Vuelta Ciclista al Pais Vasco Stage 1: Late Attack from Roche Before Final Sprint Finish3. April 2017, Equesibar-Sarriguren (ESP) — Road Team
It was a day for the fast finishers on Vuelta Ciclista al Pais Vasco stage 1 with a tricky finish seeing Nicolas Roche part of a late attack before the bunch came back together for a final sprint to the line.
A three-rider breakaway was quickly established and by the time they reached the top of the Puerto de Erro, after 23km of racing, their advantage had peaked at over four minutes.
The peloton didn’t give the leading trio too much room for maneuver as they brought their lead to around three minutes and held it there before beginning the final chase with less than 70km to go.
On the early slopes of the day’s final climb, Puerto de Mezkiriz, the gap began to fall steadily and eventually, with 37km remaining of the 153.2km stage, only one minute separated the main bunch from the leading trio.
However, it would be another 16km before the peloton re-grouped and headed towards a fast, flat finale with teams spread across the width of the road and battling for position.
With 5km to go the action began to heat up with Julian Alaphillippe (Quick-Step Floors) attacking solo on a short but sharp bump in the road before Roche made his move as part of a competitive four-rider group.
With the strength of the quartet threatening the previously predicted bunch sprint, the bunch behind weren't going to let them away easily.
Ultimately, the race came back together inside the final kilometer with Michael Matthews (Team Sunweb) out-sprinting the bunch to take the stage win.
All eight BMC Racing Team riders finished safely in the main bunch moving into stage 2 tomorrow, April 4.
Quotes from the Finish Line
"It was pretty hectic moving from the 5-lane motorway into one lane with 180 guys all feeling pretty fresh, but I managed to get into a good position, and saw an opening when the sprinters' teams were a little disorganized. Even though I knew it was a tough task to stay out at the front, I thought, with just 2km to go, it was worth a shot. It was challenging but not impossible."
"It was nice for me to be able to ride aggressively and attack like that today. I haven't done that in a while as previously, in the finish, I have been riding conservatively. It was good to be able to go with my instincts."
"For sure, the key stages are going to be Friday and Saturday, but at Vuelta Ciclista al Pais Vasco it's important not to get caught out on any of the stages. Every single day is quite tricky, and you could easily lose 10-15 seconds on a split so, it's important to always be up there near the front."
Sports Director, Yvon Ledanois:
"It was a beautiful day in the Basque Country. The sun was shining, which is a rare thing normally at this race, and we achieved our main objective which was to protect Samuel Sánchez and Nicolas Roche for the General Classification. It was a calm day with only three riders in the breakaway, and Team Sunweb controlling the peloton for their sprinter. It was only on the last climb that we saw some dangerous attacks including one from Roche alongside Alejandro Valverde (Movistar Team)."
"For us, a stage win is a priority, and then we will also look at the General Classification. The most important thing is that we had no problems with the riders. Tomorrow is a new day so we look and see what we can do there. I think we are in a great position as there is no pressure on us. This is a hard race but we came here to ride aggressively, as we saw Roche do at the end of today, and that's what we will continue to do every day."
Vuelta Ciclista al Pais Vasco
Stage 1: Pamplona > Equesibar-Sarriguren, 153.2km
Top 3: 1. Michael Matthews (Team Sunweb) 2. Jay McCarthy (Bora - Hansgrohe) 3. Simon Gerrans (Orica-Scott)
BMC Racing Team Top 3: 21. Nicolas Roche 28. Danilo Wyss 45. Samuel Sánchez