Itzulia Basque Country stage 2: Paul Lapeira wins reduced sprint after late split

Battistella and Vervaeke round out the podium as crashes cause late chaos in the rain

Clock15:35, Tuesday 2nd April 2024
Paul Lapeira wins stage 2 of Itzulia Basque Country

© Getty Images

Paul Lapeira wins stage 2 of Itzulia Basque Country

Paul Lapeira (Decathlon AG2R La Mondiale) claimed the biggest win of his young career on stage 2 of Itzulia Basque Country, triumphing in a draggy sprint from a reduced peloton in the rain.

Only 40 riders arrived in Kanbo for the uphill drag to the line, after the peloton split in the final kilometres, which saw a series of crashes on the wet roads.

A few big names missed the splits but the big pre-race favourites and top team leaders were all present and correct, with Primož Roglič (Bora-Hansgrohe) not sprinting but safely defending his overall lead.

Lapeira's victory was doubly impressive since he hadn't even banked on his sprint. With the bunch cut down by crashes at the 4km-to-go and 2km-to-go marks, the 23-year-old looked to take advantage of the confusion with an attack 1,500 metres from the line.

He was quickly brought back, with Tour de France champion Jonas Vingegaard (Visma-Lease a Bike) up at the front of the reduced bunch, and just as well. After a strong lead-out from teammate Bruno Armirail, he kicked hard on the uphill drag and won by a comfortable margin.

Samuele Battisetella (Astana Qazaqstan), jumped early but was soundly rounded by Lapeira and forced to accept second place, with Louis Vervaeke (Soudal Quick-Step) rounding out the day's top 3 in third.

"The level in the WorldTour is so high, so I'm very happy to win," said Lapeira, who won two lower-level French one-day races earlier this month but has now made his breakthrough in a top-category race.

"I tried to attack with 1.5km to go as it was a bit calm, but they were onto me straight away, so I sat up and started to think about the sprint. Bruno took me from 700 metres to 200 metres, then when it started to kick uphill I launched my sprint and it worked out."

The general classification picture

Race leader Roglič declined to sprint on a stage you sense he possibly could have competed for on a different day, but he nevertheless survived a tricky day to retain the leader's yellow jersey following his time trial victory.

However, Monday's runner-up, Jay Vine (UAE Team Emirates) was caught up in the late split and lost 23 seconds, dropping to 14th overall. UAE, though, still had Juan Ayuso finishing up front - and also taking two bonus seconds at the intermediate sprint - along with Brandon McNulty. Their youngster, Isaac del Toro, who in fact accidentally won the intermediate sprint, finished alongside Vine.

Remco Evenepoel (Soudal Quick-Step) trailed those two UAE riders at the intermediate sprint to collect a single bonus second and finished safely in the bunch to reduce his deficit to Roglič to 10 seconds. He's now tied for time with Mattias Skjelmose (Lidl-Trek), who is in second place overall.

Aysuo has moved ahead of Vingegaard into fourth place, with the Tour de France champion rounding out the top five at 15 seconds.

Along with Vine, those who lost time include Skjelmose's teammate, Tao Geoghegan Hart, the former Giro d'Italia champion, who went down in a crash with 4km to go and conceded nearly four minutes.

Many big names, if not outright favourites, finished in a group at 23 seconds down: Carlos Rodriguez (Ineos), Jai Hindley (Bora-Hansgrohe), Santiago Buitrago (Bahrain Victorious), David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ).

How it unfolded

After the wind and the hailstorms on the opening time trial of the week-long WorldTour race in northern Spain, there was more bad weather on the first road stage, with rain coming down throughout the afternoon.

The stage from Irun to Kanbo over the border in the French Basque Country featured over 2,000 metres of elevation gain in 160km, with constantly undulating roads but no obvious climbs, with a bunch sprint of sorts always the likeliest outcome.

Five riders made up the day's breakaway: Alexis Vuillermoz (TotalEnergies), Enekoitz Azparren (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Ivan Cobo (Kern Pharma), Jetse Bol (Burgos-BH) and Xabier Azparren (Q36.5). Together, they built a lead of four minutes but were kept on a short leash throughout, as Ineos Grenadiers, Bora-Hansgrohe, and Bahrain Victorious marshalled the peloton.

Cobo was dropped from the breakaway with 90km remaining after Bol had taken the points on the day's sole categorised climb and Vuillermoz the maximum points at the intermediate sprint.

From there, it was a long waiting game in the rain, with the next flashpoint being the second intermediate sprint with 8.5km to go, which also carried bonus seconds. It was on the approach, with 13km to go, that the breakaway was finally put to an end, with UAE and Ineos leading the run-in to the sprint.

There was a mad dash to the line, and in the end it was taken by someone who perhaps didn't mean to, with Isaac del Toro doing such a good lead-out for UAE teammate Juan Ayuso that he won it himself. Remco Evenepoel took second place, with Ayuso in third, as the trio took bonuses of 3-2-1 seconds respectively.

The run-in to the sprint finish, however, was marred by a spate of crashes. With around 4km to go, Tao Geoghegan Hart came down in a crash with two other riders and only gingerly remounted his bike. Two kilometres further down the road, a Movistar rider in second position slipped out on a wet corner, triggering frustration in his teammate who was on the front.

From there, it was a messy, reduced peloton, with Vingegaard deciding that it was worth spending the extra energy to stay right up front. Safety was the name of the game as Roglič and Evenepoel, who might have sprinted on another day, were content to come home in the pack.

In the end it was Lapeira, who'd already tried to win the race in a different way, who had the best lead-out and the best legs on the kick to the line.

For more race results, visit our race results page.

Race Results

1

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LAPEIRA Paul

Decathlon AG2R La Mondiale Team

3H 42' 28"

2

it flag

BATTISTELLA Samuele

Astana Qazaqstan Team

"

3

be flag

VERVAEKE Louis

Soudal Quick-Step

"

4

es flag

MIQUEL DELGADO Pau

Equipo Kern Pharma

"

5

es flag

ARANBURU Alex

Movistar Team

"

6

uy flag

SILVA Thomas

Caja Rural-Seguros RGA

"

7

fr flag

RETAILLEAU Valentin

Decathlon AG2R La Mondiale Team

"

8

es flag

SERRANO Gonzalo

Movistar Team

"

9

us flag

MCNULTY Brandon

UAE Team Emirates

"

10

be flag

HERMANS Quinten

Alpecin-Deceuninck

"

Provided by FirstCycling

Major Races

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29 Jun - 21 Jul

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Tour de France

2.UWT

14 Apr

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Amstel Gold Race

1.WWT

14 Apr

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Amstel Gold Race

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17 Apr

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Provided by FirstCycling

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