Julian Alaphilippe and Enric Mas conclude the opening stage in the top 10.
The 59th edition of the Vuelta al Pais Vasco kicked off with an individual time trial, which had everything: a ridiculously steep climb, a technical descent and rain which only added to the difficulty of the stage. Antigua, which featured on the course for the third time in the last eight years, is a short hill (2.3 kilometers), but boasts very narrow roads and an insane maximum gradient of 30% just before the top, from where the riders plunged onto the downhill taking them to Zumarraga.
Enric Mas, the second Deceuninck – Quick-Step rider to leave the start house, defied the wet roads and put in a staggering display over the 11.2 kilometers of the stage, going into the hot seat with a solid time of 17:34. Best young rider of the previous edition, when he nabbed his maiden pro win, Enric enjoyed a lengthy stint at the top of the provisional standings until the final hour of racing, when he was bumped from the podium by several riders who improved his time for a matter of seconds.
World Individual Classification Leader Julian Alaphilippe, who made his first appearance since conquering Milano-Sanremo, was the last rider of the team to start the testing individual time trial and showed a good form on the drier roads of the Basque Country, stopping the clock in 17:22 and slotting into fourth, a result auguring well for the rest of the week, which contains a total of 22 classified climbs and six dirt road sectors that will spice up the fight for the general classification.
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