Ayuso triumphs in depleted Tour of the Basque Country finale

cycling06 April 2024 17:00| © AFP
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Juan Ayuso @ Getty Images

Juan Ayuso claimed Tour of the Basque Country general classification victory on Saturday, while Spanish compatriot Carlos Rodriguez snatched a gripping stage six win.

UAE Team Emirates rider Ayuso capitalised after many of the favourites abandoned the race after a horrific mass crash during stage four, crossing the line second behind Rodriguez.

Jonas Vingegaard suffered lung injuries, a broken collarbone and broken ribs in the incident on Thursday, which raises questions over his chances of securing a third consecutive Tour de France triumph.

Remco Evenepoel also broke his collarbone while then leader Primoz Roglic dropped out after the crash too, although he did not suffer any fractures.

It left the general classification battle wide open, with Mattias Skjelmose ahead of Max Schachmann by two seconds going into the tricky final stage.

Starting and ending in Eibar, riders tackled seven classified climbs over 137.8 kilometres on one of the season's toughest days of racing.

UAE Team Emirates had strength in numbers and used it well to win the tactical battle, with Ayuso and Ineos Grenadiers rider Rodriguez going up the road to leave Skjelmose behind in the final 20 kilometres.

"I think he deserves it, he was so strong today," Rodriguez said of the 21-year-old overall winner whom he worked well with on the way to the line.

"Obviously he had the general classification to win and I could get a podium finish – I had an interest in working with him."

Ayuso, who suffered minor injuries of his own during a fall in stage three, was able to continue and secure his first World Tour level title after finishing as runner-up on two prior occasions.

Skjelmose battled hard to try and finish second overall but was eventually pipped to the line by Ayuso's teammate Marc Soler.

It propelled Rodriguez into second in the general classification with the Dane relegated to third after missing out on the bonus points.

Soler claimed fourth overall after a superb day's racing where he worked hard for Ayuso, with Brandon McNulty coming in fifth to give UAE Team Emirates three of the top five in the final standings.