Difficult day in the mountains for ORICA-GreenEDGE on Stage two of Pais Vasco

Tue 5 Apr 2016

2015 Criterium du Dauphine best young rider Simon Yates finished in 28th place on stage two of the Vuleta Ciclista al Pais Vasco today after a steep summit finish saw the peloton break apart and the battle for the overall classification begin.

Brother Adam Yates crossed the line a few seconds behind Simon in 30th place in place after the two ORICA-GreenEDGE riders competed with the leaders on the final climb of the day. The stage was won by Mikel Landa (Team-Sky), who broke away with Wilco Kelderman (LottoNL-Jumbo) in the last two kilometres then won the sprint to the line.

Due to the topography of the route, the hilly, second stage had been singled out by many teams as an important day for those with general classification ambitions.

Sport director Neil Stephens acknowledged that the team now have a difficult task ahead.

“It’s a shame how the stage turned out today,” said Stephens. “We said that we wanted to go out and take it on the front foot and that’s what we tried to do but at the end of the day we were slightly off the pace in the last kilometre.”

“The whole team has a fantastic work ethic and we showed that throughout the stage, our positioning was excellent all day long and our attitude is still very positive.”

“We will keep pushing for stage wins through the rest of the week,” continued Stephens. “But it will be difficult to get to back into contention for the overall.”

“If we keep racing with the attitude that we displayed today we will certainly get results in the future. It’s pleasing to see a team still upbeat after such a difficult day on the bike.”

How it happened:

Stage two of the Tour of Basque Country was the first stage of the 2016 edition to include a mountain top finish. There was a slow start to the day and after the first few kilometres, the bunch was compact and together with the breakaway yet to form.

Around the 30kilometre mark a group of four riders managed to escape, forming on the approach to the climb up to Untzellako. The group managed to increase their advantage to four minutes over the following 50kilometres.

The situation changed after the feed zone at the 91st kilometre. A windy and overcast day along with the daunting, mountainous parcours made the work difficult in the lead group and it halved in size leaving only two riders out front going into the final third of the stage.

With 40km to go the breakaway of two were still up the road with a lead of four minutes. ORICA-GreenEDGE, Katusha and Movistar were the teams doing the work on the front of the peloton, attempting to bring back the leaders. With the bulk of the climbs to come and a summit finish with gradients over 18%, the contenders for the overall were all interested in bringing the race back together.

With under 15kilometres left to race the duo held a falling advantage of around 45seconds with the chasing peloton rapidly approaching. Tentative attacks were starting to spring from the front of the bunch and with ten kilometres to go the breakaway was finally caught. Positioning would now be the key factor and after 160kilometres covered the race was about to begin. 

The main group broke to pieces on the 2.7kilometre final climb, about forty riders broke clear including Simon and Adam Yates. Pierrre-Roger Latour (AG2R) attacked with two kilometres to go, followed by Kelderman and Landa. The trio developed a small lead over the next 500metres until Latour lost contact as the gradient became more severe. Landa and Kelderman pushed on, gaining nearly 20seconds over the chasers in the final kilometre.

A left hand curve swung into the finishing straight and Landa attacked, sprinting past Kelderman to take the stage win and move automatically into the race lead. Kelderman held on for second with Sergio Henao (Team-Sky) in third.

Stage 3 takes place tomorrow, 193.5kilometres from Vittoria-Gasteiz to Lesaka.

Vuelta Ciclista al Pais Vasco stage 2 results:

1. Mikel Landa (Team-Sky) 4:43:17
2. Wilco Kelderman (LottoNl-Jumbo) 0:00:01
3. Sergio Luis Henao (Team-Sky) 0:00:05
28. Simon Yates (ORICA-GreenEDGE) 0:00:52

General classification after stage 2:

1. Mikel Landa (Team-Sky) 8:37:38
2. Wilco Kelderman (LottoNl-Jumbo) 0:00:01
3. Sergio Luis Henao (Team-Sky) 0:00:05
27. Simon Yates (ORICA-GreenEDGE) 0:00:52