There are no gifts for the Vuelta a España peloton in the Basque Country.
A fifth stage that looks similar to Tuesday’s stage 4 will take the Basque pain and add a few extra percentage points Wednesday.
A long and relentlessly hilly romp along the coast from Irún to the leading Basque city Bilbao will see new puncheurs, stage-hunters, and new red jersey Primož Roglič on patrol in a day that could divert in almost any direction.
“I think we can expect some real fireworks in these next few days, especially in the Basque Country,” Chris Froome said Tuesday.
“These are typical Vuelta climbs, very steep, very punchy. I think there’s going to be a lot of damage done to the peloton these next few days.”
Also read: Roglič takes control in Vuelta stage 4
As the second day of a full week of steep climbs and sinuous roads, stage 5 should give further indication of who to be watching out for in two weeks’ time.
Roglič and GC rivals like Enric Mas, Remco Evenepoel, and Jai Hindley weren’t shying away from scoring an early red jersey on the Laguardia hilltop Tuesday, and they’re not likely to back off on the roads toward Irún.
“It’s just the beginning of the Vuelta but it’s always better to be a few seconds in front,” Roglič said after kicking to victory Tuesday.
Climbs, climbs, more climbs
Some 3,000 meters of vert across 188 kilometers of racing makes stage 5 an early monster in the Vuelta’s spin through Spain.
Back-loaded with five categorized climbs including a double ascent of the 4.6km, 8 percent Alto del Vivero, stage 5 is a day to drool over for breakaway specialists, classics contenders, and GC stars alike.
Bonus points on offer on the final climb of the day, just 15km from the line, will likely act as a similar launchpad to the fuse-setting ascent that exploded the action deep into Tuesday’s stage 4.
The rocketing descent toward the line will offer stragglers little space to catch back for a final reduced sprint.
Evenepoel will like what he sees in what looks like a mini Clásica San Sebastián.
Strong snappy climbers like Julian Alaphilippe, Clément Champoussin, and Quentin Pacher will see opportunity before a mountaintop finish on Thursday.
Local teams Burgos-BH and Euskaltel Euskadi will want a similar slice of the “Pastel Vasco” Basque cake.
“I hope to be in the breakaways today and tomorrow and play our cards from there,” Ander Okamika (Burgos-BH) said Tuesday. “The breakaway will depend on how the big teams tackle the race, but we hope to be at the front and we have faith in our options.”
“Big teams” Jumbo Visma and Bora-Hansgrohe made a statement with their sizzling peloton pace Tuesday, and the Vuelta GC looks likely to explode despite it still being week one.
The race’s first mountaintop looms large on the horizon on stage 6 on Thursday, but that’s not likely to dampen any burn in Bilbao.
“Once we get to Spain, it’s a typical Vuelta. It’s hard every day, and there’s always something that you need to be aware of and switched on for,” said 2018 Vuelta winner Simon Yates. “There’s never any time to rest in the Vuelta.”
There’s no rest, no gifts, and no easy days at the Vuelta.
And that’s what makes it so awesome to watch from afar. Here comes stage 5.
🇪🇸 Revive la tensión del ÚLTIMO KILÓMETRO gracias a @CarrefourES.
¡@rogla es el nuevo líder! ❤️ Primož Roglič wins and takes the red jersey!
— La Vuelta (@lavuelta) August 23, 2022