George Bennett of Jumbo-Visma and Patrick Bevin of CCC Team were among the 161 riders tackling the opening stage of Itzulia Basque Country. The opening time trial was won by Maximilian Schachmann of BORA-Hansgrohe, who won ahead of Daniel Martinez and Michal Kwiatkowski.
Getting the six-day stage race underway, stage 1 of Itzulia Basque Country took in a short but very challenging 11.3km time trial that was held in wet and slick conditions. The stage wasn’t expected to be particularly to a pure time trial specialist’s liking, with a tough 2.2km climb peaking with 2.8km remaining and averaging 9.5% in gradient; but hitting sections that went upwards of 20%.
George Bennett and Patrick Bevin arrived at the race on the back of recent stage race performances, with Bevin having taken four top ten finishes in Paris-Nice and Bennett having finished 6th overall in Paris-Nice.
Testament to the challenge that the stage provided for the time trial specialists, world champion in the discipline Rohan Dennis of Bahrain Merida could only manage 22nd on the stage in a day that was much more to the liking of the climbers.
Enric Mas was the rider to set the early pace at the top of the leaderboard, stopping the clock in 17.34mins, but it was the severity of the climb that raised the most eyebrows. The challenge of the climb was best summed up by Daan Olivier of Jumbo-Visma, with the Dutchman being forced to dismount and run the final metres of the climb.
The stage belonged to BORA-Hansgrohe’s Maximilian Schachmann who stopped the clock in 17.10mins, an average speed of 39.495kph. He finished 9 seconds clear of Daniel Martinez of EF Education First Drapac and 10 seconds ahead of Team Sky’s Kwiatkowski.
George Bennett was the fastest of the Jumbo-Visma riders across the line, stopping the clock in 18.08mins to finish 36th. To sum up how tricky the TT was, Bennett’s teammate, multiple world time trial champion Tony Martin, could only manage 18.24mins in 58th place.