Stephen Bassett completely emptied the tank to finish second on stage 1 of the Ruta del Sol in a dramatic finale which saw the breakaway hold off a high-quality chasing peloton.
The seven rider breakaway went clear early on during the 201km route from Ubrique to Iznájar with Bassett riding strong all day, setting up a shoot-out with stage winner Rune Herregodtson (Sport Vlaanderen – Baloise).
“It was all about survival over the last climb and then it became a tactical battle in the last few kilometers,” Bassett said about the tactics he employed. “I was really hoping to isolate one of the Sport Vlaanderen guys out of the action but they kept that 1-2 that was hard to beat.”
There was high drama on the finishing hill when Bassett launched this sprint early before the two riders bumped as the Belgian made his pass. Even with this dent to his momentum, Bassett was still able to hold on for second place, a result that represents something bigger.
🇪🇸 Dramatic finish in #68RdS with @StephenBassett_ emptying the tank to finish second on stage 1.#HumanPoweredHealth | #Move pic.twitter.com/4uX0x5JfSg
— Human Powered Health (@HumanPwrdHealth) February 16, 2022
“It’s a bit of a confirmation of the work I’ve been chipping away at for the last three years in Europe,” Bassett said afterwards. “I think this is coming as a result of sorting out a lot of my off-the-bike stressors, just being comfortable with living here and within the team. I just got a permanent apartment in Europe and things like that do make a big difference.”
While all the action was unfolding up the road there was a second race igniting in the chasing field behind. It came to naught with the WorldTour peloton falling 30 seconds short of making the catch.
“The breakaway was all on the same page that we needed to start riding quite hard after the middle KOM and doing the math it was pretty clear that they couldn’t catch us once we hit the last climb,” Bassett revealed.
Having scored points through the Zahara de la Sierra and Los Corrales sprint points, the American didn’t come away empty-handed, capturing the Metas Volantes intermediate sprints jersey as a consolation for an epic day in the saddle.
Commenting on how he was able to hold the pace and be an integral component in why the move made it the distance, Bassett explained, “I was mostly just trying to stay focused and eat as much as possible all day.”
Tomorrow’s stage follows a jagged saw-like profile with two Metas Volantes sprints, five categorized climbs and a steep uphill ramp to finish the day. Catch all the action on GCN+ from 9 am ET.
Bassett responded jovially to the question of a GC defense, instead electing to focus on his new blue jersey. “I am not a true climber and there are plenty of those here. We’ll take the sprints day by day and see if there is another opportunity.”
Unfortunately, Nate Brown fell hard during the stage and was forced to abandon with a hand injury.
Ruta Del Sol stage 1 result and general classification
1 HERREGODTS Rune – Sport Vlaanderen – Baloise 5:16:44
2 BASSETT Stephen – Human Powered Health 0:02
3 OKAMINKA Ander – Burgos-BH ”
4 ISASA Xabier – Euskatel-Euskadi 0:12
5 DE VYLDER Lindsey – Sport Vlaanderen – Baloise 0:15
6 CHRISTIAN Mark – EOLO-Kometa 0:18
7 COVI Alessandro – UAE Team Emirates 0:31
8 SERRANO Gonzalo – Movistar Team 0:37
9 TRENTIN Matteo – UAE Team Emirates ”
10 COSNEFROY Benoît – AG2R Citroën Team 0:38
Metas Volantes standings
1 BASSETT Stephen – Human Powered Health 5
2 DE VYLDER Lindsey – Sport Vlaanderen – Baloise 4
3 HERREGODTS Rune – Sport Vlaanderen – Baloise 3