Climbers Dominate Vuelta al Pais Vasco Opening Stage

Mon 7 Apr 2014

It was a showdown of the Spanish climbers on stage one of the Vuelta al Pais Vasco, with two of the biggest names battling it out over the climbs of Zumarraga. Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) managed to overcome Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) on the final climb of the day to claim the stage win and the overall lead. ORICA-GreenEDGE figured outside of the top twenty, and will now focus on targeting the middle mountain stages in the days ahead.

The 151.2 kilometre stage that start and began in Zumarraga was one of the toughest of this year’s Basque tour and featured several gruelling climbs through the mountainous terrain. Unseasonably warm conditions added to the difficulty of the stage and took a toll as the day wore on.

“It was a really difficult day, with very warm conditions of around 30 degrees throughout the day,” explained Sport Director Neil Stephens. “We went in with the intention of going for the stage win with either Albasini or Gerrans, but they realised early on that they weren’t on a great day, although they didn’t finish too far off. “

“A few of the guys weren’t really on top of it after not racing for a while,” added Stephens. “Even though they had raced yesterday at La Rioja, with the heat and the climbs today, they were really lacking a bit of rhythm, so from early in the stage, we realised we had a job ahead of us.”

With the two pre-designated leaders feeling off the pace in the early portion of the race, the plan evolved and the team’s hopes fell to two of the younger riders, Esteban Chaves and Simon Yates.

“Chaves and Yates were travelling a bit better so the guys that weren’t feeling great tried to help them out,” continued Stephens. “It was a bit of a mixed day for us, not a great day but at least we were capable of realising early that we weren’t on top of it. We didn’t go that deep and now hopefully we can have a go another day either tomorrow or the next day.”

While the plan for an early stage win didn’t eventuate for ORICA-GreenEDGE on day one, the coming days present more opportunities to repeat the success the team has enjoyed at this race over the past two seasons.

“On paper, tomorrow is another great stage for us,” said Stephens. “So we will see how we go with that and obviously the stage on Wednesday to Vittoria is very similar to the stage that we won the last two years so we’ll expect to have a bit of work to do on that day. We have a job ahead of us, and we will see how that goes over the week.”