Primož Roglič won the opening stage of the Tour of the Basque Country, which started with an individual time trial around the coastal town of Hondarribia.
Remco Evenepoel powered his way through the 7.5km course, becoming the first rider to set a time under 10 minutes. However, nothing could be separated between the Belgian and Roglič, the pair finishing just five seconds apart as they proved their discernible level above the rest of the peloton.
However, it was Roglič who stole an early, albeit minimal, lead in the Tour of the Basque Country. The Slovenian crossed the line quickest, finishing with a time of 9-48 as he used all of his expertise navigating the technical, punchy stage.
Rémi Cavagna, Adam Yates and Geraint Thomas rounded out the rest of the top-five, with most major names in the race setting themselves up encouragingly in the GC for the rest of the six-day race.
HOW IT HAPPENED
The opening stage of this year’s Tour of the Basque Country kicked off with a 7.5km ITT, with Daniel Alejandro Mendez (Equipo Kern Pharma) starting proceedings around the coastal town of Hondarribia.
The favourites included Geraint Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers), Aleksandr Vlasov (Bora-Hansgrohe), Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl riders Julian Alaphilippe, Remco Evenepoel and Rémi Cavagna, and Jumbo-Visma pair Jonas Vingegaard and Primož Roglič, with the Slovenian the final man to take to the start line of the first stage.
Riders were faced with a technical, punchy time trial to begin the six-day Basque race, with the route featuring a 500m climb at 9% gradient on a narrow road less than 2km into the time trial, before descending back to Hondarribia. The only time check appears midway through this section of the route, after 3.1km.
From there, the final 3km of the route featured two more short uphill sections, one of which measured 200m but at 10% gradient. After reaching the summit, riders descended towards the line for the final kilometre.
In the first hour of riders completing their time trial, 20-year-old Ben Tulett (Ineos Grenadiers) came closest to breaking under 10 minutes, the British rider going fastest with a time of 10-09. Tulett’s teammate Adam Yates knocked him off top spot though, achieving a time of 10-06.
Home favourite Ion Izagirre (Cofidis) produced a strong showing on the streets of Hondarribia, finishing just a few seconds after Yates. Yates then suffered the exact same fate as Tulett, with Geraint Thomas finishing just 0.16 seconds quicker than him in the ITT to claim provisional first-place. In keeping with extremely compact finishing times, Aleksandr Vlasov finished just 0.23 seconds behind Thomas, placing him provisionally in third.
Rémi Cavagna crossed the line as the fastest man with a time of 10-04, the Frenchman impressively maintaining the early pace he set on route to the first timing point of the stage. Cavagna claimed after the time trial that he lost a little bit of time climbing, but managed to claw back that deficit, and then some, on the sharp descents.
Julian Alaphilippe failed to impress with his performance, but Jonas Vingegaard crossed the line just few seconds after Cavagna in provisional first-place, though the Danish rider still sat in seventh as the final riders began their Tour of the Basque Country.
Signalling his intent in Spain, Remco Evenepoel set a time eight seconds quicker than every other rider when he passed the only timing point 3.1km into the TT. The Belgian rider powered through the course, becoming the first rider to finish under 10 minutes, finishing his time trial in a remarkable 9-53, achieving an average speed of 45.59kph.
Despite this, Evenepoel crossed the line still knowing full well he had his work cut out to beat Primož Roglič, who came into the event undefeated in every single Spanish time trial he has competed in. The Slovenian crossed the first timing point just half a second behind Evenepoel, but he then proceeded to carve through the descent.
As the Roglič approached the cobbled section of the course, he seemed in a more comfortable state. He compounded this seemingly superior strength by exploding up the sharp climbs, finishing five seconds ahead of Evenepoel in second place, and 16 seconds ahead of third-placed Rémi Cavagna.
The next stage will see the riders cycle 207.6km from Leitza to Viana, across a flat route.
TOUR OF THE BASQUE COUNTRY 2022, STAGE ONE: HONDARRIBIA TO HONDARRIBIA (7.51KM)
1. Primož Roglič (Svn) Jumbo-Visma, in 9-48
2. Remco Evenepoel (Bel) Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl, at 5s
3. Rémi Cavagna (Fra) Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl, at 16s
4. Geraint Thomas (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers, at 18
5. Adam Yates (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers, at 18s
6. Aleksandr Vlasov (Rus) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 18s
7. Bruno Armirail (Fra) Groupama-FDJ, at 20s
8. Ion Izagirre (Spa) Cofidis, at 20s
9. Jonas Vingegaard (Den) Jumbo-Visma, at 20s
10. Ben Tulett (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers, at 21s