6 Apr 2023

Landa in great shape in Basque Country

At the Tour of the Basque Country Team BAHRAIN VICTORIOUS has to continue without its designated GC captain Pello Bilbao since the second stage. Mikel Landa has been a great replacement ever since: after attacking from far in stage 2, he finished the third stage in 2nd after a brilliant effort on the brutally steep last kilometer.

The original plan of Team BAHRAIN VICTORIOUS for the Tour of the Basque Country was to ride for Pello Bilbao as its GC captain. But unfortunately Pello was forced to abandon the race before the second stage due to a respiratory infection, so Mikel Landa moved up to become the GC captain instead. As for the climbs he can rely on the support of Hermann Pernsteiner, Edoardo Zambanini and Rainer Kepplinger, with Yukiya Arashiro and Jasha Sütterlin as strong engines for flat sections. As for the team’s goals in this race sportive director Neil Stephens mentioned a stage win and a place on the GC podium.

As expected the first stage of the race came down to a sprint of a large group. The riders of Team BAHRAIN VICTORIOUS focussed on keeping their key riders out of trouble and avoid any time losses. After Pello Bilbao’s forfeit Mikel Landa was in an attacking mood in front of his home crowd on the second day. He made good use of a steep climb and attacked from the peloton with about 47 kilometers to go. He quickly caught up with the day’s early breakaway and stayed ahead of the peloton for long enough to win the intermediate sprint and get 3 seconds bonification. Landa was brought back with 18 kilometers to go and only risked as much as necessary to avoid any time loss in the risky finale of the stage.

After five 3rd category climbs, the third stage featured a very demanding final kilometer with an average gradient of 9.4 percent and some ramps that exceeded 20 percent by quite some margin. The day’s early attackers were caught with 25 kilometers to go, provoking a series of attacks. Mikel Landa tried his luck as well but was brought back. On the last kilometer Juan Pedro Lopez tried to surprise all others with an early acceleration. When he was caught, he almost caused a pile-up by swerving from his line. For this reason Mikel Landa could only react to the acceleration of Tour de France winner Jonas Vingegaard with a slight delay.

Thanks to an impressive effort, Mikel Landa left Enric Mas behind on the brutally steep final 300 meters and reduced the gap to Vingegaard to 2 seconds on the finish line. This was good enough for 2nd place in the stage, and thanks to this performance the Basque climber moved up from 4th to 2nd in the overall standings as well. As for the next three days Landa and Team BAHRAIN VICTORIOUS will have to give their very best to hold on to this position - or maybe even move up by one more spot, who knows?

As for the traditional one-day races in Belgium Team BAHRAIN VICTORIOUS clearly was out of luck last week. Matej Mohoric crashed both at Gent-Wevelgem and the Tour of Flanders but thankfully got away without serious injuries. As for the Tour of Flanders, Fred Wright joined a long-range attack with more than 85 kilometers to go and infiltrated a breakaway to score a top10 result, finishing the monument in 8th place.

Stage 3: Errenteria - Amasa-Villabona, 162.8km
1. Jonas Vingegaard, DEN, in 3:51.58 hours
3. Enric Mas, ESP, st

1. Jonas Vingegaard, DEN, in 12:46.43 hours
3. David Gaudu, FRA, + 0.16

Photos: Sprint Cyling Agency