By Jonny Long
Primož Roglič stormed to the overall victory at the Tour of the Basque Country on the final stage six, surging ahead alongside Hugh Carthy (EF - Nippo) and David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ), before the Brit was dropped up the final climb and the Frenchman handed the stage win for the help given to the Slovenian.
Race leader Brandon McNulty had been dropped over the hard and fast racing of the final day, Tadej Pogačar initially trying to help the American back into the front group before then aiming to get the chase group back across to the front trio but to no avail.
Roglič and Gaudu shared a fist bump inside the final kilometre, the Jumbo-Visma rider then gee-ing up the crowd as he crossed the line, having claimed yet another stage race.
Valverde then came across the line in third place, 34 seconds later.
It was a 1-2 for Jumbo-Visma as Jonas Vingegaard ascended to second place overall, 52 seconds down, as Pogačar rounded out the podium having finished just over a minute in arrears.
How it happened
Attacks started in earnest from the flag drop, as the riders immediately start up the climb to Arribinieta, Hugh Carthy one of the first to hit out, before Movistar started controlling the peloton and Carlos Verona led over the top.
Patrick Bevin (Israel Start-Up Nation) and Antwan Tolhoek (Jumbo-Visma) were then amongst a move off the front, Tolhoek potentially being of use to Roglič later on, and on the Azurki climb Carthy bridged across, before Ben O'Connor (Ag2r Citroën), Enric Mas (Movistar), Richard Carapaz (Ineos) and Omar Fraile (Astana - Premier Tech), later followed by Verona and Mark Padun (Bahrain Victorious), as Roglič led the peloton half a minute back.
Hirschi then hit the front on the Elosua-Gorla climb, trying to stem the attacks, Guillaume Martin (Cofidis) also escaping across the gap, Sam Oomen also successful while the pace was too much for Mauri Vansevenant (Deceuninck - Quick-Step) to get over to the leaders.
Carapaz drove the pace on the descent, with 60km to go, splitting up the group of now more than a dozen, the Ecuadorian and Bevin gapping the leaders before they were joined by O'Connor.
Roglič was in a group behind picking their way through the remnants of the break a bit over half a minute back, as Hirschi was called back to help McNulty get across to the Roglič group.
Astana were riding hard, though, as were Movistar and Bahrain Victorious, soon making it across to Carapaz and the trio up front to form a group of 20 riders.
McNulty was still 40 seconds behind and chasing, but it was in vain for the American, as he cracked up the tough Krabelin climb, with Pogačar soon left to chase across solo back up to Roglič to keep UAE Team Emirates' hopes alive of a potential GC victory.
Roglič's pace up the climb was infernal, dropping everyone but Carthy and David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ) with 40km to the line. Pogačar was now 30 seconds back in a group with Valverde, Landa and Yates, with McNulty 1-30 in arrears when he reached the summit.
The time trialling abilities of Roglič dragged the gap out slightly on the resulting flat section of road, the Slovenian taking three bonus seconds at the intermediate sprint as he began to close in on the overall victory.
Valverde then hit out from the chase group behind, which was now nearly a minute back, before Yates worked to bring the Spaniard back into the fold, but the front trio were working well to keep their distance.
15km to go and the gap was still there, Pogačar with no friends to help chase Roglič down, the elder Slovenian finding accomplices in Carthy and Gaudu, the trio working well together over the next few kilometres to maintain their gap before the climb to the finish.
Roglič took another three seconds at the next intermediate sprint, then starting the final Arrate climb.
Gaudu soon launched his attack, off in search for stage honours, Carthy dropped but Roglič making it across.
Pogačar had grown frustrated with the lack of will from his colleagues in the chase group, but wasn't giving up, the Slovenian leading the group up to the wheel of Carthy.
Into the final kilometre and the pair shared a fist bump, Roglič deciding this time around to gift a victory, having sewn up the overall.
Tour of the Basque Country 2021, stage six: Ondarroa to Arrate - Eibar (111.9km)
1. David Gaudu (Fra) Groupama-FDJ, in 3-05-43
2. Primož Roglič (Slo) Jumbo-Visma, at same time
3. Alejandro Valverde (Esp) Movistar, at 34 seconds
4. Adam Yates (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers, at same time
5. Tadej Pogačar (Slo) UAE Team Emirates
6. Jonas Vingegaard (Den) Jumbo-Visma, both at same time
7. Pello Bilbao (Esp) Bahrain - Victorious, at 1-02
8. Esteban Chaves (Col) Bike Exchange, at 1-05
9. Mikel Landa (Esp) Bahrain - Victorious, at same time
10. Mauri Vansevenant (Bel) Deceuninck - Quick-Step, at 1-53
Final general classification
1. Primož Roglič (Slo) Jumbo-Visma, in 19-11-36
2. Jonas Vingegaard (Den) Jumbo-Visma, at 52 seconds
3. Tadej Pogačar (Slo) UAE Team Emirates, at 1-07
4. Adam Yates (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers, at 1-26
5. David Gaudu (Fra) Groupama-FDJ, at 1-27
6. Pello Bilbao (Esp) Bahrain - Victorious, at 1-28
7. Alejandro Valverde (Esp) Movistar, at 1-33
8. Mikel Landa (Esp) Bahrain - Victorious, at 2-17
9. Esteban Chaves (Col) Bike Exchange, at 2-38
10. Ion Izagirre (Esp) Astana - Premier Tech, at 2-59
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