[Article was written before the start of the Tour of the Basque Country and has not been updated.]
The fourth day of action brings the only stage without any substantial elevation gain. The ITT amounts to 19.4 kilometres on the flat and this could very well turn out to be a pre-decisive stage.
The route of the 2018 Tour of the Basque Country is marked by a lot of hills, but there is no summit finish. The only race closest to it will be held on the last day. The ultimate stage takes in eight climbs to finish near the Sanctuary of Arrate. The last climb is a whooping uphill toil of 3.1 kilometres at 12.7% before a rolling run-in of 2 kilometres leads to the line. The Tour of the Basque Country’s GC will take its final shape during this gruelling day in the saddle.
Typically, the stages in the 2018 Tour of the Basque Country take in a string of climbs before a downhill finale. The uphills are often explosive – steep, yet never longer than 10 kilometres. This should suit the likes of Michal Kwiatkowski and Julian Alaphilippe, riders who are also strong time trialists. The same goes for Primoz Roglic.
In 2018, Alejandro Valverde (Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana, Abu Dhabi Tour), Tim Wellens (Ruta del Sol), Michal Kwiatkowski (Volta oa Algarve, Tirreno-Adriatico) and Marc Soler (Paris-Nice) have won stage-races with hilly to mountainous profiles. Kwiatkowski is the only of them who competes in the Basque Country.
The only contender in the 2018 Tour of the Basque Country who did win the race before is Nairo Quintana (2013). The flat ITT in this edition doesn’t suit him, though.
Favourites 2018 Tour of the Basque Country
***** Michal Kwiatkowski, Primoz Roglic, Julian Alaphilippe
**** Richie Porte, Ion Izagirre, Vincenzo Nibali, Bauke Mollema
*** Nairo Quintana, Mikel Landa, Gorka Izagirre, Rigoberto Uran
** Ilnur Zakarin, Romain Bardet, Rui Costa
* David de la Cruz, Simon Spilak, Dylan Teuns