Second in the stage behind winner Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin) was enough for Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) to seal the overall win in the Tour of the Basque Country.
The GC contest ultimately came down to a contest between Rodriguez and overnight leader Sergio Henao (Sky). The Colombian was the last to reach the line and looked as though he may just hang on to his lead, but could only manage to finish fourth on the stage and 13 seconds behind, consequently slipping to second in the overall classification.
A strong time for Jon Izagirre (Movistar) saw him finish third on the stage and also move up to third overall, but teammate Nairo Quintana again looked slightly off his best form, posting a time 30 seconds off Dumoulin’s pace and falling to fourth overall.
For a short while it looked as though Britain’s Simon Yates was going to take the GC win, after he posted the fastest time among the overall contenders at the intermediate time split. But the 21-year old faded in the steeper second half of the course, and finished fifth in the GC and netted the best young rider award – a very promising sign for the future.
It is somewhat ironic that Rodriguez managed to claim the win in a time-trial, a discipline that has throughout his career been an Achilles’ heel, but the steep climbs tackled today made this a time-trial far more suited to climbers than specialists.
The stage’s winner, Dumoulin, proved to have the perfect balance of climbing finesse and the knack of timing his effort perfectly against the clock. For former world time-trial champion Tony Martin (Etixx-QuickStep) the climbing proved too much, as a fast time at the intermediate split faded into an eventual finish outside the top ten.
Before Dumoulin, the likes of Gorka Izagirre (Movistar), Rein Taaramae (Astana) and Fabio Felline (Trek Factory Racing) all held the day’s fastest ride, but were all blown away by the Dutchman’s effort.
Tour of the Basque Country 2015, stage six: Aia to Aia, 18.3km (ITT)
1. Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Giant-Alpecin in 28-46
2. Joaquim Rodriguez (Spa) Katusha at 4 secs
3. Jon Izagirre (Spa) Movistar at 5 secs
4. Sergio Henao (Col) Team Sky at 17 secs
5. Benat Intxausti (Spa) Movistar at 21 secs
6. Fabio Felline (Ita) Trek Factory Racing at 23 secs
7. Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar at 30 secs
8. Rui Costa (Por) Lampre-Merida at 34 secs
9. Rein Taaramae (Est) Astana at 36 secs
10. Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Etixx-QuickStep at 37 secs
Final overall classification
1. Joaquim Rodriguez (Spa) Katusha 21:49:38
2. Sergio Henao (Col) Team Sky at 13 secs
3. Jon Izagirre (Spa) Movistar at 29 secs
4. Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar at 38 secs
5. Simon Yates (GBr) Orica-GreenEdge at 46 secs
6. Michele Scarponi (Ita) Astana at 1-06
7. Rui Costa (Por) Lampre-Merida at 1-14
8. Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Etixx-QuickStep at 1-15
9. Ilnur Zakarin (Rus) Katusha at 1-25
10. Thibaut Pinot (Fra) FDJ.fr at 1-33