[Underneath article was written before the start of the Tour of the Basque Country and has not been updated]
The GC battle ignites as early as the first day with an individual time trial. It may not be long, but the course is demanding. Last year, Roglic struck a first blow on a similar route in Bilbao.
In terms of the GC battle two more days at the Itzulia Basque Country stand out – stage 5 and, particularly, the final stage. The race on the fifth day is not ideal to open up huge gaps, but it’s piquant nevertheless. The route goes up and down during the entire day until the Karabieta opens the finale with 20 kilometres to go. The irregular ascent is 6.7 kilometres long before the riders descend onto a friendly finish climb. That is, until the last few hundred metres go up at double digit gradients.
The last stage features all the raw materials to turn into a thriller. It’s only 136 kilometres long and takes in seven sharp Basque climbs. The last ascent is the renowned Arrate climbt, which is 4.5 kilometres at 8.9% before the last 2 kilometres are an undulating run-in to the line.
The Arrrate finish climb is a Itzulia Basque Country fixture. It also served as a finale of the 1st stage of the 2020 Vuelta a España. The Slovene stormed into the red jersey, while he sealed last year’s Tour of the Basque Country triumph on the renowned climb.
So far, three riders have been successful in the stage races of 2022 – Tadej Pogacar (UAE Tour, Tirreno-Adriatico), Primoz Roglic (Parijs-Nice), and Sergio Higuita (Volta a Catalunya).
Favourites Tour of the Basque Country 2022
**** Primoz Roglic, Sergio Higuita, Adam Yates
*** David Gaudu, Jonas Vingegaard, Remco Evenepoel
** Daniel Felipe Martínez, Julian Alaphilippe, Aleksandr Vlasov, Michael Woods
* Enric Mas, Carlos Rodriguez, Ion Izagirre, Emanuel Buchmann, Pello Bilbao, Pierre Latour