Race report

Andreas Leknessund digs deep on the attack in the hills of the Basque Country

Itzulia Basque Country

Photo Credit: Cor Vos

The penultimate day of racing at Itzulia Basque Country saw the peloton take on the flattest stage of the race, although due to the hilly nature of the region, there were still plenty of climbs to be contested which ensured for a hard day in the saddle. A fast pace was set at the start of the stage with multiple attacks before a group of five riders got a gap over the bunch. Having initially missed the move, Andreas Leknessund broke clear out of the pack and set off in pursuit. After a hard solo chase of around 20 kilometres, he bridged to those ahead, forming a breakaway of six.

Leknessund’s group worked well together but the peloton didn’t allow their gap to grow too far, reaching a maximum of three minutes. As the race charged towards the day’s two main climbs, Leknessund dug deep on the first ascent, regaining contact with the rest of the break over the top. However, on the second ascent he eventually had to relinquish contact after his earlier efforts in the stage took their toll.

Three riders from the original breakaway attacked over the top of the climb and would go on to fight for the stage win, while Team DSM crossed the line safely within the peloton. Tomorrow’s final stage sees the bunch take on a challenging day in the saddle, with several difficult climbs to contend with.

“I was maybe a bit too motivated today,” explained Leknessund. “Originally our plan was to only follow bigger groups, but I saw at one point that the break of today was about to leave, so then I went for it. I was just a bit too late and had to chase the break for almost 50 minutes to get up to them. I did regret it during my chase, but at one point I anyway had spent so much energy that it would be sad to just give up. It was very hard, also when I was together with the others. The breakaway was strong, and we went full gas the whole day. Too bad I did not have the legs to follow on the last climb, especially when the rest got all the way to the line. Anyway I felt strong, and I feel ready to finish off tomorrow, hopefully with Ilan still up there with the strongest guys in the GC.”

Team DSM coach Michiel Elijzen added: “It was a strange day today. A breakaway went early in the stage and Andreas chased a long time to get there, which he eventually did and that was really good, although it cost him some energy. The breakaway stayed away for the first time this week to fight for the win but unfortunately Andreas was dropped on the last climb, after the energy he spent earlier in the stage to bridge to those out front. In the peloton the guys kept Ilan out of trouble and came home safe, which was also one of our goals today. We’ve got one more tough stage to go tomorrow which should be one for the GC riders and climbers.”

Results

Pos. Rider Team Time Points
1 HONORÉ Mikkel Frølich Deceuninck - Quick Step 3:39:54 50
2 ČERNÝ Josef Deceuninck - Quick Step ,, 20
3 BERNARD Julien Trek - Segafredo 0:17 8
13 TUSVELD Martijn Team DSM 0:28 -
16 VAN WILDER Ilan Team DSM ,, -
20 COMBAUD Romain Team DSM ,, -
51 DONOVAN Mark Team DSM ,, -
132 LEKNESSUND Andreas Team DSM 6:50 -
133 GALL Felix Team DSM ,, -