High stakes all around: Why the 2024 Itzulia Basque Country matters to Vingegaard, Roglic and Evenepoel

Three years ago in the Itzulia Basque Country and with less than two hours left to race on the final stage, all eyes were on Primož Roglič when the Slovenian launched a blistering and successful long-distance attack that finally netted him a second overall victory.

One of the most enthralling days in recent Itzulia-Basque race history, Roglič’s spectacular defeat of Tadej Pogačar, Brandon McNulty and a previously-dominant UAE Team Emirates had all the feel of a sporting revenge for a rather bigger last-minute loss, that of the Tour de France in 2020, to his fellow Slovenian. But when the dust settled on Itzulia 2021, with the benefit of hindsight, there was another highly significant thread to that race’s narrative for Jumbo-Visma.

There’s also a chance to continue a run of wins that currently began at O Gran Camiño and had his devastating ride in Tirreno-Adriatico as its last component, making Vingegaard not just undefeated in 2024 so far but also way ahead of any opposition. Last but not least, after Pogačar’s blistering demonstration of climbing prowess in the recently completed Volta a Catalunya, a storming ride in the hills of the Basque Country would confirm that if the Slovenian has evidently got major momentum going right now for the summer, Vingegaard is not lacking in it, either.

That said, the terrain in Itzulia Basque Country always lends itself to abrupt and unexpected changes of script and this year will be no exception. Opportunities abound for ambushes on the narrow, twisting climbs of the rural hinterlands, like the one that saw McNulty move into the lead in 2021, as well as the Basque Country’s often treacherous weather conditions.

Amongst the teams keen to gatecrash the Vingegaard-Roglič-Evenepoel party will be Ineos Grenadiers, fielding both Tom Pidcock, for whom Itzulia’s technical roads and scary descents will not prove a deterrent, and up-and-coming Spanish star Carlos Rodríguez. 

SOURCE: CyclingNews   (go to source)
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