A brave attack in the closing 3.5km saw Adam Yates take victory in the final stage at the 59th edition of the Tour of the Basque Country on Saturday.
Despite a concerted chase, the British rider managed to hold on ahead of Dan Martin (UAE Team Emirates), with the Astana’s Jakob Fuglsang in third.
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Fuglsang’s Astana team-mate, local rider Ion Izagirre, was fourth on the day, and won the overall classification, after the team had animated the whole day to overhaul the lead of Emanuel Buchmann (Bora-Hansgrohe).
Though the Basque rider’s victory was secure when he crossed the line, the race ended in farce as Buchmann who took a wrong turn, following a television motorcycle in the final few hundred metres.
The German had looked set to finish second overall, but the time lost turning round meant he finish off the final podium in fourth place.
Izagirre was only 54 seconds behind Buchmann at the start of the day and it was his Astana team who initiated the five man winning move more than 60km from the line.
With Martin’s Slovenian team-mate Tadej Podačar, the five escapees worked cohesively until the Irishman attacked on a short ramp after the final classified climb, around 12km out.
During a brief ensuing lull Buchmann began to close the gap on the leaders, but when Yates attacked their advantage grew once again and Izagirre’s win was certain.
How it happened
The short but tough final stage tackled six classified climbs over its 118.2km, with the first, San Miguel coming just nine kilometres in.
Second over that first climb, Lawson Craddock (EF Education First) was joined by Alex Aranburu (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA) and the pair managed to gain a small lead before being joined by 17 others, forming a group of 19 at the front of the race.
The lead built out to around 1-30, though in what was clearly a pre-planned move, Astana set a blistering pace hoping to elevate Izagirre, to the race lead.
As they approached the fourth climb to Azurki and its 10 per cent pitches, not only did the leading group begin to disintegrate, but so did the peloton under pressure of the Kazakh team.
Despite their earlier advantage, the break was caught on the opening slopes and, with the race in tatters Fuglsang attacked, dropping race leader Buchmann.
With the German suffering on the steepest gradients, Izagirre bridged across and was soon followed by Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) and UAE Team Emirates pair of Dan Martin and Tadej Pogačar, the group leading by more than 20 seconds over the top.
German, Buchmann closed to within 10 seconds on the descent, but with no help from his fellow chasers, he was unable to get on terms, eventually sitting up and waiting for team-mates.
As the race entered its final 50km his deficit edged over one minute, and Buchmann’s overall lead was wiped out, with Izagirre topping the virtual overall classification.
Fuglsang worked hard for his team-mate on the penultimate climb, and when Buchmann lost his team-mates his deficit on the leading five extended to around 1-50, despite the German receiving some help from Movistar.
Martin’s late attack was designed as an overall race winning move, he was little more than 30 seconds behind Izagirre, but was unable to hold on as the Basque rider was forced to close the gap alone.
Astana have had a hugely successful season to date, their Basque win being the 22nd success of the season and their eighth stage race victory.
Bora-Hansgrohe on the other hand would have been hoping to taste stage race overall success in the Basque Country themselves. They won four of the six stages and led the general classification after all but the final stage.
Tour of the Basque Country 2019, stage six: Eibar to Eibar (118.2km)
1. Adam Yates (GBr) Mitchelton-Scott, in 2-59-46
2. Dan Martin (Ire) UAE Team Emirates, at 1 sec
3. Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana
4. Ion Izagirre (Esp) Astana, all at same time
5. Tadej Pogačar (Slo) UAE Team Emirates. at 27 sec
6. Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek-Segafredo, at 1-24
7. Mikel Landa (Esp) Movistar, at same time
8. Hugh Carthy (GBr) EF Education First, at 1-29
9. David Gaudu (Fra) Groupama-FDJ, at 1-36
10. Lucas Hamilton (Aus), at same time
Final general classification
1. Ion Izagirre (Esp) Astana, in 19-24-09
2. Dan Martin (Ire) UAE Team Emirates, at 29 sec
3. Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana, at 36 sec
4. Emanuel Buchmann (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 43 sec
5. Adam Yates (GBr) Mitchelton-Scott, at 51 sec
6. Tadel Pogačar (Slo) UAE Team Emirates, at 1-56
7. Mikel Landa (Esp) Movistar, at 2-56
8. Mikel Nieve (Esp) Mitchelton-Scott, at 3-25
9. Enric Mas (Esp) Deceuninck-Quick-Step, at 4-27
10. Hugh Carthy (GBr) EF Education First, at 5-30