Stephen Bassett almost breaks the chain of ‘second places in important races’

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IZNÁJAR, Spain (VN) – Stephen Bassett is a pro and he wants to win bike races.

Yet get in the frame to have a shot to earn that’s more than half the battle in Europe’s elite peloton.

The Human Powered Health rider was almost there on Wednesday with second place in the hard-fought final to open the Ruta de Sol in southern Spain.

“It continues my long streak of second places in important races,” said Bassett. “It’s a pretty big step in the process that I’ve been trying to get here in Europe for three years, so the team is working really hard, and I’m working really hard, so I’m happy to be able to put one together.”

Read also: Bassett second in the opening of the Ruta del Sol

The 26-year-old from Tennessee has been knocking on the door for a big win for quite some time, with second place at the U.S. Nationals in junior and elite men’s as well as second on Wednesday.

Of course, he also won a few along the way, including the overall Joe Martin Stage Race in 2019, where he beat WorldTour pro Joe Piccoli, now on Israel Premier Tech.

Since joining Rally (now Human Powered Health) in 2020, he has been a key part of the team’s European programme. He already has nine days of racing in his legs in mid-February.

It almost met for him on Wednesday in the roller coaster profile to open the five-day Ruta del Sol.

With much tougher stages looming later this week, the breakaways felt an opening against the GC favorites.

“We knew there was potential with the not super motivated GC teams, they don’t need to win stage one, so we knew there was a chance to do that,” Bassett said. “We went almost to kilometer zero, and we were quite attentive within the team.

Bassett latched onto a group of eight, who engaged and quickly opened up a nearly 15-minute gap. When the WorldTour’s top teams finally awoke from their collective slumber, it was almost too late.

The gap stabilized at around four minutes with 30km, everyone in the breakaway knew they would have a very good chance to practice for the spoils.

“The gap came down pretty quickly from 15 to 6 minutes, and it looked like some stage chase teams got a little discouraged when they didn’t see it shrink any further,” he said. “It was a very organized break. It’s the modern thing, you pluck it for 100km and then start driving. So pretty according to plan.

“It was pretty cooperative and then I attacked on the last climb but there was a lot of headwind so there was really no opportunity for anyone to go out there so it came down to sprinting. .”

Eventual winner Rune Herregodts (Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise) had a teammate in the break to help him speed up the final climb, and he and Bassett went to the line.

Both he and the Belgian checked their shoulders slightly, and Bassett could only watch it go by.

“I was going left and he passed, got off the pedal, luckily no harm, no fault,” Bassett said. “He was definitely the strongest guy today.”

The result bodes well for the team, which sees a busy February with Gran Camiño in northern Spain.

“More or less the same, we sort of established ourselves as a breakaway team,” he said. “It’s our niche. We know we have a very fast bike. We have a very good dynamic and we know how to do that. The window of opportunity is so narrow at this high level of racing that it’s kind of our part that we have to fight for.

About Ethel Partin

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