McNulty seizes Basque Country lead as Ion Izagirre wins stage 4


Brandon McNulty took the overall lead of the Tour of the Basque Country on Thursday as home hope Ion Izagirre won stage four.

After coming third on the stage McNulty ended the day top of the heap, leading former yellow jersey holder Primoz Roglic by 23 seconds, with two days’ racing remaining including a mountaintop finish on the final stage.

On the line Izagirre used a bike throw technique, dropping behind the saddle and shoving the handlebars forwards, to win the 189.2km run just ahead of another local rider, Pello Bilbao.

McNulty came second on the opening day time-trial and has been riding as a foil with Tour de France winner Tadej Pogacar, who is now fifth overall at 43sec.

“For sure we were aiming for the stage win without thinking too much about the leader’s jersey,” McNulty said after the stage. “I feel good and ready to face the last two stages. Tomorrow could be another tricky stage, and Saturday will be an epic day. We’ll do our best to defend the leader’s jersey,” he said.

The 23-year-old from Phoenix, Arizona is a former mountain biker who joined UAE Team Emirates in 2020 when team chief Joxean Matxin described McNulty as an all-rounder with huge potential.

“Brandon is a world-class talent. He has two key qualities that few riders his age possess, the ability to combine both climbing and time trialling at a high level,” said Matxin.

Friday’s penultimate stage has less scope for a shake up, with just two minor climbs, but Saturday’s short but ultra-mountainous final stage promises fireworks.


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