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Stephen Puddicombe

As it happened: Juan Ayuso takes overall victory at Itzulia Basque Country stage 6

Route information for the 2024 Itzulia Basque Country (Image credit: Itzulia Basque Country)

Itzulia Basque Country - the complete guide

Jonas Vingegaard suffers broken collarbone, ribs, Evenepoel fractures clavicle, scapula in Itzulia Basque Country crash

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Race situation

Peloton tackle 137.8km in final day of racing in Eibar.

Hello and welcome to Cyclingnews' live coverage of the sixth and final stage at Itzulia Basque Country.

You join for the final day of what has been an unusual Itzulia Basque Country. The whole race has been overshadowed by the horrific crash on Thursday that took out so many of the main contenders, and the GC race has never really ignited, with the top 8 separated by just 15 seconds, and the top 23 by no more than a minute.

The subdued GC race so far does mean that almost anything can happen today. With so many riders still within touching distance of the top of GC, and with no real hierarchy established yet of who’s climbing the best, it’s very difficult to predict who will end up as winner of the yellow jersey.

As things stand, Mattias Skjelmose leads, but he was already put under pressure yesterday and can expect much the same today, only more intensified. A resurgent Max Schachmann is in second-place just two seconds adrift, but it’s perhaps Juan Ayuso he should be most concerned about. He is on paper arguably the best climber left in the race, and his UAE Team Emirates were the main aggressors yesterday, and also have the cards of Brandon McNulty (in 6th place at 13 seconds) and Isaac del Toro (12th at 32 seconds) to play.

Whereas every road stage so far has ended in a bunch sprint (aside from the neutralised stage 4), there is enough climbing today for a proper GC fight. Last year, on the same course, Jonas Vingegaard attacked on the penultimate climb of the day to solo to stage and overall victory. It’s unclear whether anyone will be superior enough to go so long, but we can surely expect attacks and fireworks.

Mattias Skjelmose wearing the yellow jersey he hopes to defend today. (Image credit: Getty Images)

The riders have just set off from the unofficial start in Eibar. About five minutes 'till the race proper begins. 

The riders at the start in Eibar (Image credit: Getty Images)


And we're off!

There are about 10km of flat before the first climb of the day, the short, category three Elkorrieta, which is immediately followed by the longer, harder category one Azurki. Given the openness of the race situation, added to how short the stage is, we can expect a hectic start. 

The weather is warm and dry, with no rain forecasted for the day.


A few riders have used this flat section preceding the first climbs to get up the road: Xabier Mikel Azparren (Q36.5), Kévin Vauquelin (Arkéa - B&B Hotels), Alessandro Verre (Arkéa - B&B Hotels), Harold Martín López (Astana Qazaqstan) and Sjoerd Bax (UAE Team Emirates). They only have a few seconds for now.

Vauquelin is an interesting name, as he’s in fourth overall at only 6 seconds. He surely won’t be allowed to stay clear, but the fact he’s even trying indicates just how much of a free-for-all might be today.

Vauquelin and the others have indeed been caught, just as we start the first climb, the category three Elkorrieta.

Several riders are trying to escape up the road on this climb. There doesn't seem to be a GC threat among them this time. 

There are lots of Visma-Lease a Bike riders involved. Steven Kruijswijk and Milan Vader are in a group of about 20 riders at the front of the race, while Sepp Kuss is in a smaller chase group behind also featuring EF Education-EasyPost’s Esteban Chaves.

With Jonas Vingegaard out of the race, his teammates have the freedom to ride for themselves, and are trying to make the most of it.


The peloton look happy about the make-up of this group, and have allowed them to grow a lead of over two minutes already. The small Kuss group has also managed to join up to them, meaning there are about 25 riders in it.

The leaders are about to start climbing the Azurki. At 5.1km an averaging 7.4% it’s a tough one, and could yet cause a change of situation in the race should any strong climbers in the peloton not be happy with this breakaway group.

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Here is the group out front, who are extending their lead on the climb. It does appear as though this will be the break of the day.

Their lead is now over three minutes. We'll give you a full run-down of who's there shortly.

The leading group has reached the summit of the climb, and Rein Taaramae attacks to gain the maximum KOM points.


3-30 for the leaders as they take on the descent. This is a big group that will be difficult to control, but does not contain any direct GC threats, with the highest placed rider being Brandon Smith Rivera at 1-21.

So, the break in full consists of:

Sepp Kuss, Steven Kruijswijk, Milan Vader (all Visma-Lease a Bike), Rein Taaramae (Intermarché - Wanty), Oscar Onley, Martijn Tusveld, Romain Combaud (all Team dsm-firmenich PostNL), Lucas Hamilton, Chris Juul-Jensen (both JaycoAlUla), Esteban Chaves, James Shaw (both EF Education-EasyPost), Brandon Smith Rivera (Ineos Grenadiers), Igor Arrieta, Sjoerd Bax (both UAE Team Emirates), Matteo Sobrero (Bora-Hansgrohe), David de la Cruz (Q36.5), Gregor Mühlberger (Movistar), Fabien Doubey (TotalEnergies), Jimmy Janssens (Alpecin-Deceuninck), Jasha Sütterlin (Bahrain-Victorious), Gorza Izagirre (Cofidis) and Bauke Mollema (Lidl--Trek).


They're done descending and are already taking on the next climb, the Gorla. It's considerably longer than the previous two, lasting just short of 10km, but has much shallower gradients, averaging 5.6%. With the break's lead firmly established at 3-20, and 100km still to ride, you'd expect it to be tackled at a calm pace.

Kruijswijk is riding at the front of the lead group as they ascend the climb, while Lidl-Trek are pacing things in the peloton for Skjelmose.

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Here is Andrea Bagioli leading the peloton for Lidl-Trek. They’re having to be careful this lead doesn't grow too big, as Rivera has for now taken the yellow jersey from Skjelmose, at least virtually. They have Bauke Mollema up the road too to call back should they need him later on - and they likely will once the attacks from their GC rivals start inevitably coming later.

Sütterlin is out the back of the lead group for now.

Lidl-Trek doing an OK job for now, keeping the deficit steady at 3-20 while not using up numbers. They will, however, surely be hoping for help from other GC teams who missed the break at some point. 

An attack from David de la Cruz in the break. He's gone clear with 2km still to climb.

Bora-Hansgrohe and UAE Team Emirates are their most direct GC rivals, with Schachmann and Ayuso in second and third respectively, but they’ve got riders in the break so have the right to lean on Lidl-Trek. Lidl might instead find an ally in Bahrain-Victorious, considering how aggressive they’ve been this race, and with their leader Pello Bilbao just 15 seconds adrift, and no rider in the break today.

De la Cruz reaches the summit to claim maximum points, ahead of the rest of the break.


De la Cruz has about 15 seconds on the rest of the break, while the peloton are a further 3-25 behind. A bit of respite until the next climb, with a flat valley road in between the end of this descent and the foot of the next climb, Krabelin, about 15km away.

Behind De la Cruz, Sepp Kuss, Rein Taaramae and Igor Arrieta took the remaining KOM points at the summit. That puts Kuss level with Meintjes at the top of the classification, and Taaramae just 5 points behind. With Meintjes having missed the break, that classification is up for grabs.

De la Cruz has been brought back by the rest of the breakaway group, which has split up a little on this descent. One group of about 10 is ahead of another of around the same size.


Most of the break has now regrouped, but Juul-Jensen and Arrieta have gone clear. They have a lead of 12 seconds, with the peloton another 3-30 behind. 

Juul-Jensen and Arrieta now also brought back. As we approach the next climb, the break is all back together. 

(Image credit: Getty Images)

The break has just started climbing the Krabelin and it’s the hardest test of the stage so far. Its average gradient of 9.5% is steeper than anything else today, and goes on for 5km.

Things are starting to liven up in the peloton now. There’s a battle for position at the front of the group as they approach the start of the climb, with other GC teams emerging.

They’re on the climb now too, and Lidl-Trek have retaken control.  

Esteban Chaves is leading the break, and has upped the pace. Some riders are getting jettisoned out the back.

Attack in the peloton, but it's not by a GC threat. William Junior Lecerf of Soudal-QuickStep is the man to go clear.


Lidl-Trek will be more worried about the man following Lecerf, however. UAE Team Emirates' Marc Soler has joined him, and is only 47 seconds down.

Some really viscious gradients on this climb. Only about 8 riders are still in the front group, now being led by Kruijswijk.

Kruijswijk's teammate Kuss and EF's Chaves are among the other riders still in the front group. 

Meanwhile Soler is going for it. He's dropped Lecerf on an especially steep ramp of this climb, and has daylight between himself and the peloton.

Skjelmose still has two riders with him, but is under serious pressure. Even if/when Soler is caught, UAE Team Emirates still have McNulty, Del Toro and ultimately Ayuso to attack. 

Arrieta, Mollema, Mühlberger and Onley are the other riders in the front group, along with Kuss, Kruijswijk and Chaves.

Those seven riders reach the top, and Kuss once again takes the maximum points. He's now virtual leader of the King of the Mountains classification. 

Kuss was uncontested at the top, and now has a big lead of 10 over Meintjes. That jersey looks in the bag for the American.

Soler now reaches the top, just 2-13 after the leaders.

Shaw has rejoined the leaders, who are still descending the climb.


Soler has joined a group of stragglers from the original break featuring Sobrero, Juul-Jensen, Bax and Sütterlin. It’s unclear exactly how far behind the peloton is, but it must be at least a minute. This is turning into a real problem for Lidl-Trek.

It’s a close-run thing between Soler, Rivera (who's in a group ahead of him) and Skjelmose, but it seems Soler either is the virtual race leader, or on his way to becoming it.

Interesting development now as Sobrereo sits up in one of the groups between the leaders and the peloton. Bora-Hansgrohe must be calling him back to help the chase, with an eye on the GC for Max Schachmann. Clearly Lidl-Trek isn’t the only team panicking about how this stage is unfolding.

Bora are indeed now helping Lidl-Trek chase in the peloton. They clearly fancy the chances of Schachmann getting the better of Skjelmose, and so are willing to work with them for now to combat the UAE Team Emirates threat. 


The Soler group has caught another group of stragglers. He’s now part of a group 11 riders in size, with the 7 leaders 1-00 ahead, and the peloton 1-45 behind.

Soler has teammate Bax with him to pace him, as well as Arrieta further up the road in the lead group. It's a strong position for him to be in, but Bora has added impetus to the chase in the peloton by helping Lidl-Trek.

Now comes the next climb, the Trabakua. It's the third-last of the day, but only rated category three, lasting just 3.3km and averaging 6.9%. 

Bax is gone, and Soler is now setting the pace himself on the climb. He's doing a fine job, too - the leaders are now just 20 seconds away, and the peloton 40 seconds behind. 

Soler's pace has been to fierce for most of the others in the group, and only Hamilton is still with him.

(Image credit: Getty Images)

The climb's been crested, and UAE Team Emirates have sent Arrieta back from the lead group to help pace Soler. He still has 10 seconds to make up.

The peloton is about a minute behind. Soler is virtual race leader, and UAE Team Emirates are playing a blinder.

Arrieta has brought Soler (Hamilton) back to the leaders, and are 1-05 ahead of the peloton.

Arrieta moves straight to the front and sets the pace, with Soler on his wheel. They've finished descending and are now climbing an uncategorised rise.

Back in the peloton, Lidl have had to call on their last remaining domestique Tao Gegohegan Hart to lead the chase. This is looking more and more perilous for Skjelmose hopes of sealing overall victory. 


Still the gap is 1-00 between the leaders and the peloton. A reminder that Soler is 47 seconds behind Skjelmose on the GC, and is therefore just about the virtual race leader.

While Soler may yet be neutralised, the problem for the other teams is that UAE Team Emirates still have a rested Del Toro, McNulty and Ayuso to try something later on.

It's no longer just Arrieta who is doing the work in the lead group, with other riders taking turns. They may not have any GC hopes, but are incentivised by the chance to go for the stage win.

More good news for Soler, as he rolls over an intermediate sprint to gain an extra three seconds. 

The next climb, the category one Izua, is likely to be the most decisive of the stage. With an average of 9.1% over 4km, it’s hard enough to cause carnage, and is crested under 30km from its summit to the finish. The GC leaders who have spent the day resting in the peloton will surely be called into action on it.

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Here's Igor Arrieta leading the breakaway group. The young Spaniard is doing a fine job for his UAE Team Emirates teammate Marc Soler, and giving him a shot at overall victory. 

The leaders are on the climb now.


Arrieta is finished, and Soler takes up the pace again. They have a lead of 1-10 over the peloton.

The peloton is on the climb to, initially led by Bora, but now Lidl's Hart has taken over again. 

Chaves attacks, and Onley goes with him.

Soler is third on the road a few seconds back.

Kruijswijk is on Soler's wheel, with Kuss further beind. The rest have all been more decisively dropped.

Skjelmose attacks from the peloton! The yellow jersey is taking things into his own hands.

Up ahead, Onley has dropped Chaves.

Skjelmose only has 2 riders with him.

Juan Ayuso is one of the two riders with Skjelmose, and attacks him. 

Ayuso has joined Ineos' Rodriguez, who escaped up the road shortly before. The pair are a few seconds ahead of Skjelmose.

Carlos Rodríguez is also a GC threat, at 50 seconds down.

Ayuso has dropped Rodríguez though, and he's building a big gap.

Ayuso is in fact closing down Soler now, who is sitting up and waiting for his teammate. 

Ayuso has joined Soler, who in turn has joined Chaves and Kruijswijk. That's our new leading group of four.

Soler is setting the pace, but now as a domestique rather than for himself. The quartet has 25 seconds on Skjelmose.

Correction - Oscar Onley is still up the road! He is still leading the race, with the Ayuso quartet 23 seconds behind.

Skjelmose briefly had Mollema to help him on the climb, but he's out of steam, leacing the Dane to chase by himself.

Kruijswijk has been dropped, leaving just Chaves with Soler and Ayuso.

Onley reaches the top of the climb, followed by Ayuso, Soler and Chaves about 25 seconds later, then Skjelmose and Rodriguez about 15 seconds later.

Skjelmose has Rodríguez with him, who is now willing to share some of the workload. That could be crucial for Skjelmose, who isn't out of this just yet.

Great work by Skjelmose and Rodríguez, who have made the catch on this descent. This is going to be a thrilling finale!

It looks like it’s going to come down to a race between Skjelmose and Ayuso for GC. Ayuso is just four seconds adrift, while Soler and Rodríguez are a further 44 and 50 seconds behind respectively.


We have one climb left, but it's not as hard as the previous one. Lasting 5km but averaging only 4.6%, it's rated only category three.

Onley has also just been brought back, which means the stage is also up for grabs in the this group - and therefore also the bonus seconds, which could decide the race given how close things are between Ayuso and Skjelmose.

They’re on the Urkaregi climb now. Will Ayuso attack again, or back himself to gain the necessary bonus seconds in a sprint?

Soler is leading on the climb, and has upped the pace. It appears he is emptying what's left in the tank.

Ayuso attacks!

Skjelmose isn't able to follow, but Rodríguez is.

Ayuso made his move just as Soler had pulled over.

Skjelmose is trying to set his own pace, with Onley on his wheel, but the pair is escaping further and further up the road. 

15 seconds already for Ayuso and Rodríguez. Ayuso is the new virtual race leader!

Further behind, Mollema, Kuss, Kruijswijk, Bilbao, Arrieta and Del Toro have formed a chase group, but they’re a distant 50 seconds behind Skjelmose and Onley.


20 seconds for Ayuso and Rodriguez. Their lead's getting bigger and bigger. 

Annoyingly for Skjelmose, Marc Soler is now also on his wheel, with a licence to just sit there while he and Onley do all the work. UAE Team Emirates really have made their superior strength in depth pay today.

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Here's Soler and Ayuso, attacking on the previous climb. Skjelmose might ultimately have neutralised that one, but it's looking increasingly implausible that he will do so again.

Over 30 seconds now for Ayuso and Rodriguez. They've reached the top of the climb and are now descending towards the finish in Eibar.


Just 10km to go, and the ga is still 35 seconds. Skjelmose hasn't given up yet...

Skjelmose is really going for it on this descent, too. He's leading Soler and Onley down it, but can't quite make any inroads on the leaders. 

Ayuso and Skjelmose may be racing for the GC, but it's Rodríguez who's descending the quickest. He gains a small gap over Ayuso on one of the steeper bits.


It's 45 seconds now between the two groups. Skjelmose's second-place is now under threat by Rodríguez. 

They're done descending, and will now ride the final 4km on an uphill drag before arriving at the finish. 

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Rodríguez and Ayuso working together. The two are about to arrive together into the finish. Ayuso will take the overall lead regardless - will he gift Rodríguez the stage win?


Final kilometre!

Ayuso is leading with Rodríguez on his wheel.

Rodríguez comes through to take a turn 400m from the line.

Will Ayuso sprint?

No he won't...

Rodríguez takes the stage win!

And with four seconds already counted down, Ayuso is confirmed as overall winner.

Skjelmose is still giving it his all to try and seal second overall though.

Marc Soler just about pips Skjelmose to the line in the sprint for third and the bonus seconds, which may also be enough to deny the Dane second place at the expense of Rodríguez. 

There must have been an agreement between Ayuso and Rodriguez, either spoken or unspoken, that the latter would help take turns in exchange for being allowed the stage win. It's a great day for both of them.

It's confirmed that Rodríguez has indeed finished second overall, just one second ahead of Skjelmose. That it was another UAE Team Emirates rider, Marc Soler, who denied him the bonus seconds that would have earned him second, must be especially galling to the Dane, who spent much of that stage trying to chase their riders.

But it does also ensure Soler finishes fourth overall, capping off what was an exceptional performance from the Spanaird. He set things up for Ayuso early on with his long-range attack, and still had the legs to ensure a high finish for himself. 

(Image credit: Getty Images)

This is the first World Tour stage race overall title of Juan Ayuso's career, following runner-up finishes at Tirreno-Adriatico earlier this spring and the Tour de Suisse last year. This result has felt like a long time coming, which is saying something seeing as he's still just 21-years-old. 

As for Rodríguez, this is a welcome return to form following what had before now been an off-par start to the season. He's back on course to being Ineos Grenadiers' team leader at the Tour de France. 

UAE Team Emirates' dominance today is reflected by the final GC, in which they have placed three riders in the top five. Behind Ayuso in first and Soler in fourth, McNulty also sneaked up into fifth. 

The rest of the top ten is rounded off by Pello Bilbao, Isaac del Toro, Kévin Vauquelin, Ion Izagirre and Alex Baudin.

Mattias Skjelmose, being agonisingly pipped by Soler at the line (Image credit: Getty Images)
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Thanks for joining us today, and all this week, for Itzulia Basque Country. After all the awfulness of the crashes that had blighted the race it was refreshing to see such great, unsullied racing today, and a thrilling conclusion in the battle for the yellow jersey - of which Juan Ayuso is a worthy winner.

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