Punchers and climbers are treated in the Tour of the Basque Country. It begins as early as stage 1, although it’s not a traditional puncher’s dream, as the race in Bilbao is an ITT. Following a 2.6 kilometres climb to start and a stretched out downhill the finale is a brutal 600 metres climb with ramps up to 19%.
The 2nd stage is played out on rolling to lumpy terrain until the finale. Following La Asturiana – a 7.6 kilometers climb at 6.2% with its summit 14 kilometres before the line – the rest of the route flies downhill, with the exception of the last few hundred metres. The finishing ramp is a short and sharp climb.
The following day is similar, although the finale of stage 3 is tougher. The riders traverse a plateau for most of the day before dropping down for three climbs within the last 20 kilometres. Most notable is the drag to the line, which is a killer of 3.1 kilometres at 11.1%.
Stage 4 includes the Clásica de San Sebastián fixtures Alto de Jaizkibel and Puerto de Erlaitz in the last 50 kilometres. The Jaizkibel is a 6.9 kilometres climb at 6.2% and the Puerto de Erlaitz is a 7.4 kilometres ascent with at its heart a section of 3.8 kilometres at 10.6%. The downhill leads onto a flat finale of 10 kilometres.
Although being far from flat, the 5th stage looks to be the best-suited to sprinters who were brave enough to come to the Basque Country. The last hill of three comes almost 30 kilometres from the finish in Ondorroa.
The Queen Stage is saved for last. With seven climbs packed into a 111.9 kilometres race this one should detonate the fireworks one last time. The stage runs to a finish near Arrate Sanctuary and the final climb is 4.5 kilometres long and averages 8.9%, while the last 2 kilometres are more or less flat. Roglic used the Arrate climb – or, more accurate, the plateau at the top – to take the first red jersey at the 2020 Vuelta.
Being included for the tenth consecutive year, the Alto Arrate is a household in the Itzulia Basque Country. In 2019 Adam Yates succeeded Enric Mas (2018), Alejandro Valverde (2017), Diego Rosa (2016), Joaquim Rodríguez (2015, 2012), Wout Poels (2014), Nairo Quintana (2013), and Samuel Sánchez.
Tour of the Basque Country 2021: route, profiles, more
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