Race report

Marc Hirschi Finishes 5th On Rain Soaked Stage

Itzulia Basque Country

The fourth day of this year’s Itzulia Basque Country proved to be an attritional affair, as heavy rainfall throughout the stage created difficult riding conditions, resulting in several crashes amongst the bunch. A total of 163.3 kilometres separated the bunch from the morning’s start in Vitoria-Gasteiz to the day’s finish at Arrigorriaga, with the terrain looking ideal for the breakaway to take the spotlight for the most part. Though it took some time to establish, the break did eventually gain an advantage over the peloton, with Michael Storer placing himself amongst the initial seven rider move.

As the wet weather continued, the riders soon began to struggle with the slippery roads, Nicolas Roche being one who was unfortunate enough to come down during the day and subsequently abandoned. However, having been assessed at hospital, the Irishman has escaped any serious injuries.

With less than half the stage remaining, the peloton began to increase the tempo and soon swallowed up Storer and his fellow escapees. The final kilometres saw a group of four splinter from the head of the bunch, going on to contest the stage honours amongst themselves, before Marc Hirschi crossed the line to take an impressive fifth place after a tough day in the saddle.

After crossing the line Hirschi summarised Stage 4: “Today was a hard day, it was really cold and the weather made it hard to get through this stage. It was a hectic start with a hard pace throughout the day, then towards the end there was a first category climb which really split the bunch up and a lot of guys came back [from the breakaway]. Then it was full gas into the last climb, before which there was a crash, but luckily we managed to get through this and it was a sprint to the last kilometre. I was good, but unfortunately behind the split, so I was in the second group. Then I tried to do a good sprint, and I knew I had to go into the corner in first position, as it was wet and then only 200m to the finish line. It went perfectly and I won the bunch sprint, so I’m really happy with that. The next days we hope to put Sam in a good position and go for a GC result.”

Michael Storer | Team Sunweb
Nicolas Roche | Team Sunweb
Michael Storer | Team Sunweb

Speaking after the day’s efforts, Team Sunweb coach Matt Winston said: “A real tough day today with bad weather throughout the stage on another pretty hilly parcours. The goal was to keep Sam [Oomen] protected in GC and then potentially go for the sprint with Hirschi in the finish. Storer was good in the breakaway, which was exactly how we had planned it, after it took a long time for that breakaway to establish. Then Marc finished off the bunch sprint nicely, crossing the line in fifth place as the first rider from the group sprint. All in all, a nice effort from the team.”

Tomorrow’s stage is a 149.8km passage from Arrigorriaga to Arrate, featuring a total of seven classified climbs for the riders to tackle.