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!Embed from Getty Images
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!Embed from Getty Images
More fresh faces!Embed from Getty Images
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!Embed from Getty Images
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.Embed from Getty Images
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.
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 startlistEmbed from Getty Images
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 racesEmbed from Getty Images
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 hatsEmbed from Getty Images
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 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
Header image: Final podium © GETTY/Velo/David Ramos