Rodríguez "was handed" stage win, Ayuso targets hill classics: "Curious to see what I can do there" Cycling

Rodríguez "was handed" stage win, Ayuso targets hill classics: "Curious to see what I can do there"

Rodríguez "was handed" stage win, Ayuso targets hill classics: "Curious to see what I can do there"

The final stage of the Tour of the Basque Country did not disappoint. Set against the backdrop of a grueling course, the fight for the stage victory and the overall win was fierce. In the end, Juan Ayuso and Carlos Rodríguez were the strongest in the race. The two Spaniards joined forces and divided the spoils: the overall victory for Ayuso, the stage win for Rodríguez.

The latter did not dodge the topic in the flash interview. According to him, he "was handed" the stage win. "We made an agreement," Rodríguez admits. "But then we also worked together really well." On the final climb, the INEOS Grenadiers' leader was the only one able to follow an unleashed Ayuso. Besides the stage victory, this performance also brought him the second place in the general classification.

And that was something Rodríguez had not expected before the final stage. "It was a tough day. Especially for me, as I am certainly not in my best form, and Ayuso was extraordinarily strong today. I am also very thankful to the team for what they did for me today. I was not one of the favorites, so I am very happy to finish second. I just had to give everything I had."

Ayuso: "Curious to see what I can achieve there"

In a reaction posted on the team website, Ayuso is overjoyed with his overall victory. "It’s incredible. It’s my first World Tour stage race win and to achieve it here in the Basque Country in amazing. I have to give full credit to my teammates, I think we raced perfectly from start to finish and we deserved the win. Everything went perfectly, we raced to put Lidl-Trek under pressure with getting the guys up the road and then me following suit in the end."

After the Tour of the Basque Country, Ayuso will make his debut in the Ardennes Classics. With the Amstel Gold Race, the Walloon Arrow and Liège-Bastogne-Liège on his calendar, the young rider is aiming for the entire trilogy. "It’s my first time arriving to the Ardennes in good form so I’m excited to see what I can achieve."

Skjelmose: "It's still a podium finish in a WorldTour race"

Mattias Skjelmose saw the leader's jersey slip from his grasp on the final day of the Tour of the Basque Country. The Danish leader of Lidl-Trek was not able to counter the dominance of UAE Team Emirates and thus fell back to the third place in the classification. Afterward, Skjelmose is left with mixed feelings.

"The team worked very hard today. There was nothing we could have done better. I simply wasn't good enough in the finale, that's it," Skjelmose admits. On the penultimate climb, it was the leader himself who attacked, but he immediately received a blow from Ayuso, among others, who would eventually take the overall victory. "Carlos (Rodriguez, INEOS Grenadiers, ed.) put in a huge performance," Skjelmose praises the stage winner. "Thanks to him, I returned, even though he didn't have to do that. That was an incredible gesture of him. I'm also glad that he won."

"Unfortunately, I didn't have the legs for the second attack (of Ayuso's, ed.), but I fought until the end. That was the most important." Despite losing the leader's jersey, Skjelmose still stands on the final podium in third place. "It's a good performance. Even though it's not what we hoped for, it's still a podium finish in a WorldTour race," concludes the third-placed rider.

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