Etixx – Quick-Step to Vuelta al Pais Vasco
Gianluca Brambilla, Rodrigo Contreras, Laurens De Plus, Daniel Martin, Pieter Serry, Martin Velits, Julien Vermote and Carlos Verona will ride the ninth World Tour event of the season.
Around one century ago, some of the characters from Ernest Hemingway's "The Sun Also Rises" ditched Paris in the summer for a holiday to Pamplona during the town's famous bull fighting fiesta, but not before going fishing in the idyllic Basque Country for what would turn out to be one final serene week before their world was forever changed. Unlike the unforgettable characters of the 1926 novel, the peloton who'll line up for the 56th edition of the Vuelta al Pais Vasco will not enjoy a moveable feast whatsoever, as it will have no time of respite, giving that the six-day event will be a continuous up and down affair on short and punchy hills that will ruthlessly hit double-digit gradients.
The race will start on Monday, April 4th, with a stage that includes eight categorized climbs, and one day later will see the first fight between the GC contenders on the uphill finish of Garrastatxu (2.7 km, 11.6% average gradient). Two punchy stages will follow next, before the peloton will scale the traditional Santuario de Arrate (5.4 km, 8.2%), where new differences will be made. As was the case in its recent history, Pais Vasco will conclude with a hilly and arduous individual time trial, one final test for the ones who want to get their hands on the yellow jersey and the txapela that reward the overall winner.
For Daniel Martin, this will be the third Spanish appointment of the season, following Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana and Volta a Catalunya, in which he won a stage apiece. The 29-year-old returns to Vuelta al Pais Vasco for the first time in four years and he's determined to continue on the same road since he's joined the team and notch another strong result before kicking his Ardennes campaign, especially as he will be supported by a well-rounded and motivated team.
"Pais Vasco sticks to its roots, which means many tough climbs and many <walls> along the way, but it will all come down to the individual time trial on Saturday. We won't see too many bunch sprints, which will be to Dan Martin's liking, as he can sprint from a reduced group. He will lead the team and go for a good GC result, which he can get, considering his form and the fact he will rely on a strong team, which includes Gianluca Brambilla and Carlos Verona, two riders who showed good form thus far this season", said sport director Brian Holm of Etixx – Quick-Step's ambitions for the Basque race.
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele