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Primoz Roglič (Bora-Hansgrohe), Jonas Vingegaard (Visma-Lease A Bike), Remco Evenepoel (Soudal-QuickStep) and the other top contenders for Itzulia Basque Country will face a typically climb-crammed route in this year’s race.
Running from April 1-6, the 832.1km course, revealed on Friday in the stage 1 start town of Irun, is set to be the first 2024 encounter between at least three of the principal four favourites for the upcoming Tour de France. Only Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) will be missing.
On the menu for Vingegaard – who won Itzulia Basque Country last year in convincing style – and his rivals are a short opening time trial, back in the race after a two-year absence, and five stages featuring the usual relentless rollercoaster of punchy, technical climbs and twisting, often treacherous, descents.
Vingegaard will doubtless be pleased to see organisers have opted to repeat stage 6 of the 2023 race, which he won comfortably, in its entirety. A year ago, the Dane broke away on the second last climb of seven in what was by far the toughest stage to finish alone and lay down a major marker for the Tour de France, and he will doubtless be hoping to put on a similar display this year.
With no less than 22 classified climbs on the route as well as time bonuses of 10, 6 and 4 seconds on offer at each finish, there will be plenty of opportunities for an aggressive, wide-open race in the 2024 Itzulia Basque Country.
The first day, though, starts the race in a relatively sedate style with a solo time trial, just 10 kilometres long and with one short mid-course climb. The distance should establish an initial hierarchy among the GC favourites, but without establishing any major gaps. It is also worth remembering, though, that each time Primož Roglič won Itzulia Basque Country, in 2018 and 2021, he also won the race’s time trial.
After a short neutralised section, stage 2 takes place entirely in the French Basque Country, with only one classified climb but barely a metre of flat making it highly suitable both for ambushes or for a breakaway.
Stage 3 could well see one of the few bunch sprints of the race, as there are only two third-category climbs in the final 50km. Then stage 4’s closely packed series of late short ascents could well see a more impulsive GC rider try to organise a last-minute ambush.
The finale of stage 5 will be even harder to control as it contains a double ascent of a third-category climb, the Muniketagaina, followed by a short, cobbled climb on multiple laps of the cycling-mad town of Amorebieta.
Yet whatever advantages are gained there, the race leader will have to face the biggest test of all on stage 6, where three first-category ascents, three second-category climbs and a final third-category test close to the finish in Ermua, are all crammed into just 137km of action.
With virtually no space for recovery at all between each ascent and everything to play for, the final stage of Itzulia Basque Country is renowned for its unpredictability. So even if the absence of Mount Arrate, Euskadi’s most emblematic climb, for a second straight year, will be regretted by some fans, there is no doubt such a tough 2024 route will produce a worthy successor to Jonas Vingegaard in 2023.
2024 Itzulia-Basque Country route
- Monday April 1: stage 1: Irun – Irun 10km (ITT)
- Tuesday April 2: stage 2: Irun – Kanbo 160km
- Wednesday April 3: stage 3: Etzepeleta – Altsasu 190.9km
- Thursday April 4: stage 4: Etxarri Aranatz – Legutio 157.5km
- Friday April 5: stage 5: Vitoria – Amorebieta 175.9km
- Saturday April 6: stage 6: Eibar – Eibar 137.8km