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With an excellent second place in the final time trial, Rodriguez won the Vuelta al Pais Vasco ahead of Henao and Izagirre; Dumoulin took his first TT win of the year

Photo: Team Giant-Alpecin












11.04.2015 @ 17:52 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin) confirmed his status as one of the best time triallists in the world when he won the very hilly final time trial of the Vuelta al Pais Vasco in impressive fashion. However, the big winner was Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) who did the time trial of his life to take second and win the race overall, with Sergio Henao (Sky) and Ion Izagirre (Movistar) completing the podium.


For years, Joaquim Rodriguez has been among the best stage race riders in the world but due to his poor time trialling skills, he has barely won any multi-day events. Going into the Vuelta al Pais Vasco, he had only been able to take an overall WorldTour victory in the Volta a Catalunya which is one of the only major stage races not to include a time trial.


The Vuelta al Pais Vasco is loaded with short, steep climbs that have made the race a happy hunting ground for Rodriguez who has taken numerous stage wins in the Basque race. However, the final time trial has always been the most important stage in the race and so Rodriguez has always lost it all on the final day.


This year he lined up at the race with lots of uncertainty as illness had taken him out of the Volta a Catalunya but during the road stages he proved that he is in great condition. The Spaniard won two of the hardest stages and went into the time trial equal on time with race leader Sergio Henao.


If he was asked to design his own course, Rodriguez would probably have come up with the 18.3km route for the final stage. After a descending start, the stage finished with two passages of the brutally steep Alto de Aia whose 30% gradients made it perfectly suited to his punchy climbing skills.


The terrain proved to be the right for Rodriguez to finally shine as he did the time trial of his life to finish the stage in second. That was enough to take the overall win in the race and totally turn the usual situation on its head, with Rodriguez now leapfrogging into first in the final time trial.


Race leader Henao did his best on the hilly course and with a fourth place, he had a great ride. However, he lost 13 seconds to Rodriguez and so dropped to second in the overall standings.


Pre-race favourite Nairo Quintana (Movistar) had hoped to win the GC by doing a good ride on the final day like he did in 2013. This year, however, he could only manage 7th and this saw him finish off the podium in third.


Instead, it was his Movistar teammate Ion Izagirre who confirmed the beautiful impression he had given throughout the race by setting the third best time on the day. That was enough to move from 8th to 3rd in the overall standings and for a long time it even seemed like he could win the race overall.


In addition to Rodriguez, the other big winner was Tom Dumoulin. The Dutchman had saved energy in the road stages to go for a top result on the final day and that turned out to be a wise decision. While fellow specialists like Tony Martin (Etixx-QuickStep) and Rohan Dennis (BMC) could not match the climbers on this course, the Dutchman turned out to be the fastest as he beat Rodriguez by four seconds.


Rodriguez also won the points competition while Omar Fraile (Caja Rural) was the best climber. Louis Vervaeke (Lotto Soudal) won the sprints competition while Katusha was clearly the strongest team.


The WorldTour now moves to France for tomorrow’s Paris-Roubaix while many of the riders in this race will travel to the Netherlands for next Sunday’s Amstel Gold Race. However, the Basque cycling week continues tomorrow when the Klasika Primavera will take place on its usual hilly course.


A difficult time trial

After the hilly final road stage, the Vuelta al Pais Vasco ended with its traditional time trial. This year’s course brought the riders over 18.3km around the city of Aia. The first part was a gradual descent that led to the difficult finale that was identical to the end of yesterday’s stage. Here the riders tackled the Alto de Aia twice, with only a very short descent in between. The final 1.5km were uphill with an average gradient of 11.87% and maximum sections of 30%, making it a very unusual and difficult time trial.


The first rider down the ramp was Timo Roosen (LottoNL-Jumbo) who started the stage under a cloudy sky at 14.30 local time. He set the fastest time but was quickly relegated into second by Alessandro Vanotti (Astana) who stopped the clock in 31.33.


Best time for Belkov

Vanotti didn’t get much time in the hot seat as the next rider to finish his ride was Maxim Belkov. The Katusha rider was 10 seconds faster, posting a time of 31.23. Evgeny Petrov (Tinkoff-Saxo) was the next rider to make it onto the provisional podium when he set the third best time.


Carlos Betancur (Ag2r) slotted into third before Jeremy Roy (FDJ) stopped the clock in 31.15 to take the lead. Less than one minute later, however, Fraile did even better with a time of 30.52


Izagirre takes the lead

Rinaldo Nocentini (Ag2r) confirmed that he is getting ready for the Ardennes as he stopped the clock in 30.49 to move into the hot seat but he had already seen Gorka Izagirre (Movistar) go much faster at the intermediate check. After Valerio Conti and Ruben Plaza (Lampre-Merida) had both made it into the top 5, it was David de la Cruz (Etixx-QuickStep) who became the first rider to beat Nocentini with a time of 30.47.


However, everybody knew that Izagirre would set a new mark and the Basque turned out to be in a class of his own among the early starters, going 1.10 faster than de la Cruz. Moments later, Diego Ulissi (Lampre-Merida) slotted into second while Amets Txurruka (Caja Rurual) had a good ride to take third.


Taaramae moves into the hot seat

Sander Armee (Lotto Soudal) was the next climber to move onto the podium when he posted the third best time but he was quickly knocked down by Daryl Impey (Orica-GreenEDGE) who set the second best time. Only minutes later Andrew Talansky (Cannondale-Garmin) did even better but he still lost 27 seconds to the impressive Izagirre.


Izagirre was finally knocked off the hot seat when the in-form Rein Taaramae (Atsana) stopped the clock in 29.22 to go 15 seconds faster. Kanstantsin Siutsou and Mikel Nieve (Sky) both made it into the top 10 before specialist Dennis set the third best time, losing 23 seconds to Taaramae.


Fantastic ride by Dumoulin

Fabio Felline (Trek) confirmed his amazing progress in the time trials when he became the first rider to beat Taaramae, going 13 seconds faster. However, he didn’t lead the race for long as Benat Intxausti (Movistar) quickly took over the lead with a time that was 2 seconds better. Former world champion Martin suffered on the hilly course and could only manage 4th while another specialist Bob Jungels (Trek) had set the fastest intermediate time but faded a lot before crossing the line in 6th.


Dumoulin had gauged his effort much better. He was 15 seconds behind Jungels as the time check but he was one of the fastest on the climbs, stopping the clock in 28.46 to take a very comfortable lead.


Solid ride by Costa

Luis Leon Sanchez (Astana) and Maxime Monfort (Lotto Soudal) both made it into the top 10 before Jean-Christophe Peraud (Ag2r) set the sixth best time. David Lopez (Sky) confirmed his good form by posting the 7th best time.


Samuel Sanchez (BMC) is a former winner of the Pais Vasco time trial but this time he missed out on a spot in the top 10, setting the 11th best time. Instead, it was Rui Costa (Lampre-Merida) who shone when he took fifth and moved into the virtual lead.


Izagirre takes the virtual lead

Michal Kwiatkowski (Etixx-QuickStep) was one of the fastest in the flat part but lost ground on the climb. The Pole posted the 7th best time, meaning that Costa was still the provisional leader.


Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) and Tejay van Garderen (BMC) both had disappointing rides as none of them could make it into the top 10 but it was Izagirre who had taken all the attention. The Basque had set a very good intermediate time but when he crossed the line, he missed the mark by just 5 seconds.


Disaster for Spilak

Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha) finished just outside the top 10 while his teammate Simon Spilak had a frustrating day. The Slovenian was one of the big favourites for this stage but suffered a mechanical when he rolled down the ramp and never recovered, crossing the line in 21st.


Michele Scarponi (Astana) did a great time trial to slot into 9th but all eyes were on Quintana. However, the Colombian could only make it into fifth, meaning that his teammate Izagirre was still the provisional leader.


Simon Yates (Orica-GreenEDGE) had been the virtual leader at the time check but he had gone out too fast and could only manage 10th. Instead, it was Rodrigeuez who made the surprise when he slotted into second and as Henao 13 seconds slower in fourth, the Spaniard won the race.



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