Itzulia Basque Country 2018: Roglic reigns supreme

Primoz Roglic made his maiden WorldTour stage race GC victory a fine one, with the top step of the 2018  Itzulia Basque Country. After an opening two-stage mano a mano tussle with double-stage winner Julian Alaphilippe (Quick-Step), the Slovenian former ski-jumper launched his bid for the overall with three second places and victory in Thursday’s shortish, flatish ITT. He wrapped up victory in today’s queen stage after coming back from a crash and resisting a last-gasp, smash and grab from Movistar, whose Mikel Landa finished runner-up. Ion Izagirre (Bahrain-Merida) rounded out the podium (again).

Rider of the Race

No contest! Step forward, Jumbo Bee Primoz Roglic who, having finished fifth overall last year, rode a measured, intelligent race, leveraging his ability as a time triallist, clocking up three second places and staying calm in the face of Movistar’s onslaught on the ultimate stage. Local Basque newspaper Dario Vasco called him an ‘indestructible tower of strength’. Sounds about right!

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Rogla rocking the txapala (black floppy Basque beret), post-race said:

I like where I am now in cycling, everything is to control the mind. I wasn’t worried about the jersey on the last climb because it wasn’t too long. This victory is a great step for my career. I will continue racing week-long races to do better in longer races. I prefer stage races and not classic ones. I think I’m a pretty complete rider.

After this week’s performance, it’s hard to disagree with that summation. His team will be delighted as it’s their first overall since George Bennett’s in 2017 Tour of California. Onward and upward, Rogla! 

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More fresh faces!

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There was a slew of up-and-coming talent in this race. Let’s start with Quick-Step’s Enric Mas, winner of the queen stage, his first WorldTour victory. With that win, the Spanish youngster waltzed off with the best young rider jersey and finished sixth overall. In the last 15 years, a team has only twice won three stages (Julian Alaphilippe won two) at a single edition of the race. Both times, it was Quick-Step Floors. Coincidentally, that was the Quicksteppers 25th victory this season with 11 different riders. The Wolfpack is on fire!

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Then there’s Jack Haig (Mitchelton-Scott), runner-up best young rider, 16th overall and clear winner of the hotly contested Ginger Cup. The 24-year-old Aussie turned in consistent performances in every stage, building on his results in previous races, which include a stack of podium places and a stage win in the Tour de Pologne. Third in the young rider competition was 21-year-old, first year neo-pro, Bjorg Lambrechts (Lotto Soudal), 18th overall, notably last year’s runner-up in the Tour de L’Avenir and winner of under-23 Liege-Bastogne-Liege.

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Our eyes were also drawn to another two neo-pros who both joined their teams mid-way through last year off the back of  great results as under-23 riders. First, 21-year-old Ukrainian Mark Padun (Bahrain Merida) who wore the King of the Mountain jersey for two days and finished fifth on Friday’s tough stage. Next, 22-year-old Belarussian Alexandr Riabushenko (UAE-Emirates) who sprinted to second place on stage 3, a former under-23 European champion and Baby Giro stage winner.

We’ll be keeping a look out for all of these talented riders in forthcoming races.

How do I love this race, let me count the ways

This race is not just a load of old cobbles. Indeed, I like to think of it as a prized slice of jamón ibérico de bellota in a monumental sandwich.

1. Parcours 

In this race, the parcours speaks deeply of the landscape – undulating, not mountainous, just hilly. This is a race of short, sharp, ultra-selective climbs where stage riders, hoping for GC success, need to be attentive. This year, the organisers miraculously found a stretch of flat way down south for the ITT, moving it from the last day to Thursday, maintaining the tension into Saturday’s concluding queen stage, a taxing 122km with eight categorised climbs and numerous other kick-ups between Eibar and Arrate, which served up plenty of fireworks and an exciting finale.

2. Star-studded startlist

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This WorldTour race was loaded with current and future talent, many using it to tune their form for the Ardennes Classics and the Tour de France. Nairo Quintana and Mikel Landa, Julian Alaphilippe, Romain Bardet, Thomas De Gendt, the Izagirre brothers, Ilnur Zakarin, to name just a few.

3. Basques love their bike races

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Basques have a deep and abiding love of the bike, and of bike racing, largely because their towns are folded into the steep hills and verdant valleys, allowing them to enjoy great racing on their doorsteps. The parcours for this race was, as ever, incredibly fan-friendly.


4. It has the best hats

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Final results

1  Primoz Roglic (LottoNL-Jumbo) 20:53:47

2  Mikel Landa (Movistar) +1:09

3  Ion Izagirre (Bahrain-Merida) +1:42

4  Emanuel Buchmann (Bora-hansgrohe) +3:14

5  Nairo Quintana (Movistar) +3:17


Points Jersey: Primoz Roglic (LottoNL-Jumbo)

King of the Mountains Jersey: Carlos Verona (Mitchelton-Scott)

Best Basque: Mikel Landa (Movistar)

Best Young Rider: Enric Mas (Quick-Step Floors)

Team Classification Leader: Movistar

Stage winners

Stage 1: Julian Alaphilippe (Quick-Step Floors) FinalKM here

Stage 2: Julian Alaphilippe (Quick-Step Floors) FinalKM here

Stage 3: Jay McCarthy (Bora-hansgrohe) FinalKM here

Stage 4: Primoz Roglic (Lotto NL-Jumbo) FinalKM here

Stage 5: Omar Fraile (Astana) FinalKM here

Stage 6: Enric Mas (Quick-Step Floors) FinalKM here

Official race websiteTwitter #itzulia and Facebook

Header image: Final podium © GETTY/Velo/David Ramos

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  1. Pingback: Final KM: Itzulia Basque Country St 6, Healthy Ageing Tour St 4 | VeloVoices

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