Alex Aranburu took victory on stage two of the Tour of the Basque Country 2021 after he attacked in the closing 10km of the day, holding off the fast-finishing group of favourites behind.
Aranburu (Astana Premier Tech) took advantage of a lull in the pace after the race favourites had been busy attacking each other on the climb and the following descent.
Omar Fraile (Astana Premier Tech) led in the main bunch to give the Kazakhstani team a one-two on the day. Tour de France champion Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) managed to sprint to third on the day taking the four-second bonus with it.
The day’s final major climb was peppered with attacks by some of the biggest names. Pogačar went clear a couple of times before a group including race leader Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) went away on the last part of the climb.
Roglič managed to hold onto his overall by just five seconds over Aranburu as the race continues with yet more climbing on Wednesday for stage three.
How it happened
The day started in the town of Zalla before taking on the 154.8km route that got progressively hillier before finishing on a sharp kick to the line in Sestao.
A break of seven riders went away early on in the day and managed to pull out a maximum gap of just over four minutes.
The breakaway was made up of Quinten Hermans (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert), Mikel Iturria (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Óscar Cabedo (Burgos-BH), Jon Irisarri (Caja Rural), Ben Gastauer (Ag2r Citroën), Kevin Vermaerke (DSM) and Martijn Tusveld (DSM).
Two teams controlled the pace back in the peloton with Movistar having the most riders up there joined by just the one rider from Jumbo-Visma. This brought the gap down very quickly with the time dipping inside two minutes with 54km to go.
Wilco Kelderman (Bora-Hansgrohe) crashed with 30km to go as Ineos Grenadiers took over the pacing on the front. Kelderman managed to get back on five kilometres later but the pace had shot up at the front with Astana Premier Tech and Bahrain-Victorious both joining the push.
The dramatic change of pace meant the break’s gap dropped inside a minute with 25km to go. They hit the climb of Arbeltzaga with just 23 seconds left to the peloton at 20km to go, so Cabedo decided to go solo.
All of the break, except for Cabedo were caught with 19.5km to go as Movistar retook over the pacing but it wasn’t super fast. Jefferson Cepeda (Caja Rural) attacked moments after most of the break was caught to try and bridge to Cabedo.
David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ) then attacked with Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) following. All the other favourites were managing to follow until Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers) hit the deck on a sharp bend.
The fall by the Ecuadorian meant that Gaudu and Pogačar went clear, catching and dropping both Cabedo and Cepeda. The next big name to come across was Michael Woods (Israel Start-Up Nation) who dragged Roglič and the rest of the big GC favourites at the 17km to go mark.
Max Schachmann (Bora-Hangrohe) went away with Roglič quickly followed by Brandon McNulty (UAE Team Emirates) and Colombian champion Sergio Higuita (EF Education-Nippo).
The descent was a mix of slippery tight asphalt as well as rutted concrete through very sharp turns as the leading group was brought back at the bottom of the first part of the descent with 10km to go. Aranburu tried a move on almost straight after the catch pulling out 20 seconds.
The Spaniard managed to hold off the chasing pack all the way to the line with Aranburu’s team-mate, Fraile, leading the chasing group in just 15 seconds behind.
Roglič managed to extend his overall lead by an extra three seconds with Aranburu moving up to second place at five seconds down.
Tour of the Basque Country 2021, stage two: Zalla to Sestao (154.8km)
1. Alex Aranburu (Esp) Astana-Premier Tech, in 3-45-32
2. Omar Fraile (Esp) Astana-Premier Tech, at 15 seconds
3. Tadej Pogačar (Slo) UAE Team Emirates
4. David Gaudu (Fra) Groupama-FDJ
5. Michael Woods (Can) Israel Start-Up Nation
6. Primož Roglič (Slo) Team Jumbo-Visma
7. Max Schachmann (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe
8. Mikel Landa (Esp) Bahrain Victorious
9. Sergio Higuita (Col) EF Education-Nippo
10. Alejandro Valverde (Esp) Movistar Team, all at the same time.
General classification after stage two
1. Primož Roglič (Slo) Jumbo-Visma, in 4-03-04
2. Alex Aranburu (Esp) Astana-Premier Tech, at 5s
3. Brandon McNulty (USA) UAE Team Emirates, at 6s
4. Tadej Pogačar (Slo) UAE Team Emirates, at 24s
5. Adam Yates (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers, at 28s
6. Max Schachmann (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 31s
7. Jonas Vingegaard (Den) Team Jumbo-Visma, at 32s
8. Omar Fraile (Esp) Astana-Premier Tech, at 34s
9. Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 40s
10. Pello Bilbao (Esp) Bahrain Victorious, at 42s.