The six-stage race in the Basque region suited mainly to climbers and GC men, finished with a 16.5km ITT won by Alberto Contador (Tinkoff). The race provided some great moments.

Alberto Contador took the overall win at the Tour of the Basque Country for the fourth time, with a strong performance in the mostly uphill and rainy 16.5km time trial.

Contador posted a time of 29 minutes and 13 seconds, five seconds ahead of Nairo Quintana (Movistar) who lost several seconds due to a misjudged bike change. Race leader going into the final stage, Sergio Henao (Team Sky) could not do enough to keep the lead, finishing 18 seconds behind a dominant Contador, who appeared untroubled by some of the more brutal ramps on the stage.  

Henao however finished second on GC, 12 seconds adrift, and Quintana 37 seconds behind Contador finished third.  

"To be honest, I don't like finishing second. After two second places in Paris-Nice and Catalanuya, this is a nice victory," Contador said. 

"I rode cautiously and tried to avoid taking unnecessary risks and at some point I was close to losing the stage win. However, that was secondary and in the end, I also got that. I now have to rest and recover after an intense start to the season.  

"I'd like to dedicate this victory to all the fans and to Oleg Tinkov for his support, his passion and for making this team a reality. This victory goes to him," he said. 

Contador also told the gathered press he would delay his decision to retire.

“Recently, I have been pondering and thinking about my future with my entourage and most probably I will continue riding.

Alberto Contador's retirement now on the back burner
Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) has vowed to continue competing for at least another year after claiming the Tour of the Basque Country yesterday.
 

The race has three names: Spanish: Vuelta al Pais Vasco; Basque: Euskal Herriko itzulia and English: Tour of the Basque Country. 

 

Sunday 10 Apr 2016

Quintana started the race with a virus but kept his powder dry on a very wet stage 1 (26th), an eighth place on "the wall" on stage 2, and remained in that position on stage 3 after a puncture. 

This image sums up stage 4 for Quintana. He had to take it to the leaders and he did in a valiant skirmish with Contador. 

This stage featured three final climbs to Aia, the last contained ramps peaking close to 30%. 

Quintana finished sixth, Contador seventh. He couldn't follow Contador and Henao in stage 5 but limited his losses to go into the final time trial eighth on GC, trailing Henao by 10 seconds and Contador by four. He had it all to ride for in the ITT. 

Quintana reactions:

Stage 6 ITT: 

"We took a strong gamble with that bike change, hoping we could ride faster into the final stretch, and even though it helped, it wasn't enough for the win. It's still worth as we couldn't leave this race without trying something different, and this test will be useful for the future. We didn't win the race, Alberto was stronger this time, but we were close and we're happy about that."

"It's a nice finish for us in this race - clearly a progression from where we were at on Monday - I was still feeling not quite well and also missing two valuable team-mates in the Izagirre brothers. That really changed our way to tackle the race and look for our chances. Seeing we're now on the overall podium on Saturday, knowing that I recovered way faster than we all expected, is a great feeling, a boost in our morale before the big, upcoming goals.

Stage 4:

"I did well through that final climb, but after the ascent nobody wanted to keep pushing, and we got caught by those we had left behind. At the end, it was a matter of everyone defending his place overall."

Mikel Landa won Stage 2 and kept yellow after Stage 3

Landa had this to say about winning on home roads: 

And what the local kids said in Vitoria: 

He kept the yellow jersey after Stage 3:

Landa's first season with Sky was delayed due to illness and he missed races such as Volta a Valenciana and Ruta del Sol. Such an emphatic stage win therefore exceeded expectations. 

 

Sergio Henao

Henao raced consistently throughout the race. His efforts on stage 4 to fight back from earlier being dropped and to finish fifth on that stage only four seconds behind then race leader, Wilco Kelderman (LottoNL Jumbo) were exemplary.

Stage 5's final climb: 

He finished second behind solo winner, Diego Rosa (Astana) and this was enough to earn him the yellow jersey for himself, with just a six second lead over Contador before the ITT. 

Henao

"I'm really happy. I've fought really hard every day to take the leader's jersey and I finally have it!

"When me and Alberto [Contador] went to the front we both wanted to gain time ahead of tomorrow's time trial and we worked well together.

"The team did a super job today and I'm really happy with all my team-mates. Tactically today we did a great job today too - Mikel's attack before the last climb forced the other teams to work. Everyone has been super focused across the week."

 

After a pretty crappy week for BMC - a drunk guy broke Philippe Gilbert's finger and Greg Van Avermaet crashed out out of the Tour of Flanders, his main focus for the season - former Euskadel-Euskadi rider and therefore home crowd favourite, Samuel Sanchez brought the team some good news. 

Philippe Gilbert's finger broken by drunk man while out training
BMC has announced their main rider for the Ardennes classics sustained a fractured finger in an altercation while out riding.

Samuel Sanchez:

“It’s my first individual win with BMC Racing Team. My last individual win was at the Dauphine in 2013 and this is too many years for me.

"For me it is a really, really beautiful day. It’s a victory for my mind and for the team.

"For BMC Racing Team today was a hard day because at the beginning of the stage, six of my teammates and I split from the peloton so we worked a lot to catch the first group."

Sanchez finished 6th overall on GC. 

After Kelderman's second place on stage 2 after a strong attack, he grabbed yellow after stage 4 and an eighth place finish. 

Kelderman had an unfortunate small crash on stage 5 which saw him lose time to Henao. He was therefore satisfied with his 10th overall place on GC. 

Kelderman: 

“I had to push through my limits today. It was a very tough stage, with a steep climb in it. I wasn’t strong on that climb and felt some pain from yesterday’s crash.

"I have a wound on my knee and some bruises because of that crash, which stays with you after such hard stage. I was able to finish my time trial strong, fortunately, so I finished top 10.

"That’s the most important thing this week. I showed a great level, which I can build on.”