Primož Roglič took home his second Itzulia Basque Country title today after navigating an action-packed final stage.
David Gaudu took stage honors, finishing just ahead of a celebratory Roglič.
The victory is yet another step in an incredible run of stage racing results for Roglič.
Primoz Roglic's last 16 stage races:
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The action on Saturday’s decisive stage began pretty much from the gun. The key moment came with about 67 kilometers to go when Astana – Premier Tech decided to put the peloton to ribbons on a descent. Among those caught out was race leader Brandon McNulty.
McNulty’s UAE teammate Tadej Pogačar initially stayed back to help the American. However, Pogačar was given permission to ride for himself when McNulty began to falter on a climb 19 kilometers later.
Persistent riding at the head of the leading group eventually reduced its occupant to only Primož Roglič, David Gaudu and Hugh Carthy. The Pogačar group behind contained strong riders like Adam Yates, Alejandro Valverde and Mikel Landa, but they were unable to make up the lost ground.
In terms of the battle for the stage victory. Hugh Carthy lost contact with the head of the race on the final climb. Roglič was content for his French companion Gaudu to take the win in exchange for his cooperation, so the two worked together nicely up the final slope.
Valverde, Yates, Pogačar and Jonas Vingegaard got as close as 35 seconds, but it was not enough to ever seriously trouble the duo upfront.
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Roglič was joined by his teammate Vingegaard and his compatriot Pogačar on the final podium.
David Gaudu climbed all the way up to fifth with his stage win, while last year’s champion Ion Izagirre managed to hold onto his spot in the top ten after his teammate’s work earlier in the stage.
The main discussion points after today’s stage will come down to UAE-Team Emirates’ response to the decisive split in the race. Ultimately, they missed the decisive selection and chose to use Marc Hirschi and Pogačar to close the gap for McNulty. Then, when McNulty began to struggle they opted to change their course and allow Pogačar to ride for himself.
At the end of the day, they earned a third place for their troubles. Perhaps they would have had more success if they allowed Pogačar to ride for his own ambitions from the get-go. However, hindsight is 20/20 and it is extremely difficult to make such a split-second decision in real time.
Jumbo-Visma will be thrilled with their one-two on GC, and rightfully so. Roglič is looking extremely strong, and he seems to be building towards his season goals nicely.
Today was an extremely tough day for Brandon McNulty. It is never easy to miss out on a victory on the final day of a race. However, the American is still only 23, and there are valuable lessons to take from today’s events.
Today’s stage presented the type of racing that only a week-long stage race can produce. We saw it a season ago at the Critérium du Dauphiné, and we saw it again today. A concluding stage packed with mountains is an extremely effective and exciting way to decide a week-long stage race.
Often, such a stage creates two races within one. As we saw today, the potential is there for a race for the stage and a race for the general classification. For my money, this sort of drama is the very best of stage racing.
High-level racing continues this week with the Tour of Turkey, Brabantse Pijl and De Brabantse Pijl Women.
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