Mikel Landa finished in 2nd on GC
The last stage of the Tour of the Basque Country was brutally hard and delivered plenty of plot twists. While overall winner Jonas Vingegaard won another stage, Team BAHRAIN VICTORIOUS and Mikel Landa had to give it all to secure 2nd place on GC. In the end, it all worked out, and the Basque climber finished the stage race on home turf on the podium.
Before the sixth and conclusive stage of the Tour of the Basque country, Mikel Landa was positioned in 2nd on GC at 13 seconds of leader Jonas Vingegaard and with a buffer of 18 seconds to third-placed David Gaudu. For Team BAHRAIN VICTORIOUS, the main goal for the last stage was to defend Mikel Landa's spot on the podium. This was no easy task as the final stage may have been short at 137.8 kilometres, but due to its constant up and down and no less than seven categorised climbs and an aggregate 3500 meters of ascending promised to become a true battle of attrition, with team support likely to be less important than the individual class of the respective riders vying for a place on the overall podium. However, Mikel Landa had been looking very strong on the climbs throughout the week, so things looked promising for the Basque climber.
As expected, the conclusive stage started with a barrage of attacks. Once the smoke lifted, twelve riders had gone clear, and the constellation forced Team BAHRAIN VICTORIOUS to give chase and keep the gap under two minutes. First, Jasha Sütterlin and then Hermann Pernsteiner did a lot of work while the breakaway fell apart on the steep climbs. With 30 kilometres to go, the last attackers had come within reach, and race leader Vingegaard attacked hard. This time Mikel Landa could not follow, but he found himself in a first chase group with some of his prime rivals for the GC podium, but not all of them. From there, it was man against man with not a lot of team tactics. Nevertheless, Mikel Landa kept a cool head and marked his rivals attentively, thus securing his 2nd place on GC in the Tour of the Basque Country.
As for Paris-Roubaix, the monument to be ridden today in the Northeast of France, Team BAHRAIN VICTORIOUS is relying on two co-captains to score a top5 result: Matej Mohoric finished in 5th place last year, and Fred Wright has shown to be in good shape and to be fast on cobblestones with his 8th place at the Tour of Flanders. As the captain de route, Andrea Pasqualon is tasked to keep the team together and make sure the tactics are well understood by all riders. With the likes of Kamil Gradek, Jonathan Milan, Fran Miholjevic and Dusan Rajovic, the team can rely on plenty of strength in support of its key riders. While the weather report aims at a dry edition, the recon rides showed that some of the famed cobblestone sectors have not dried up yet, adding to the difficulty of tomorrow's race.
One name many would have expected in the line-up of Team BAHRAIN VICTORIOUS for the spring classics is that of Heinrich Haussler. The experienced Australian has been a key factor for the team in cobblestone races in past years. Sadly a series of health checks showed some issues with his heart. Due to this, Heinrich Haussler has decided to call an end to his active career as a pro cyclist. "Heino" will remain with the team, however, swapping the saddle for a seat in one of the team's cars and eyeing a role as one of the team's Sports Directors in the future. At MERIDA BIKES, we would like to thank Heinrich for all the exciting moments in racing and to wish him all the best in his new role in cycling as a member of the team's staff.
62ND TOUR OF THE BASQUE COUNTRY, STAGE 6: EIBAR - EIBAR
FINAL GENERAL CLASSIFICATION:
1. Jonas Vingegaard, DEN, in 24:45.24 hours
2. Mikel Landa, ESP/TEAM BAHRAIN VICTORIOUS, + 1.12
3. Ion Izagirre, ESP, + 1.29
Photos: Sprint Cycling Agency