The final stage of the Tour of the Basque Country all around Eibar was supposed to bring some action, and it did. Throughout the 3,500 meters of elevation gain on the menu, and on brutal slopes at times, the favourites delivered a big fight and Juan Ayuso took the overall win. Romain Grégoire was unable to join in the battle on Saturday, but still left Spain with a great stage victory in the bag.

The 2024 Tour of the Basque Country was to be decided this Saturday, over just 137 kilometres. “Only” 137 kilometers, but six classified climbs, including a few steep ones, typical of the region. It all began from the start as the first slopes were located after ten kilometres, and a breakaway of around twenty riders managed to go clear quite fast. “Romain was fifth overall this morning and we hoped to stay in the top 10,” explained Benoît Vaugrenard. “We decided not to go in the breakaway. We thought it wasn’t of much use and we really wanted to stay around Romain, especially with Quentin and Rémy”. With no direct threat to the general classification in the leading group, Mattias Skjelmose’s Lidl-Trek stayed just three minutes behind the fugitives. The first turning point came after around sixty kilometres with the tough ascent of Krabelin (5km at 9.5%). Marc Soler launched the first attack among the big boys, the peloton was reduced to fifty riders or so, and the pace no longer eased off. At this point, Romain Grégoire was still present with Quentin Pacher and Rémy Rochas.

“We got the most from this week”, Benoît Vaugrenard

On the other hand, when the favourites launched the fight twenty kilometres later on the equally terrifying climb of Izua (4km at 9%), the young Frenchman was forced to let go. “He had a little bit of a hot flush and had a very hard time,” Benoît explained. “This stage was also right at the limit for him. In the top 10, we only see climbers, and he is more of a puncher. It was a bit too hard for him. It’s a series of factors. We certainly got out of the top-10, but we fought well, and we have no regrets.” Quentin Pacher was eventually the first rider from the Groupama-FDJ cycling team to reach the finish, five minutes after stage winner Carlos Rodriguez and overall winner Juan Ayuso. “The week’s balance remains really positive,” concluded Benoît. “We took a stage victory, which was the goal. We knew it wasn’t going to be easy to keep the top-10 overall but they all gave their best and we got the most from this week. At the start, we would have said yes for a stage victory in a WorldTour race, and I am very satisfied with the riders. We managed to get going again after losing David, so congratulations to them for their week.”

No comment