After a failed launch of Itzulia’s first women’s stage race in 2021, the new three-day Women’s WorldTour race takes center stage this year from May 13-15. A total of 22 teams, including 12 top teams, will line up for the Basque race.
The route covers a total of 363.6 km and crosses the three territories of Euskadi – Alava, Bizkaia and Gipuzkoa. There are 13 graded mountain climbs and six intermediate sprints spread over the stages, with a familiar look on the third and final day as it will finish on the same route the organizers used for the Clásica San Sebastián.
The race opens with a 105.9 km stage between Vitoria-Gasteiz and Labastida. The first categorized climb, Category 3 Zaldiaran, hits immediately with the crest of the climb just 5.4km from the start. The first intermediate sprint to Bodegas Soaguen is on a slight climb at kilometer 44.5, and the road climbs from there to a pair of obstacles, the second category Mirador de Rivas (5.5 km at 5.5 percent). followed immediately by the third-category Herrar (6.8 km at 5.3%).
The main climb is over and after an intermediate sprint in Laguardia the last 25 kilometers climb and descend to the finish line.
“This stage includes a demanding start and a Cat. 3 mountain pass, where a breakaway could form. The route follows good roads until Labastida approx. km 45, but then begins a more demanding section, with two consecutive climbs”, noted Roberto Laiseka, technical director of the race.
Stage 2 runs 117.9 km from and to Mallabia. It features a full day of inland Bizkaia terrain with continuous uphill and downhill sections, including six graded climbs, five of which are Category 3.
Like the opening stage, the second day starts straight away with a categorized ascent, this time a category 3 ascent of the Areitio. Less than 18 km later, the peloton faces a double category 3 challenge with Montecalvo (2.9 km at 7.3%) and Bizaiko Begiratokia (2 km at 4.3%). A long descent of almost 20 km leads to the next categorized pairing – Milloi (3.5 km @ 4%) and Trabakua (3.3 km @ 7.1%).
The first of the two intermediate sprints is placed on an uncategorized climb, 38 km from the finish. This sets up the Karabieta, the longest and highest of the climbs on the menu, this one reaching 565 meters in altitude after a long ascent of 6.7 km. A fast descent leads directly to the final sprint in Eibar, then a slightly uphill path for six kilometers to the finish in Mallabia.
“It will be a difficult stage for the leaders of the different teams to take control of the race as there are no demanding climbs to break the peloton. The stage will end with a slightly uphill finish,” commented Laiseka .
The third and final stage of Itzulia Women 2022 is the longest of the race at 139.8 km and features four classified climbs. It follows the same route as the last two editions of the Donostiako Klasikoa women’s race, with the start and finish in Donastia-San Sebastián.
The opening 17km are relatively flat up to Orio, then the peloton will reach a relatively gentle 8.9km climb to Aia. The road then descends towards Orio for 44 rolling kilometers before meeting the Jaizkibel pass, 7.9 km at 5.6% gradient. A pair of intermediate sprints complete cat 3 Gurutze (2.7 km at 5.2%) and the peloton is set up for a final attacking opportunity.
The last climb categorized for the race is the Murgil-Tontorra, only 21 km long. But this “wall” has a gradient of 10% and more in sections, with only 8 km of descent to the finish line.
“This stage follows the same route as the last 2 years, the same route as the Donostiako Klasikoa women’s race. This is the longest stage of Itzulia Women 2022, where the Jaizkibel pass will define the tactics of each of the teams wishing to harm the virtual leader of the race, and the “wall” of Murgil will be the ultimate judge of stage and possibly the final winner of Itzulia Women 2022,” said Laiseka.