Ion Izagirre (Cofidis) sprinted to victory in a dramatic final stage of the Tour of the Basque Country.
The Basque rider, having crashed on the final ascent to Arrate, kicked ahead of Aleksandr Vlasov (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Marc Soler (UAE Team Emirates) to claim the stage win and second overall in the race he won in 2019.
Dani Martínez (Ineos Grenadiers) won the general classification, overhauling a two-second deficit to Remco Evenepoel (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl) he faced at the start of the day. The Belgian fought valiantly in defence of his yellow jersey, but was overcome by relentless attacks from his rivals.
Evenepoel finished fourth overall as the best young rider at the race. The polka dot jersey was won by Cristián Rodríguez (Total Energies), while Martínez topped the points classification.
How it happened
The riders set out east from Eibar on a 135.7km circuit round the Basque hills, ending in a summit finish on the Usartza in Arrate.
Though the shortest road stage of the race, the final day was billed as the queen stage. The route took in a total of seven categorised climbs, three of which were category ones, for a gruelling elevation gain of over 3600m.
The first climb began after just 10km and with it came the first attacks of the day. Rodríguez broke free from the peloton in a bid to cement his hold on the mountains classification. The Spaniard was joined at the front of the race by Davide Formolo (UAE Team Emirates), Tony Gallopin (Trek-Segafredo), Xabier Azparren (Euskaltel-Euskadi) and later Nelson Oliviera (Movistar).
After taking maximum points over the first two climbs, Rodríguez eased up and dropped back to the chasing group. Formolo, Gallopin and Oliviera remained up the road with 70km to go and held an advantage of four minutes.
By the time the race reached the foot of the Krabelin, the hardest ascent on the menu, the deficit to the breakaway had almost halved. Gallopin lost contact with the group on the lower slopes, while Formolo surged ahead in search of a stage win.
For the GC hopefuls, the Krabelin proved the perfect hunting ground. Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) was the first to attack and kicked into the climb’s 15% ramps. Martínez, Vlasov and Enric Mas (Movistar) followed, leaving Evenepoel at pains to match the pace. Mas then countered with 40km to go and crested the summit alongside Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo Visma) and Martínez, who became the race’s virtual leader.
The drama then continued on the descent. Pello Bilbao (Bahrain-Victorious) dared his GC rivals to follow his lead, and his speed proved too much for Mas who crashed.
Bilbao’s attack split the race favourites into two groups. Evenepoel towed the chasers, bridged a 30-second gap, and then pipped Martínez for a bonus second at the sprint in Eibar.
With the leaders all together, the race was poised for a shootout on the final climb to Arrate.
Formolo, the only survivor from the early breakaway, made his move at the foot of the ascent. Behind him, the GC favourites exchanged blows and Evenepoel paid the price for his earlier efforts. The yellow jersey was distanced with 5.2km to go.
Inside 4km from the line, a touch of wheels caused Izagirre to tumble to the floor. The Cofidis rider rejoined the group at the top of the climb and readied himself to sprint.
Soler went long with 700m to go but was passed before the line by Vlasov and Izagirre, who celebrated a spectacular win on home roads.
Martínez came fourth on the stage, which proved more than enough for the Colombian to claim his first victory in a stage race since the Critérium du Dauphiné in 2020.
Tour of the Basque Country, stage six: Eibar to Arrate (135.7km)
1. Ion Izagirre (Esp) Cofidis, in 3-47-07
2. Aleksandr Vlasov (Rus) Bora-Hansgrohe, s.t.
3. Marc Soler (Esp) UAE Team Emirates, s.t.
4. Daniel Felipe Martínez (Col) Ineos Grenadiers, s.t.
5. Jonas Vingegaard (Den) Jumbo-Visma, at 3s
6. Pello Bilbao (Esp) Bahrain Victorious, at 13s
7. Remco Evenepoel (Bel) Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl, at 24s
8. Juan Pedro Lopez (Esp) Trek-Segafredo, at 52s
9. Davide Formolo (Ita) UAE Team Emirates, at 1-29
10. Felix Gall (Aut) AG2R Citroën, at 1-41
General classification after stage six
1. Daniel Felipe Martínez (Col) Ineos Grenadiers, in 21-59-36
2. Ion Izagirre (Esp) Cofidis, at 11s
3. Aleksandr Vlasov (Rus) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 16s
4. Remco Evenepoel (Bel) Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl, at 21s
5. Pello Bilbao (Esp) Bahrain Victorious, at 32s
6. Jonas Vingegaard (Den) Jumbo Visma, s.t.
7. Marc Soler (Esp) UAE Team Emirates, at 1-26
8. Primož Roglič (Svn) Jumbo-Visma, at 3-18
9. Enric Mas (Esp) Movistar, at 3-55
10. Rigoberto Urán (Col) EF Education-EasyPost, at 5-03
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