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by Shane Stokes
April 3, 2018
Alaphilippe wins opening stage of the Itzulia Basque Country; Stannard wins Giro del Belvedere; Nibali shrugs off Flanders fatigue with solid opener in Itzulia Basque Country; Following impressive Flanders ride, Pedersen extends with Trek-Segafredo; Painkilling adrenalin carries injured van Vleuten to Flanders podium; Unofficial Indy Pac: Across-Australia riders flowing into Sydney Opera House finish; Video: Alaphilippe rolls to the sea; Video: The Salesman: Mads Pedersen tells us about his Trek Madone
One day after the QuickStep Floors team took first and third in the Tour of Flanders, Julian Alaphilippe secured more champagne for the squad when he took stage one of the Itzulia Basque Country (previously titled the Vuelta al Pais Vasco). The French rider reached the finish with Primoz Roglic (LottoNL-Jumbo), then outsprinted the Slovenian for the win.
Pello Bilbao (Astana Pro Team) beat compatriots Enric Mas (QuickStep Floors) and Gorka Izagirre (Bahrain-Merida) for third, some 23 seconds later. A dozen riders were in this chase group, including several of the pre-race favourites. One of those, Nairo Quintana (Movistar), had gone with Alaphilippe and Roglic when they went clear on the final climb with nine kilometres left, but was distanced before the summit.
“I am very happy,” Alaphilippe said, according to CyclingPro. “I had trained well last week and I want to test my condition here in the Tour of the Basque Country. It’s a very important race for me. There is very high level here and a difficult course. Today it seemed like a good step for me and I told my teammates that I wanted to do something.”
The opening 162.1 kilometre stage took in five categorised climbs en route to the finish in Zarautz. The day’s early move contained Ibai Salas Zorrozua (Burgos BH), Jonathan Lastra Martinez (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA), Aitor Gonzalez (Euskadi Basque Country-Murias) and Amanuel Ghebreigzabhier Werkilu (Team Dimension Data). The bunch wouldn’t allow their gap to crest two minutes and they were finally hauled back inside the final 30 kilometres.
Roglic sparked off the key on the concluding second category Elkano Gaina climb. Alaphilippe and Quintana joined him, but the latter was unable to keep up and drifted back to the chasers. Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida), another big name, finished 51 seconds back after riding Sunday’s Tour of Flanders.