Izagirre beats Bilbao in the sprint and McNulty new leader

04/08/2021 at 6:19 PM CEST

Ion Izagirre (Astana) has imposed the sprint to Pello Bilbao (Bahrain) in the fourth stage of the Itzulia Basque Country, of 189.1 kilometers, between Vitoria and Hondarribia, after which the American Brandon McNulty (UAE Emirates) is the new yellow jersey of the race.

Izagirre has won the sprint among the six runners who have escaped after meeting at the descent of the last pass of the day, the Erlaitz peak (1st), 20 km from the finish line, and in which the second was Bilbao and third McNulty, lieutenant of the Slovenian Tadej Pogacar and new leader.

What causes a tactical situation in favor of the UAE of Joxean Fernández Matxín, which has snatched the lead from Primoz Roglic and takes advantage, with two stages remaining, on the Jumbo. His great rival.

At the wheel of the leading trio came the Danish Jonas Vingegaard, the second trick of the Jumbo Visma, the German Emanuel Buchmann (Bora) and the Colombian Jhoan Esteban Cháves (BikeExchange), who gave up two seconds at the finish after a last attack that almost gave him the victory.

In the general, McNulty leads with 23 seconds of advantage over Roglic, 28 over Vingegaard, 36 over Pello Bilbao and 43 over its leader Pogacar. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), tenth on the stage, is eighth at 1.13 and Mikel Landa (Bahrain) tenth at 1.23.

The sprint at the Gipuzkoan goal of Hondarribia was a reissue of the recent Copa del Rey final of Athletic-Real Sociedad soccer, with, also this time, a minimal Gipuzkoan victory and sportsmanship in the defeat of the Biscayan, who at first seemed the winner.

It was not like that and Izagirre, the last winner of the race in 2019, gave the second victory in this Itzulia 2021 and so far this season at Astana. The first was that of Alex Aranburu from Gipuzkoa on Tuesday in Sestao.

The outcome of the race was more than unexpected because the escape did not occur on the ascent to the Erlaitz wall (3.8 km at 10.6%), but on the descent and in the 20 km towards the Roglic finish line.Leader with a good lead and a great favorite for the final victory, he seemed to lose control of the race.

What seemed to surprise even his greatest rival, Pogacar, hardly knowing what to do in the group of fifteen runners who followed the fugitives. And among those who the most active was Valverde, who aspires to continue being a protagonist.

The first important moment of the stage was the ascent to Erlatiz, a wall of 3.8 km at 10.6 percent and ramps of 13%.

The first to move was an Astana, for which it was Richard Carapaz; later Landa tried, followed by Cháves and later McNulty. Cháves remained of the trio, and McNulty and Landa were neutralized 350 meters from the top.

Everything seemed calm when on the descent the spark that set the race on fire was lit, snatching the lead from Roglic and leaving Pogacar’s UAE the initiative for the last two stages, the last one with the traditional final climb to Arrate.

The day’s getaway had level runners and, in principle, called to something more than looking for getaways. This time it was the young Spanish Juanpe López (Trek), the Ecuadorian Jefferson Cepeda (Caja Rural), the Australian Ben O’Connor (AG2R) and the French Guillaume Martin (Cofidis).

Perhaps because of the speed with which it left, at more than 49 km per hour in the first two hours, and because of the help of the south wind that was on the stage, the escape was formed late, around km 100.

The escapees did not exceed 3 minutes and Martin and Cepeda already gave up in Jaikzbel, 40 from the finish line. Juanpe and O’Connor continued ahead, with the Australian staying on the descent. They got together again, but the platoon hunted them 26 km from the finish.

This Friday’s stage, the fifth and penultimate, is the one with the least expectations of impact in the general classification. A total of 160 km between Hindarribia and Ondarroa with just three climbs from Third and far from the finish line: Mendexa (km 91), a 1,800-meter wall with ramps of up to 17 percent), Gontzagaraigana (km 115) and Urkaregi (km.131).

The finish is slightly downhill after a small slope at 1,500 meters from the finish line, so a sprint is foreseeable.