Race report

Punchy sprint sees Marc Hirschi finish 4th on the day

Itzulia Basque Country

A rolling day in the saddle for riders as they faced the longest stage of the race, with 190 kilometres from Sarriguren to Estibaliz. The last categorised climb crested at just under 60 kilometres to go, and the race would take on a familiar pattern with a breakaway up the road and the peloton controlling them behind. However, despite only holding a two minute gap over the last climb, the peloton were made to work hard by the breakaway. Just as they were about to be caught with five kilometres to go, a crash in the bunch saw some splits within the peloton. All Team Sunweb riders came through unscathed so focus switched to the tricky finish: another punchy rise to the line with the final 1.4km averaging just over 4%.

The pace was high in the bunch and the team worked well to position Sam Oomen to protect his GC position and Marc Hirschi so that he could sprint in the finale. Hirschi followed the wheels at the front and launched a well-timed, punchy kick to come home in 4th place on the day: his first top 5 finish at a World Tour event.

Speaking at the finish, Team Sunweb coach Matt Winston was pleased with the focus and teamwork shown throughout the day: “It was a fast start to the stage until the break was established and then the guys were well positioned after that. Coming into the final 50 kilometres the guys worked really hard to make sure we were positioned near the front and didn’t miss anything. There was a big crash in the bunch as the road narrowed at five kilometres to go but our guys came through it okay. We managed to deliver Sam into a good spot to maintain his GC position, with Marc having the role to do the sprint in the end. He opened up his sprint at a really good time and delivered a strong kick to the line to take his first top five finish at a World Tour event, it was a nice stage for him.”

Hirschi added: “We tried to save as much energy as possible throughout the day. In the final it started to get really hectic and we did a really good job as a team to be well positioned. With the uphill finish I knew that if I was in a good position then I could get a good result. I was a bit unsure as to when to launch my sprint and maybe I went a little too late, but I still managed to finish fourth and I’m really happy with that. It gives me some extra motivation for the next stages and we hope that Sam can get a good result in the GC.”