The Wolfpack returns to the start of a race where we won close to a dozen stages at the previous participations.
Won by some of cycling’s biggest names – from Gino Bartali to Jacques Anquetil and from Luis Ocaña to Sean Kelly – Itzulia Basque Country remains to this day one of the most prestigious races in the world, despite its position on the calendar, squeezed between Ronde van Vlaanderen and Paris-Roubaix. It’s also one of the hardest events out there, the interminable succession of hills, together with the twisty and narrow roads, and punishing double-digit gradients making it a truly attritional affair.
This year things won’t be any different at the 62nd edition, six days of demanding racing awaiting the peloton between 3-8 April, when the riders will tackle some of the region’s toughest climbs: Altzo, Santa Koloma, Monte Kalbo, Natxitua, Krabelin and Izua – the last two of these coming on the last day, a short but brutal one, comprising more than 3500 vertical meters and concluding in the center of Eibar instead atop the mythical Arrate.
Rémi Cavagna and Mauro Schmid, two riders who between them took three victories in March at the Settimana Internazionale Coppi e Bartali (a pair of stages and the general classification) will be back in action for Soudal Quick-Step at Itzulia Basque Country, together with Andrea Bagioli, Mattia Cattaneo, the experienced Dries Devenyns, James Knox, and Martin Svrcek.
“As we know, Pais Vasco is one of the hardest stage races of the season, but we go there with a strong squad, confident we can take some good results. Rémi and Mauro displayed their shape in Italy, Mattia had a solid Catalunya, Dries is back after sickness, while Andrea, James and Martin can bring their contribution to the team’s outing. There is no time trial this year, only lots of steep climbs, and also the weather can play an important role throughout the week, but we are motivated to do a good race”, said sports director Geert Van Bondt.
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele / Getty Images