Alejandro Valverde takes overall lead in the Tour of the Basque Country, as top 10 overall is separated by just 22 seconds going into final time trial on Saturday

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Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) won stage five of the 2017 Tour of the Basque Country on Friday to take the overall race lead with one stage remaining.

Valverde sprinted ahead of Romain Bardet (Ag2r) at the end of the WorldTour race’s main climbing stage to Eibar. Cannondale-Drapac duo Rigoberto Uran and Michael Woods came in third and fourth, with British rider Simon Yates (Orica-Scott) in ninth.

An escape group of 18 riders had formed up in the opening 20km as the stage started to unfurl. A number of riders were then dropped from the groupas they navigated the first selection of the day’s series of six classified climbs. Omar Fraile (Dimension Data) and Laurens Ten Dam (Team Sunweb) were the last remnants to get caught, with 54km to go.

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With the peloton all back together, the pace started to pick up as the teams with interests in the stage win or general classification moved to the fore – notably Orica-Scott, for Yates, and Movistar, for Valverde.

Team Sky suffered a momentary set-back on the penultimate climb of Urkaregi, as Kwiatkowski required a bike change. Several team-mates were on hand to pace him to the back of the bunch safely.

Tour of the Basque Country 2017 stage five profile

Heading into the final ascent of Usartzako, Orica-Scott and Movistar were still at the front of the peloton, setting a fast pace and lining out the group behind them.

As the road steepened and narrowed with 6km to go the make-up at the front of the bunch started to change, with the climbers moving up the front.

Michael Woods (Cannondale-Drapac) was the first to attack just inside 5km to go, opening up a small gap. Valverde, Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo), Sergio Henao (Team Sky) and Yates then bridged over to Woods.

As the lead group slowed up slightly, they were caught by the chasers. Woods then attacked again, this time only followed by Louis Meintjes (UAE Team Emirates). Behind, previous race leader David De La Cruz (Quick-Step Floors) dropped off the pace.

Woods and Meintjes were caught by Valverde, Contador, Uran, Samuel Sanchez (BMC) and Bardet at the top of the climb. Sanchez crashed as he attempted to attack on the short descent to the finish, reportedly being brought down by a stone in the road.

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In the final sprint to the line, Valverde’s superior turn of pace saw him take the victory ahead of Bardet and assume the race lead from De La Cruz.

Defending champion Contador finished slightly behind the lead quintet in sixth spot at three seconds.

Valverde leads Uran overall, with Bardet in third. All three riders are on the same time.

Julian Alaphilippe (Quick-Step Floors) was a notable non-starter on stage five. The Frenchman will now prepare for the Ardennes Classics.

The 2017 Tour of the Basque Country concludes on Saturday with a decisive 27.7-kilometre individual time trial starting and finishing in Eibar. With the top 10 riders separated by just 22 seconds overall, the final ‘race of truth’ will truly decide the winner.



Result

Tour of the Basque Country 2017, stage five: Bilbao to Eibar, 139.8km
1. Alejandro Valverde (Esp) Movistar, in 3-26-32
2. Romain Bardet (Fra) Ag2r La Mondiale
3. Rigoberto Uran (Col) Cannondale-Drapac
4. Michael Woods (Can) Cannondale-Drapac
5. Louis Meintjes (RSA) UAE Team Emirates, all same time
6. Alberto Contador (Esp) Trek-Segafredo, at 3 secs
7. Ion Izagirre (Esp) Bahrain-Merida, at 15 secs
8. Sergio Henao (Col) Team Sky
9. Simon Yates (GBr) Orica-Scott, at same time
10. David De La Cruz (Esp) Quick-Step Floors, at 22 secs

General classification after stage five
1. Alejandro Valverde (Esp) Movistar, in 20-05-18
2. Rigoberto Uran (Col) Cannondale-Drapac, at same time
3. Romain Bardet (Fra) Ag2r La Mondiale, at same time
4. Louis Meintjes (RSA) UAE Team Emirates, at same time
5. Michael Woods (Can) Cannondale-Drapac, at same time
6. Alberto Contador (Esp) Trek-Segafredo, at 3 secs
7. Ion Izagirre (Esp) Bahrain-Merida, at 15 secs
8. Sergio Henao (Col) Team Sky, at 15 secs
9. David De La Cruz (Esp) Quick-Step Floors, at 19 secs
10. Patrick Konrad (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 22 secs