We’re currently midway through the Spring Classics with Paris-Roubaix right on our doorstep. So you could be forgiven for forgetting about the Vuelta al Pais Vasco (a.k.a. Tour of the Basque Country), which begins on April 3rd and runs through to the 8th (right in time for Paris-Roubaix). The six-stage race spans the Basque Country of Spain and features a few short, steep climbs.
Unlike the one-day races currently dominating the cycling news cycle, the parcours and multi-day nature of Pais Vasco will see some Grand Tour contenders rise to the fore. Let’s take a look at the main favorites.
Odds to win 2017 Vuelta al Pais Vasco
Alejandro Valverde (Movistar): 4/1
Valverde has already picked up two Spanish stage races this year, leaving fellow spaniard Alberto Contador in second place at both the Volta a Catalunya and Vuelta a Andalucía. His style of riding is well suited to the punchy climbs of the Basque Country so it makes sense that he’ll be leading Movistar at Pais Vasco this year.
In past years, he’s ignored the Tour of the Basque Country and instead focussed his efforts on the Ardennes classics. But this year he’ll be targeting his first Vuelta al Pais Vasco win.
Alberto Contador (Trek Factory Racing): 41/9
The defending champion is seeking a record-breaking fifth-win at Pais Vasco. He’s had a decent season so far, finishing second to Valverde at the Volta a Catalunya and Vuelta a Andalucía, and second to Sergio Luis Henao at Paris-Nice. Both Valverde and Henao will be stiff competition at the Tour of the Basque Country, but Contador knows the terrain well and, if he’s approaching his top form, is still one of the best bike racers in the world.
Sergio Luis Henao (Team Sky): 17/3
The Colombian champ picked up a huge win this year at Paris-Nice, edging out Contador to win the eight-stage race by just two seconds. He finished the last two editions of the Vuelta al Pais Vasco in second place, trailing the winner by just a few seconds on both occasions.
Team Sky has already amassed an impressive number of wins this season. Henao is in good standing to take another and rounds out a top-three that stands a cut above the rest.
Julian Alaphilippe (Quick-Step Floors): 25/1
Team Quick-Step Floors is flying high after Philippe Gilbert’s stunning win at the Tour of Flanders. It’ll be up to Julian Alaphilippe to continue the streak at the Basque Country. The young frenchman won the Tour of California last year, but other than that, he doesn’t really have a strong record when it comes to stage races.
He’s still very young, though. And this could be his breakout moment.
Simon Yates (Orica-Scott): 35/1
The Yates brothers always seem to find themselves among the top contenders despite their relatively unimpressive resumes. Their status as perennial contenders is based on a lot of promise and few results. Last year, Simon finished sixth at the Vuelta a España and Adam came in fourth at the Tour de France.
That said, Simon recently snatched a win over Henao at the GP Miguel Indurain, so this could finally the year that the young Brit fulfills some of his massive potential.
Photo credit: Joop van Dijk [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)]