A day in the mountains of the Basque Country can bring many surprises. Unfortunately Friday’s stage 5 from Bilbo to Eibar brought an unwelcome one for Team KATUSHA ALPECIN’S Simon Špilak in the form of an untimely puncture just as the race was gearing up for the final.
“Simon faced an impossible situation today when he had a puncture with 45k still to go and the race in full flight. His teammates dropped back to help him but the race was so fast just at this point. He used so much energy getting back that there was little left for the race final,” said team director Claudio Cozzi. In the end Simon Špilak did his best to earn 14th place behind stage winner and new race leader Alejandro Valverde (Movistar Team).
Špilak’s problem came on the second ascent of the category-1 Izuako Gaina, the fourth of 6 climbs on the 139.8k stage ending atop Eibar-Arrate. Valverde outsprinted his companion of Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale) and Rigoberto Uran of Cannondal-Drapac, all on the time of 3:26:32 (40.613 km/h). Behind them a long stream of riders crossed the line, including Špilak at 47-seconds.
Valverde is on the same time for the general classification as Uran and Bardet as the final stage takes place on Saturday. The individual time trial at 27.7k will be in Eibar before crowning the overall winner of the 57th Vuelta al País Vasco.
Photo credit © Tim De Waele