Mikel Landa 2nd again in Basque Country
The last ascent of the fourth stage of the Tour of the Basque Country served as the grand stage for the fight between the GC contenders. And Team BAHRAIN VICTORIOUS’s Mikel Landa was the only rider who could match the pace of Jonas Vingegaard, netting him a second 2nd place within 24 hours at the end of the stage.
With a bit over 3000 accumulated meters of ascending over a distance of 175.7 kilometres, stage 4 of the Tour of the Basque Country looped around the city of Santurtzi and was a true test of strength for all GC contenders. But while yesterday’s stage had featured an uphill finish, the cat2 La Asturiana as the hardest climb of stage 4 crested with about 15 kilometres to go. Much of that distance was covered on a descent that demanded full attention due to a lot of tight and blind turns. Having finished in 2nd the day before, Mikel Landa as the captain of Team BAHRAIN VICTORIOUS, started this demanding stage in 2nd on GC, just 5 seconds off overall leader Jonas Vingegaard.
Early on, five riders had attacked successfully to form the breakaway of the day, with the best-placed of these riders at about 6min30 in the overall standings. Still, the peloton never allowed the gap to grow to more than 5 minutes. On the last 60 kilometres this advantage was melting quickly, and the last remnants of the breakaway were caught before the second intermediate sprint of the day. Mikel Landa decided not to contest this sprint, and as a consequence, he was positioned a bit further back at the foot of the La Asturiana climb. Team EF Education-Easy Post set a gruelling pace and followed this up with multiple attacks. But when Vingegaard countered, he found himself on his own right away.
But Mikel Landa was the only rider in the chasing group who could still accelerate, and thus he managed to close the gap to the Dane. The latter set a brutal pace over the entire climb, with Team BAHRAIN VICTORIOUS’s Basque climber holding on for dear life. At the crest of the climb, the duo was 30 seconds ahead of the first chasers. On the following tricky descent, Mikel Landa made good use of his knowledge of the Basque roads, setting the pace for much of the descent. Since the two leaders started to look at each other and lower the pace ever so slightly on the last kilometres, the chasing group closed in on them quickly. But the sprint for the stage win was contested by two riders, with Mikel Landa being beaten by one bike length.
With his second 2nd place within 24 hours, Mikel Landa managed to consolidate his 2nd place on GC. The Tour of the Basque Country still serves up two more stages, both of them demanding and full of opportunities for attacks. It remains to be seen if Mikel Landa can hold on to his podium position on GC in front of a home crowd. He will need all the help that Team BAHRAIN VICTORIOUS can come up with in order to succeed.
62ND TOUR OF THE BASQUE COUNTRY, STAGE 4: SANTURTZI - SANTURTZI, 175.7KM
1. Jonas Vingegaard, DEN, in 4:22.26 hours
2. Mikel Landa, ESP/TEAM BAHRAIN VICTORIOUS, st
3. Mauro Schmid, SUI, + 0.02
OVERALL STANDINGS AFTER FOUR STAGES:
1. Jonas Vingegaard, DEN, in 17:08.56 hours
2. Mikel Landa, ESP/TEAM BAHRAIN VICTORIOUS, + 0.12
3. David Gaudu, FRA, + 0.31
Photos: Sprint Cycling Agency