Tadej Pogačar took stage three of the Tour of the Basque Country 2021 just ahead of Slovenian rival Primož Roglič in a two-up sprint to the line.
Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) put in numerous attacks on the final climb but the Tour de France champion was constantly shadowed by Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) who attacked himself with 500 metres to go, leaving behind four others who were led in by Alejandro Valverde (Movistar).
The day was rather standard with a break of seven going up the road early, pulling out a decent gap before the peloton started to slowly chip away. The final rider was brought back on the penultimate climb of the day.
All the attacks from the race favourites came on the final climb to Ermualde with the two Slovenian stars putting in most of them.
Roglič holds onto the overall lead for another day by 20 seconds over Pogačar who is getting closer as every stage goes by.
How it happened
Stage three of the Tour of the Basque Country started in the town of Amurrio before the race took on a lumpy profile before heading to the final three climbs and a summit finish on Ermualde Laudio after 167.7km.
Seven riders went up the road early on and managed to pull out over seven minutes on the peloton, with Mikkel Frølich Honoré (Deceuninck – Quick-Step), Gotzon Martín (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Felix Gall (DSM), Roger Adrià (Kern Pharma), Daniel Navarro (Burgos-BH), Larry Warbasse (Ag2r Citroën), and Oier Lazkano (Caja-Rural) all up there.
The pace slowly started to ramp up with various teams helping to bring the break back. Adam Yates (Ineos Grenadiers) was caught out by a small split at the bottom of the descent off the plateau on which they had spent the vast majority of the day with 35km to go.
Lazkano hit out solo as the time split dropped under two minutes with 27km to go. He pulled out 33 seconds very quickly as he looked for mountain points on the closing three climbs.
Ineos Grenadiers and EF Education-Nippo took control on the first of the final three climbs as they looked to place their leaders. This brought the gap to Lazkano down to 25 seconds before the descent to the penultimate climb at the 17km to go mark.
This pace change meant that the rest of the break was caught just at the top of the first climb of three leaving Lazkano solo up the road.
Lazkano was brought back just at the base of the penultimate climb, the 2.5km ascent of Markuartu. Astana Premier Tech and Israel Start-Up Nation controlled the pace. No-one made a move with Quinten Herman (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert) nipping through at the end to take maximum points for the mountain standings.
It was Bahrain-Victorious’ Mikel Landa who decided to take on the technical descent from the front at 7km to go before Astana Premier Tech came back up to prepare for the final climb with Omar Fraile on the front.
Wilco Kelderman (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Michael Woods (Israel Start-Up Nation) crashed just before the final climb which split four riders off the front with Magnus Cort leading his EF Education-Nippo team-mate Sergio Higuita on his wheel along with Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers) and Ben O’Connor (Ag2r Citroën).
UAE Team Emirates took over the control in the pack which set up Tadej Pogačar to go on a move on the final climb. He was followed by the overall leader of Primoz Roglič and Carapaz. The Ecuadorian then countered on the steepest section with 2.5km to go.
Pogačar went again with Roglič who flew past Carapaz at 2km to go. The two Slovenians continued to slowly distance themselves from the rest. Yates, Landa and Mauri Vansevenant (Deceuninck – Quick-Step) made it back on but the Slovenian kicked again with 1.5km to go.
Yates and Landa were joined by David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ) and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) before they managed to bridge up to Pogačar and Roglič for the final kilometre.
Roglič then attacked with 500 metres to go with Pogačar who came around with 150 metres to go and held on all the way to the line.
Stage four of the race starts in the town of Vitoria-Gasteiz and finishes in Hondarribia after 189.2km. It is another day that is likely to see more action from the main contenders but it could come down to a select sprint due to a long descent followed by 8km of flat to the finish.
Tour of the Basque Country 2021, stage three: Amurrio to Ermualde Laudio (167.7km)
1. Tadej Pogačar (Slo) UAE Team Emirates, in 4-04-50
2. Primož Roglič (Slo) Team Jumbo-Visma, at same time
3. Alejandro Valverde (Esp) Movistar Team, at 5 seconds
4. Adam Yates (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers
5. Mikel Landa (Esp) Bahrain Victorious, all at same time
6. David Gaudu (Fra) Groupama-FDJ, at 8s
7. James Knox (GBr) Deceuninck – Quick-Step, at 16s
8. Jonas Vingegaard (Den) Team Jumbo-Visma
9. Mauri Vansevenant (Bel) Deceuninck – Quick-Step, all at same time
10. Brandon McNulty (USA) UAE Team Emirates, at 18s
General classification after stage three
1. Primož Roglič (Slo) Team Jumbo-Visma, in 8-07-48
2. Tadej Pogačar (Slo) UAE Team Emirates, at 20s
3. Brandon McNulty (USA) UAE Team Emirates, at 30s
4. Adam Yates (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers, at 39s
5. Alejandro Valverde (Esp) Movistar Team, at 50s
6. Jonas Vingegaard (Den) Team Jumbo-Visma, at 54s
7. Mikel Landa (Esp) Bahrain Victorious, at 1-00
8. Pello Bilbao (Esp) Bahrain Victorious, at 1-08
9. Mauri Vansevenant (Bel) Deceuninck – Quick-Step, at 1-09
10. Max Schachmann (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe, at same time