogacar and Roglic chased him down, however, the Ecuadorian faded back into the trailing group containing David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ), Adam Yates (Ineos Grenadiers), Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), Hugh Carthy (EF Education-Nippo), Mikel Landa (Bahrain Victorious) and the Deceuninck-Quick Step pairing of Mauri Vansevenant and James Knox.
With each counter-attack from the chasing group, the Slovenian pairing responded in kind, the select group concertinaing its way up the typically vicious Basque climb. A further attack from Valverde threatened, but again the Pogacar-Roglic double-act swotted aside the threat as if the veteran puncheur were little more than an annoyance.
Once over the top and onto a tight narrow sweeping descent to the line, Pogacar inched ahead before raising his arms in celebration.
Valverde rolled over the line 5sec later in third, while Yates was fourth, a result which also moved the Briton up to fourth on general classification behind the young American Brandon McNulty (UAE Team Emirates).
Roglic takes a 20sec lead over Pogacar into Thursday's fourth stage — at 189.2km the longest of the race — while McNulty is a further 10sec back.
Stage two: Roglic retains lead after Aranburu lands win
Tuesday April 6 — Zalla to Sestao, 154.8km
Alex Aranburu claimed stage two at Itzulia Basque Country on Tuesday after the Astana-Premier Tech attacked on the sharp uphill approach to the line in Sestao before soloing to a maiden WorldTour win.
Aranburu finished the stage 15 seconds ahead of team-mate Omar Fraile, a result that propelled the Basque to second on general classification behind overnight race leader Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma), while Brandon McNulty (UAE Team Emirates) dropped down to third.
Tour de France champion Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates), who finished the second stage of the six-day race in third place, moved up a to fourth on general classification. Adam Yates was the highest placed Briton, finishing 13th on the day. The Ineos Grenadiers rider will start Wednesday's third stage fifth overall, 28sec behind Roglic.
It was less good news for Yates's team-mate Tao Geoghegan Hart, however, after the Giro d'Italia champion finished over nine minutes down, dropping to 115th and 10min 8sec adrift of race leader Roglic.
Stage one: Roglic takes early lead with time trial win
Monday April 5 — Bilbao, 13.9km (individual time trial)
Primoz Roglic took an early lead at Itzulia Basque Country after the Jumbo-Visma rider set the quickest time in the opening day time trial, on a hilly 13.9-kilometre course around Bilbao in northern Spain on Monday.
Roglic set a blistering pace of 48.194km/h to complete the opening stage in 17 minutes 18 seconds, 2sec faster than second placed Brandon McNulty (UAE Team Emirates) while the stage winner's team-mate Jonas Vingegaard, who won a stage at February's UAE Tour, was third.
The in-form Adam Yates who led an Ineos Grenadiers clean sweep at last month's Volta a Catalunya was the quickest Briton on the day, finishing in sixth place, and will start Tuesday's second stage 28sec adrift of Roglic.
It was a disappointing opening stage for Tadej Pogacar who could only muster fifth, 28sec behind the man whose heart he broke at last year's Tour de France on the penultimate day time trial. On that occasion it was Pogacar that was celebrating when he took the leader's jersey just 24 hours before becoming the first Slovenian to win the Tour de France.
Tao Geoghegan Hart, competing in his first race since the reigning Giro d'Italia champion sustained a minor concussion in a crash at last month's Paris-Nice, finished in 41st place, 1min 8sec behind stage winner Roglic.