The 60th edition of Itzulia Basque Country (2.UWT, 05-10/04) will kick-off next Monday. The race comprises of six stages. As tradition goes, the many riders use this competition as a critical stop for Amstel Gold Race and the Walloon classics, Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège, which will come later in the month.
And this shows in the rough stage profiles. First test is a time trial of about 14 kilometers around the iconic city of Bilbao. It finishes on top of a short climb of more than 2 kilometers with ramps up to 19% within the last 1000 meters! The second stage seem a perfect fit for the punchers with a few climbs of 2nd and 3rd category with, once again, a tough uphill finish. Stage 3 is very serious business: the finishing point is in Ermualde, at the end of a 1st category climb with an average percentage of 10% and peaks of 20%. Also stages 4 and 5 are stuffed with hills but end up on flat roads. The stage race closes in style with the queen stage to Arrate. There are no less than seven categorized climbs: three of 1st catgory, one of 2nd and three of 3rd category. That makes more than 30 kilometres uphill in total. Then, we will know the successor of Ion Iazgirre, who won the last edition of Itzulia Basque Country in 2019.
Under the guidance of sports directors Valerio Piva and Jean-Marc Rossignon, Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux will make its debut in the Spanish stage race. The selection consists of our Norwegian Odd Christian Eiking, youngsters Theo Delacroix and Alexander Evans, the latter lining-up for his second Spanish stage race after Volta Ciclista a Catalunya. We also look forward to the first road race for Belgian cyclocrossman Quinten Hermans, the first stage race of the season for Maurits Lammertink, another great performance of Lorenzo Rota and the second appearance of our new rider Georg Zimmermann.
Multitalent Quinten Hermans divides his time between cyclocross and road racing. He is totally ready to kick off his 2021 road season in the Basque Country.
«After my last cross of the season in Oostmalle, around one-and-half months ago, I rested a few days until I started my training again on the following Friday. The first training sessions were rather easy-going, afterwards the intensity and the duration got higher and higher. Now I just got back from Tenerife, where I did a training camp on El Teide. So I feel ready for the start of my road campaign in the Basque Country. »
« Here, I would like to test myself a bit. I don’t have a specific goal for this race but I’m aiming for a good result. I have to. Otherwise I could have just stayed at Tenerife and kept on training. A lot of good riders participate in this WorldTour race but that doesn’t worry me. After a training camp in altitude it’s hard to know how high my level is compared to the peloton’s but we’ll know soon enough. For now I can only say I really look forward to racing again! »
« The general classification is not something that is significantly important to me at this moment. I think we have to be in the spotlights as a team, like we always try to do. That’s parts of the team’s DNA. Maybe, if I lose some time in the first stages, I may get some freedom to go in a breakaway. That seems like a key to success. »
« Itzulia is an important part of my program, in order to compete for my main goals this spring. I want to be in great shape for Brabantse Pijl. I know this race very well because I often train in the area of the finish in Overijse. But there’s more than this. I’ll also ride the Walloon classics and I also dream of riding a grand tour this year! »
Odd Christian Eiking
Itzulia Basque Country 2021 :
Stage 1 (05/04): Bilbao – Bilbao (13,9 km) ( ITT)
Stage 2 (06/04): Zalla – Sestao (154,8 km)
Stage 3 (07/04): Amurrio – Ermualde (167,7 km)
Stage 4 (08/04): Vitoria-Gasteiz – Hondarribia (189,1 km)
Stage 5 (09/04): Hondarribia – Ondarroa (160,2 km)
Stage 6 (10/04): Ondarroa – Arrate (Eibar) (111,9 km)