Itzulia Basque Country stage 3: Quinten Hermans victorious as Primož Roglič survives heavy crash

Belgian beats Edoardo Zambanini and Alex Aranburu as Roglič and Juan Ayuso crash but avoid time losses

Clock15:56, Wednesday 3rd April 2024
Quinten Hermans takes victory on stage 3 of Itzulia Basque Country

© Getty Images

Quinten Hermans takes victory on stage 3 of Itzulia Basque Country

Quinten Hermans (Alpecin-Deceuninck) took the win after a chaotic day of racing on stage 3 of Itzulia Basque Country, beating Edoardo Zambanini (Bahrain-Victorious) and Alex Aranburu (Movistar) to the line.

Primož Roglič (Bora-Hansgrohe) made it through the stage with his lead in the overall standings intact despite a hard fall with 38km to go. The Slovenian spent a couple of minutes on the side of the road as he was evaluated by the race medics before returning to his bike and riding his way back to the peloton.

In the hectic final, crashes claimed another GC contender as Juan Ayuso crashed in a big pile-up with around 1.5km to go. The Spaniard was able to finish the stage on his bike and was given the same time as the winner.

Nevertheless, in the sprint it was all about Hermans, who perfectly timed his acceleration on the uphill drag to the line, coming out of the wheel of Aranburu and opening a comfortable winning margin the the last 50 metres.

Hermans, who has been struggling to rediscover the form that delivered him a podium at Liege-Bastogne-Liege in 2022, slammed his front wheel in excitement as he crossed the line after navigating the chaotic sprint in brilliant fashion.

"It was unreal going to the finish line," Hermans said after the stage. "The team did an amazing job today, they really believed in me that I could do it today. I want to thank them big time because I did the sprint, but they did the perfect job putting me in position.

"It was quite hectic going from the big road to the right corner. For me, it was a perfect sprint because it was uphill and thats where I have my best push. Like I said, [the team] delivered me in a perfect position. Stan [Van Tricht] did an amazing job bringing me into the last 600 metres."

A fast start and a heavy crash for Roglič

Stage 3 of Itzulia Basque Country was the second of two potential sprint days at the race, however, with an undulating profile and a sturdy opening climb to the race’s longest stage a breakaway was always a possibility.

Ultimately the possibility for a breakaway to go the distance played a role in limiting the breakaway's chances as many teams were interested in getting riders in the move of the day. With so many teams up for the fight for the breakaway, it took a full 50km for the first real gap to form when Alan Jousseaume (TotalEnergies) went solo. He was soon joined by Tom Paquot (Intermarché-Wanty) and Eric Antonio Fagundez (Burgos-BH).

James Fouché (Euskaltel-Euskadi) was the last rider who made an effort to get off the front, attacking from the peloton with 128km to go. Fouché would eventually make it to the other three escapees but not until 87km to go.

With only four riders up the road and a manageable gap which hovered around three minutes to the peloton, the stage was set for a sprint with Ineos Grenadiers offering help to Bora-Hansgrohe and quickly cutting into the advantage of the breakaway. At 48km to go the breakaway was back within touching distance as Paquot made one last dig to maximise his time out front but was brought back with 41km to go.

Unfortunately, what looked like an impending smooth run to the line was interrupted a few kilometres later when there was a crash near the front of the peloton on a sharp left-hand bend. Primoż Roglič was the rider who seemed to fall the hardest and the race leader spent a couple of minutes on the side of the road with his team and the race medics evaluating his ability to continue.

Eventually, Roglič gingerly returned to the saddle as the peloton eased up ahead. The Slovenian and his Bora-Hansgrohe teammates made quick work of the chase, bringing the race leader back into the peloton before the bottom of the final gradual climb with 26km to go.

Ineos Grenadiers paced the final climb at a steady but controlled pace, keeping the group big and their man Ethan Hayter protected for a sprint that looked on paper to suit the British sprinter. At the top of the climb Louis Meintjes (Intermarché-Wanty) jumped from the peloton to score points in the mountains classification, giving him the lead in that regard.

Intermediate sprint and then the real thing

The next rendezvous on the menu came at the intermediate sprint with 8km to go. With time bonuses on offer, the sprint trains of the general classification contenders took charge at the front of the peloton, with Lidl-Trek and Soudal Quick-Step leading the charge. In the end, Remco Evenepoel (Soudal Quick-Step) was fastest in the sprint with Isaac del Toro (UAE Team) just edging out Jonas Vingegaard (Visma-Lease a bike) for second. Evenepoel moved above Mattias Skjelmose (Lidl-Trek) to now sit second on GC, seven seconds down on Roglič.

As the GC men sat up after the sprint, Marc Soler (UAE Team Emirates) saw his opportunity to steal a march on the sprinters and launched an attack with Nelson Oliveira (Movistar) and Gorka Izagirre (Cofidis). For a minute it looked as if the strong trio could pull off the surprise, but the peloton was wise to it, with several teams quick to mount a chase. The trio was back in the fold with 3km to go.

Without out-and-out sprint favourites and their sprint teams to control the run to the line, the last 3km were frantic. Big swings across the road and constant battling for position eventually caused a big crash with 1.5km to go. Most notably, the crash brought down Skjelmose, Juan Ayuso (UAE Team Emirates) and Carlos Rodriguez (Ineos Grenadiers). All of them were able to remount and finish the stage on their own power and were given the same time of the peloton as the crash was within the last 3km.

Nevertheless, there was still a sprint to be won and several fast-finishers looking to take a rare WorldTour stage win. Ethan Hayter (Ineos Grenadiers) and Paul Lapeira (Decathlon-AG2R), two of the favourites for the stage, were out of position early, while Movistar and Alex Aranburu were in the driver's seat for the sprint as the road turned uphill for the final 200 metres.

Yet it was too soon for the versatile Spanish sprinter as Hermans sat in his draft and launched a devastating sprint, a sprint we haven’t seen from the Belgian since he beat Wout van Aert in the sprint for second at Liège-Bastogne-Liège in 2022. The win for Hermans is his first in Alpecin-Deceuninck colours and bodes well as he gears up for the Ardennes Classics later this month.

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Bahrain Victorious



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