Julian Alaphilippe won his first race of 2022 with a win on the second stage of the Tour of the Basque Country, the Frenchman putting in a commanding sprint to fend off the other compeititors.
Some perfectly executed Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl tactics saw Remco Evenepoel lead out from the peloton with just a kilometre to go, with Alaphilippe tucked in behind him. The world champion managed to strongly launch off his teammates wheel, before holding onto the race win.
Fabien Doubey (TotalEnergies) finished in second place, with Quinten Hermans (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux) rounding off the remaining spot on the podium.
Primož Roglič still holds onto the GC lead though, finishing at the same time as Evenepoel to maintain his five second gap.
HOW IT HAPPENED
After an opening day time trial, Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) and Remco Evenepoel (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl) seemed the two riders set to battle it out for victory overall in the Basque Country, with the two riders the only ones able to break under 10 minutes and seemingly in imperious form.
Day two presented a 207.6km flat stage from Leitza to Viana, though there were still multiple hills the peloton had to contend with, with three categorised climbs.
A Spanish quartert of Julen Amezqueta (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA), Ander Okamika (Burgos-BH), Ibai Azurmendi (Euskaltel-Euskadi) and Ibon Ruiz (Equipo Kern Pharma) created a breakaway group immediately in the race, which only diminished at 6km.
In the intervening period, little else happened. The peloton seemed relatively comfortable in allowing the breakaway riders to keep their lead, and even extend, their lead out front. No team or rider seemed intent on quickening the tempo until the final 10km when AG2R Citroën drove the peloton forward, with Valentin Paret-Peintre (AG2R Citroën) and Ruben Guerreiro (EF Education-Easy Post) then attacking to further bring the group forward.
A game of cat and mouse between the front four riders proceeded to take shape, simply allowing the peloton to close the gap more comfortably. Ibon Ruiz decided to take matters into his own hand and take the best chance he had for a win in his home country by attacking from the other three riders. He built a gap of ten seconds at the front, while the peloton's gap dropped below a minute with just under 6km to go.
With 2km left the three riders dropped by Ruiz were caught by the peloton, before Ruiz himself was caught with 500m left in the race in what proved a brave and strong performance. Evenepoel led the group out with Julian Alaphilippe tucked in just behind him, before launching off the Belgian's wheel. The Frenchman managed to hold on for the win, with Evenepoel raising his arms to celebrate his teammates win, undoubtedly helped by his brilliant lead out.
Though only Alaphilippe's first win of the season, his performance on stage two suggests he has plenty more to give for the rest of the year. Fabien Doubey (TotalEnergies) and Quinten Hermans (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux) both went with Alaphilippe on his launch, managing to secure podium spots too.
TOUR OF THE BASQUE COUNTRY 2022, STAGE TWO: LEITZA TO VIANA (207.6KM)
1. Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl, at 5-04-35
2. Fabien Doubey (Fra) TotalEnergies, at same time
3. Quinten Hermans (Bel) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux
4. Hugo Houle (Can) Israel-Premier Tech
5. Orluis Aular (Col) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA
6. Gotzon Martín (Esp) Euskaltel-Euskadi
7. Adam Yates (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers
8. David Gaudu (Fra) Groupama-FDJ
9. Remco Evenepoel (Bel) Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl
10. Maxim Van Gils (Bel) Lotto Soudal
GENERAL CLASSIFICATION after stage two
1. Primož Roglič (Svn) Jumbo-Visma, in 5-14-23
2. Remco Evenepoel (Bel) Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl, at 5s
3. Rémi Cavagna (Fra) Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl, at 16s
4. Geraint Thomas (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers, at 18
5. Adam Yates (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers, at 18s
6. Aleksandr Vlasov (Rus) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 18s
7. Bruno Armirail (Fra) Groupama-FDJ, at 20s
8. Jonas Vingegaard (Den) Jumbo-Visma, at 20s
9. Ben Tulett (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers, at 21s
10. Daniel Felipe Matínez (Col) Ineos Grenadiers, at 21s
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