Stage 3 Vitoria-Gasteiz to Zumarraga was 107km long and was considered the first “mountain stage.” It included climbs over the Azazeta (cat 2), Iturrieta (cat 1), Urbasa (cat 1), Urkilaga (cat 2), Gabiria (cat 3), Antigua (cat 3, twice), Atagoiti (cat 3) and the Antiguako (cat 2).
A breakaway of four riders set off with Hugh Carthy and Omar Fraile (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA), Lieuwe Westra (Astana) and Sander Armee (Lotto Soudal). Movistar showed their strength (again) by riding on the front most of the day and protecting their GC leader Nairo Quintana.
The breakaway made it over the top of Gabiria with a two minute gap. After a long descent the escapees started up the top for Antiqua for the first time. Westera led a successful solo attack over the top of Atagoiti but lost time on the flat section going into the final climb as Lampre-Merida, Team Sky, Movistar and Katusha pushed forward all fighting for position and was eventually swallowed up at the bottom of Antiqua.
Fans crowded the already very narrow Antigua which averaged around 16% with 22% in some sections. There was a crash that spilt the peloton over the top and forced guys to get off there bikes and walk up it. If you weren’t in a good position going into the climb you could pretty much kiss your GC chances good-bye.
When the dust settled after the climb, Rodriguez won a three-man sprint to the line ahead of Sergio Henao (Team Sky) and Nairo Quintana (Movistar). The group broke off from a whittled down field on the very steep Antigua.
Stage 4 of the Vuelta Pais Vasco, Zumarraga to Arrate, was 162 km and is considered the Queen Stage and has been for many years.
At 40km a large group of around 15 riders broke off and with no GC riders it looked to be the move of the day. But 30 minutes later hope was quickly dashed when Quintana and his teammate bridged across. Team Sky countered with an attack and as the peloton approached the large breakaway. Four riders were able to attack off that move and escape. Tom Danielson (Cannondale-Garmin), Tony Martin (Ettix-QuickStep), Romain Hardy(Cofidis) and Peio Bilbao (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA).
Tony Martin was only a minute down on GC so Sky kept them on a tight leash all day. As the peloton bared down on the four leaders, Martin and Danielson increased the pace and shed the other riders. The pair rode over six of the seven categorized climbs until they were over-taken going into the last climb with 8km to go.
On the final time up Arrate Katusha and Movistar were aggressors sending Ilnur Zakarin and Ion Izagirre off. Behind a group of 12 formed chasing. In the final kilometers race leader Henao attacked multiple times and brought back the two. Going over the summit Katusha took control as they had the numbers (with 3) in the lead group. Henao fought for position, but it was Rodriguez who used his team to perfection and entered the last corners first to claim his second consecutive stage win.Bauke Mollema (Trek Factory Racing) was second in the sprint and Simon Yates (Orica-GreenEdge) was third.Team Sky’s Sergio Henao has the overall leaders jersey with the same time as Rodriquez and Quintana.
I didn’t go to the race today so special shootout to Basque cycling photographer Iraia Calvo for the photos on today’s blog. Follow her she’s on twitter and instagram, good stuff.
Today was my third attempt at riding this week, I’ve realized that to get to any good climbs from our hotel you have to go on the freeway which Spanish cyclists are ok with but I find absolutely terrifying, but I digress. Tom had a case of food poisoning or some sort of stomach virus and was up throwing up most of Tuesday night. Wednesday morning, he looked bad- I mean really bad. So I tried to give him a little pep talk to which I referenced the infamous Game 5 of the 1997 NBA finals and as usual he had no idea what I was talking about. I proceeded to tell him about Michael Jordan playing with the flu and how he relied on his teammate Scottie Pippen and ferocious desire to beat the Utah Jazz. “Channel your inner MJ,” half-joking but it worked.
Even though he lost time on GC yesterday, he finished with his team and in his condition I called it a miracle. The next day he was back and ready to ball out. This the type of stuff that I am proud of, not T.V. time or trophies or twitter followers. But giving your best even when you don’t feel your best. It’s easy to put yourself out there when you’re feeling a 100% but what about the days when you aren’t? The days when you don’t feel like a champion but instead feel like the one doing the “modified” position in the workout video. Those are the days when real growth happens and change occurs. So I urge everyone during tough times in work, athletics or relationships, channel your inner MJ! Because whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right.
Link to article http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/espn25/story?page=moments/79