Brandon McNulty takes Itzulia lead after Ion Izagirre leads home Basque one-two

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Ion Izagirre - Brandon McNulty takes Itzulia lead after Ion Izagirre leads home Basque one-two - GETTY IMAGES

Ion Izagirre – Brandon McNulty takes Itzulia lead after Ion Izagirre leads home Basque one-two – GETTY IMAGES

Thursday April 8 — Vitoria-Gasteiz to Hondarribia, 189.2km

Ion Izagirre outsprinted Basque compatriot Pello Bilbao at the end of a fiercely fought fourth stage at Itzulia Basque Country to claim his first win of the season on Thursday.

Brandon McNulty, the young American, again impressed finishing third, a result that propelled the UAE Team Emirates rider into the overall lead 23sec ahead of Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma). Jonas Vingegaard, another young rider that has impressed this year was fourth, moving him to third on general classification 5sec behind Jumbo-Visma team-mate Roglic.

Tadej Pogacar, the Tour de France champion who won Wednesday’s tough stage, dropped three places to fifth oveall and will start Friday’s penultimate stage 43sec behind team-mate McNulty, while Adam Yates (Ineos Grenadiers) also dropped down the overall standings to sixth on general classification, 1min 2sec off the pace.

Itzulia Basque Country — selected standings after stage fourItzulia Basque Country — selected standings after stage four

Itzulia Basque Country — selected standings after stage four

Itzulia Basque Country | April 5-10, 2021Itzulia Basque Country | April 5-10, 2021

Itzulia Basque Country | April 5-10, 2021

Stage three: Roglic keeps his lead after Pogacar takes win

Wednesday April 7 — Amurrio to Ermualde (Laudio), 167.7km

Primoz Roglic loses out to Tadej Pogacar, but retains lead at Tour of Basque Country - GETTY IMAGESPrimoz Roglic loses out to Tadej Pogacar, but retains lead at Tour of Basque Country - GETTY IMAGES

Primoz Roglic loses out to Tadej Pogacar, but retains lead at Tour of Basque Country – GETTY IMAGES

Tadej Pogacar moved up to second at Itzulia Basque Country after the UAE Team Emirates rider got the better of Slovenian compatriot Primoz Roglic in Wednesday’s 167.7km hilly stage from Amurrio to Ermualde.

Having lost 28 seconds to Roglic in Monday’s time trial, Tour de France champion Pogacar clawed back some vital bonus seconds on his rival following a gripping battle between the pair on the brutal final climb to Ermualde that though short, pitched up to gradients of 20 per cent.

Moments after Michael Woods (Israel Start-up Nation), one of the favourites for the stage, had crashed along with Wilco Kelderman (Bora-Hansgrohe), Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers) was the first to attack on the first part of the 3.9km climb up to Ermualde. Once the road pitched up and Pogacar and Roglic chased him down, however, the Ecuadorian faded back into the trailing group containing David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ), Adam Yates (Ineos Grenadiers), Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), Hugh Carthy (EF Education-Nippo), Mikel Landa (Bahrain Victorious) and the Deceuninck-Quick Step pairing of Mauri Vansevenant and James Knox.

With each counter-attack from the chasing group, the Slovenian pairing responded in kind, the select group concertinaing its way up the typically vicious Basque climb. A further attack from Valverde threatened, but again the Pogacar-Roglic double-act swotted aside the threat as if the veteran puncheur were little more than an annoyance.

Once over the top and onto a tight narrow sweeping road to the line, Pogacar inched ahead before raising his arms in celebration.

Valverde rolled over the line 5sec later in third, while Yates was fourth, a result which also moved the Briton up to fourth on general classification behind the young American Brandon McNulty (UAE Team Emirates).

Roglic takes a 20sec lead over Pogacar into Thursday’s fourth stage, while McNulty is a further 10sec back.

Itzulia Basque Country — selected standings after stage threeItzulia Basque Country — selected standings after stage three

Itzulia Basque Country — selected standings after stage three

Stage two: Roglic retains lead after Aranburu lands win

Tuesday April 6 — Zalla to Sestao, 154.8km

Alex Aranburu - Primoz Roglic retains Tour of Basque Country lead after Alex Aranburu lands stage two - GETTY IMAGESAlex Aranburu - Primoz Roglic retains Tour of Basque Country lead after Alex Aranburu lands stage two - GETTY IMAGES

Alex Aranburu – Primoz Roglic retains Tour of Basque Country lead after Alex Aranburu lands stage two – GETTY IMAGES

Alex Aranburu claimed stage two at Itzulia Basque Country on Tuesday after the Astana-Premier Tech attacked on the sharp uphill approach to the line in Sestao before soloing to a maiden WorldTour win.

Aranburu finished the stage 15 seconds ahead of team-mate Omar Fraile, a result that propelled the Basque to second on general classification behind overnight race leader Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma), while Brandon McNulty (UAE Team Emirates) dropped down to third.

Tour de France champion Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates), who finished the second stage of the six-day race in third place, moved up a to fourth on general classification. Adam Yates was the highest placed Briton, finishing 13th on the day. The Ineos Grenadiers rider will start Wednesday’s third stage fifth overall, 28sec behind Roglic.

It was less good news for Yates’s team-mate Tao Geoghegan Hart, however, after the Giro d’Italia champion finished over nine minutes down, dropping to 115th and 10min 8sec adrift of race leader Roglic.

Itzulia Basque Country — selected standings after stage twoItzulia Basque Country — selected standings after stage two

Itzulia Basque Country — selected standings after stage two

Stage one: Roglic takes early lead with time trial win

Monday April 5 — Bilbao, 13.9km (individual time trial)

Primoz Roglic — Primoz Roglic wins opening stage time trial to take lead at Itzulia Basque Country - GETTY IMAGESPrimoz Roglic — Primoz Roglic wins opening stage time trial to take lead at Itzulia Basque Country - GETTY IMAGES

Primoz Roglic — Primoz Roglic wins opening stage time trial to take lead at Itzulia Basque Country – GETTY IMAGES

Primoz Roglic took an early lead at Itzulia Basque Country after the Jumbo-Visma rider set the quickest time in the opening day time trial, on a hilly 13.9-kilometre course around Bilbao in northern Spain on Monday.

Roglic set a blistering pace of 48.194km/h to complete the opening stage in 17 minutes 18 seconds, 2sec faster than second placed Brandon McNulty (UAE Team Emirates) while the stage winner’s team-mate Jonas Vingegaard, who won a stage at February’s UAE Tour, was third.

The in-form Adam Yates who led an Ineos Grenadiers clean sweep at last month’s Volta a Catalunya was the quickest Briton on the day, finishing in sixth place, and will start Tuesday’s second stage 28sec adrift of Roglic.

It was a disappointing opening stage for Tadej Pogacar who could only muster fifth, 28sec behind the man whose heart he broke at last year’s Tour de France on the penultimate day time trial. On that occasion it was Pogacar that was celebrating when he took the leader’s jersey just 24 hours before becoming the first Slovenian to win the Tour de France.

Tao Geoghegan Hart, competing in his first race since the reigning Giro d’Italia champion sustained a minor concussion in a crash at last month’s Paris-Nice, finished in 41st place, 1min 8sec behind stage winner Roglic.

Itzulia Basque Country — selected standings after stage oneItzulia Basque Country — selected standings after stage one

Itzulia Basque Country — selected standings after stage one