The 58th edition of Vuelta Ciclista al Pais Vasco is one of the toughest week-long stage races on the 2018 WorldTour calendar with “not a single a meter of flat”, according to #PinkArgyle sport director Juan Manual Garate. Garate hails from Basque Country and is delighted to bring a strong team to contend for the general classification over his home roads.
“The first stage passes in front of my house,” said Garate. “If my family is at home watching the race, I can see them. You can imagine how special this is for me. I know 90 percent of the roads blind.”
Alongside Tom Southam, Garate will direct an EF Education First – Drapac p/b Cannondale squad that includes Rigoberto Uran, Mike Woods, Hugh Carthy, Nate Brown, Brendan Canty, Lawson Craddock and Alex Howes.
“With this group, we are going to the race to try to win the general classification,” said Garate. “For sure other teams have the same goal, so it will not be easy. We need to pay attention to every single meter.”
The six-day race includes four climbing days, a stage that could suit the sprinters and a 19-kilometer individual time trial.
“This year’s Pais Vasco is like old times from three, four years ago – not like the last two years,” Garate noted. “It has super narrow, twisty and steep final climbs, especially on the first, second and last stages. The flat time trial on stage four is something new.
“There’s one stage that they say is for the sprinters, but with really narrow and open roads in the last kilometer, there can be high tension in the bunch, so maybe the bunch is broken at the end,” Garate noted. “There’s not one single day that is easy, It’s going to be a high intensity race mentally and physically.”
The parcours combines with the quality of the competition to create a particularly challenging week of racing.
“The guys that are racing the Ardennes, sometimes they use Pais Vasco to prepare themselves,” said Garate. “The guys that are finishing the first part of their season, they come to Pais Vasco to race. And the guys that are growing towards the Giro, they come here, too. This means the race has a really high level with 80-90 percent of the bunch in really good condition. You have that and then you have the roads – not a single meter of flat here in Pais Vasco. That’s why this week is so hard.
“I hope the weather is good, but, in Basque Country, it changes fast and a few times every day, so we’ll see,” said Garate. “If the weather isn’t good, that’s another thing to consider.”
Carthy will race in support of Uran. The Briton is coming off a stellar performance at Volta Catalunya.
“I’m feeling good again going into Pais Vasco,” he said. “I took some good rest this week to recover from a hard week in Catalunya.
“Pais Vasco is a beautiful race for strong, gutsy riders,” Carthy added. “The fans in Northern Spain adore the race and the smaller roads, steep climbs and bad weather always provide a spectacle.
“The last stage to Arrate has become iconic over the years,” he noted. “The final stage is always exciting at the end of a tough week, so to climb over such hard terrain on the final day will really showcase a true winner.”
EF Education First – Drapac p/b Cannondale
Juan Manual Garate (ESP)
Tom Southam (GBR)
Nate Brown (USA)
Brendan Canty (AUS)
Hugh Carthy (GBR)
Lawson Craddock (USA)
Alex Howes (USA)
Rigoberto Uran (COL)
Mike Woods (CAN)