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"In the downhill, Fränk punctured both wheels and the cars of course were far behind - there was no chance for him to catch back.”

Photo: Sirotti










06.04.2015 @ 19:47 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

The Vuelta al Pais Vasco (Tour of the Basque Country) opened with a 162.7-kilometer stage and a three-man escape group dominated the action for most of the four-hour race.


The first of two category-two rated climbs arrived with less than fifty kilometers remaining and it was the beginning of the end for the escapees as Movistar held the reins behind. 


Trek Factory Racing, as most teams, waited in the wings while the Spanish squad assumed the bulk of the work in the chase. On the final ascent, the breakaway was ultimately doused and attacks flew from the peloton.


The tricky climb crested only 13 kilometers from the finish and with many fresh legs in the peloton after a relatively easy day a few antagonists attempted to thwart a sprint finish.


Julián Arredondo helped neutralize the first dangerous move on the steep uphill, allowing the peloton to claw its way back. Unfortunately, moments later a mechanical left him stranded until he was serviced by neutral support.


He would not be the only Trek Factory Racing rider to suffer from ill-timed misfortune in the ending kilometers as Fränk Schleck had a double puncture with around five kilometers remaining. Both Arredondo and Schleck arrived in the second group and lost over three minutes.


“Everyone was very fresh into the last climb and it was a big fight,” director Kim Andersen explained as he summed up the first stage. “Arredondo was there to cover any attacks, but only to follow since it was still a long way to the finish line. Then he had a problem with his bike, but we still had five riders in the first group and that actually was to our plan. In the downhill, Fränk punctured both wheels and the cars of course were far behind - there was no chance for him to catch back.”


Despite the numerous attacks, it was a large group that arrived to contest the sprint finish where Michael Matthews (Orica GreenEdge) easily won the dash for the line and the first leader’s jersey of the race. 


Fabio Felline sparred with the fastmen in the speedy finish and sprinted to 7th place; it was an unsatisfactory result for the Italian:


“I did not make a good sprint today, and I am not happy with it at all,” said Felline, shaking his head. “My legs were not feeling the best, and twice I had to brake in the finale because of the chaos.”


Bauke Mollema arrived safely in the same time as the front peloton as did Haimar Zubeldia and Bob Jungels.


Andersen added: “I really expected more racing today for the first stage, but the riders could see that Movistar wanted to control it all day and it was quite an easy stage. I also expected more attacks on the first time up the second category climb but again nothing happened.


“But what we saw today was that Bauke [Mollema] was really strong, Fränk was feeling strong on the climbs and Arredondo, too. We have good morale for the coming days.  Although Bauke will be our big leader for the GC, we also have the goal to make a stage win. So for the next stages all-in!”


Tomorrow's stage two features six categorized climbs and may end with another reduced bunch sprint. 


With no flat parcours in the Basque Tour, but no big mountains either, it’s a race better suited to the explosive climbers for the overall. Each day offers plenty of opportunities for punchy attacks and should result in some thrilling racing for the next days.



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