Tour of the Basque Country 2017 odds
Sandwiched in between the Tour of Flanders (Sunday, April 3) and Paris-Roubaix (Sunday, April 10), the Tour of the Basque Country – known locally as the Vuelta al Pais Vasco – is a six-day stage race renowned for the relentlessly hilly terrain of its Pyrenean setting.
With every stage providing opportunities to attack it usually makes for a thrilling watch, where GC contenders tend not to simply wait for the queen stage to make a move.
Edition 57 of the Tour of the Basque Country leaves on Monday, the 3rd of April. Six stages later the race ends on Saturday the 8th of April. The contest in northern Spain is a feast for climbers and puncheurs, yet to a lesser extent than in previous editions. Still, the Queen Stage takes in six climbs to lead to a summit finish near Santuario de Arrate in Eibar, while the last stage a an uphill time trial.
Alberto Contador was the winner in the 2016 Tour of the Basque Country. Without winning a single stage, he bested Colombians Sergio Henao and Nairo Quintana, who finished in second and in third.
The first two stages leave from Pamplona. We have to go as far back as 1973 for the last time the Tour of the Basque Country visited Miguel Indurain’s home town. Pamplona enjoys worldwide fame for the running of the bulls in July each year.
The 1st stage travels to Valle de Egües and the 2nd stage to Elciego. Both stages are mostly flat.
San Sebastián is another host that’s making its come-back in the Tour of the Basque Country after a long abscence (since 1975). Obviously, the town has had its fare share of pro-cycling glory with the Clásica San Sebastián. In fact, the route of stage 3 is partly on the roads of the famous one-day Classic, which was won by Bauke Mollema in 2016.
Stage 4 travels from San Sebastián to Bilbao, where Jens Keukeleire sprinted to victory in last year’s Vuelta España. Two years ago Michael Matthews took the 1st stage in the Tour of the Basque Country in the largest city in the region.
The Queen Stage is played out on the penultimate day. Stage 5 takes in six ascents, including the closing climb up to the Sanctuary of Arrate. The first 5.5 kilometres are averaging 8.4%, while the 2nd and 3rd kilometre are steepest with average grades of 15.4% en 14.1%. After the Sanctuary the route continues for 2.1 kilometres on a flat to slightly descending road.
Just like in 2016, the 2017 Tour of the Basque Country ends with an uphill time trial. The winner traditionally dons a basque beret on the podium.
The favourites for the race, however, will be Nairo Quintana (Movistar) and Alberto Contador (Tinkoff). The pair locked horns on Spanish roads earlier this month at the Volta a Catalunya, with the Colombian coming out on top with an impressive attack on the race’s queen stage, while Contador finished second overall. Both have enjoyed success here in the past (Quintana winning in 2013 and Contador in 2014, 2009 and 2008), and seem to possess the form to dominate the climbs.