That was another very fast stage in the Tour of the Basque Country on Friday. At the finish, Mikkel Honoré managed to pull it off after the breakaway got the better of the bunch. Miles Scotson took part in the final sprint about 20 seconds later and placed within the day’s top-20. As for David Gaudu, he remains 16th overall before the final stage towards Eibar on Saturday, which promised to be explosive.

“David could spare himself as much as possible”, Matthieu Ladagnous

On stage 5 of the Tour of the Basque Country this Friday, fifteen minutes proved to be enough for a breakaway to establish itself. It first included Julien Bernard (Trek-Segafredo), Josef Cerny, Mikkel Honoré (Deceuninck-Quick Step), Andrey Amador (Ineos) and Ide Schelling (Bora-hansgrohe) before Andreas Leknessund (Team DSM) bridged across a few minutes later. However, as facing the only suitable stage for a bunch sprint today, the sprinters’ team decided to control straight away. The gap never really grew, and the race intensity then never really eased off. “It was a very fast stage, as expected with the 3/4 backwind,” said Franck Pineau. “There were a lot of twisty, typical Basque roads, small hills here and there, but nothing hard enough for the bunch to split. As for us, we were focused on David, so that he was in a good position all the time. As a matter of fact, when he needed to be in a good position, he really was. We especially wanted to be careful in the downhills, where some teams are used to pace up”.

This work mainly occurred on the last sixty kilometers of the race, which included two third-category climbs. The French leader could especially count on the support of Matthieu Ladagnous, his bodyguard today. “My role was to be alongside David in the strategic places,” confirmed the experienced Frenchman. “We had a pretty smooth race. The goal was for him to make as little effort as possible. In particular, he needed to be positioned at the top of the climbs to tackle the downhills in front so he did not need to close splits. We did well as we tackled them always in the top 5. It went very well. David didn’t waste too much energy and he could spare himself as much as possible. Until then on this Tour of the Basque Country, we were where we needed to be when we needed to be. Personally, I am happy with my condition, which has improved a lot since Catalonia”. After the last climb today, three riders from the breakaway managed to keep a minute lead of the bunch and make it to the finish, with the victory going to Mikkel Honoré. Back in the pack, Miles Scotson took part in the sprint to grab 19th on the line while David Gaudu finished safely a few lengths behind. The young man remains 16th overall before the final, decisive stage towards Eibar on Saturday.

“I don’t want us to leave this race with munitions in our bag”, Franck Pineau

“It will be an extremely hard hilly stage”, predicts Franck. “It’s short, barely 110 kilometers, and climbers will have plenty to show themselves. It’s going to start off full gas, on a climb, and the race could explode straight away. It’s tactically hard to anticipate. It will certainly come down to the legs, but it could also ease up a little at times. Anyway, it will be very hard. We will do our best. We hope to have one or two guys to help David as long as possible. David wants to do well, he’s got the right spirit, and he’s got the legs to compete with the best. You just have to see how it unfolds. One thing for sure, I don’t want us to leave this race with munitions in our bag”. “It will pretty much be every man for himself tomorrow,” said Matthieu Ladagnous. “This is the big stage for the climbers and David has been feeling good since the start of this Tour of the Basque Country. We hope he will have a great day tomorrow and can be right up there.”

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