Luis Leon Sanchez takes the win in Basque Country opener

The first stage of Vuelta al Pais Vasco 2016 ended with an 8km descent to the finish and it always made Sanchez one to watch. The Spaniard has made it a bit of a habit to attack in such finales and that’s what he did with great success as he bridged across to Daniel Navarro whom he beat in a two-rider sprint after the peloton had missed out by just a few metres.

Sanchez win had capped off a fantastic stage by Astana who had kicked into action at the bottom of the hardest climb, the Alto de Ixua, with 33km to go. At this point, Jonathan Lastra (Caja Rural) and Nicolas Edet (Cofidis) were dangling just 20 seconds ahead of the peloton which had been controlled by Tinkoff and Orica-GreenEDGE all day.

Daniel Navarro (Cofidis) attacked immediately after the top of the last climb and quickly got an advantage while a regrouping took place further back. Pinot led the chase on the descent, keeping Navarro within sight.

Sanchez attacked and easily rejoined Navarro with 5km to go. The pair took lots of risks on the descent, with Navarro almost going down and worked well together to maintain a small advantage. Further back, Contador even tried to attack but when Sergio Henao (Sky) had shut it down and Rui Costa (Lampre-Merida) had tried to counter, the group almost came to a standstill.

Roman Kreuziger started to chase for Tinkoff before Stephen Cummings (Dimension Data) tried a move. Pinot shut it down and instead Katusha started to chase, leading the peloton under the flamme rouge.

Sanchez made a bit of a gamble as he forced Navarro to stay on the front but with 500m to go, he had to take over. Forced to launch a long sprint, the Astana rider was nearly passed by Navarro but he narrowly held his compatriot off to take the victory. Further back, Simon Gerrans launched a long sprint and easily held off Fabio Felline (Trek) but he missed just a few metres in the end, crossing the line in the same time as Sanchez and Navarro.

There are no bonus seconds in the race and so Sanchez takes the line with the same time as a big group of riders. He now faces the hardest test of the entire race on stage 2 which offers the first summit finish of the race. After a lumpy day with three smaller climbs, the stage will come to a brutal conclusion on a real wall, the Alto de Garrastatxu which averages an impressive 11.67% over 2.7km. It’s a true Basque climb with extreme gradients that will have a big impact on determining the winner of the race.

Tour of the Basque Country 2016 – stage 1 results (Etxebarria – Markina-Xemein):

1 Luis Leon Sanchez (Astana)


2 Daniel Navarro (Cofidis)


3 Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEdge)


4 Fabio Felline (Trek-Segafredo)


5 Simon Clarke (Cannondale)


6 Jan Bakelants (AG2R)


7 Daniel Martin (Etixx – QuickStep)


8 Warren Barguil (Giant-Alpecin)


9 Tony Gallopin (Lotto Soudal)


10 Sergei Chernetski (Katusha)


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