Clásica San Sebastián: The PEZ Preview


Race Preview: Tour de France, Olympic Games… Next up – The Clásica San Sebastián this Saturday. The Spanish, okay the Basque Donostiako Klasikoa, race leads us nicely into next month’s final Grand Tour, la Vuelta a España. But it is no prologue and is a hard fought WorldTour Classic with a strong history. Ed Hood gives us his PEZ preview.

The winner of the last Clásica – Remco Evenepoel

Lazer helmets G1 banner

If you like your grub then San Sebastian – Donostia in the language of the Basque – is for you, with more Michelin starred restaurants per capita than any other city in the world, except for Kyoto in Japan; two of the world’s best rated restaurants are located in the city. Members of the Spanish Royal Family, in the days before air con used to repair to the Basque Country’s cool ‘City by the Bay’ – the lovely Concha – in the summer to escape the high plains heat of Madrid. It’s a beautiful city, which apart from gastronomy hosts a jazz and film festival – go visit, you’ll thanks us.

San Sebastián – Well worth a visit

It’s a young classic dating ‘only’ to 1981 when ‘Recordman’ of the race, skinny Basque, Marino Lejarreta scored the first of three wins ahead of classy Englishman, Graham Jones. ‘Ma-ree-no,’ as the fans used to chant, also has a second place to his name behind Inaki Gaston in 1986.

Three time San Sebastián winner Marino Lejarreta

The winner’s role is interesting; there’s that rare thing, an Austrian classic winner in Gerhard Zadrobilek who did things backwards, going to race MTB after his road career. Even rarer is a Mexican winner in Raul Alcala, who’s now a politician in his native land. There’s a Polish winner, courtesy Michal Kwiatkowski in 2017 and a Czech too, Roman Kreuziger in 2009.

Armstrong and Rebellin in San Sebastián 2002

And it was the first big single day win for a Texan called, Lance Armstrong in 1995. The only other ‘Anglo’ winner is Brit, Adam Yates who had to be convinced by his team personnel that he’d won the 2015 edition.

Adam Yates – “Have I won?”

We’ve helped the organisers’ English a wee bit in translation:
The 2021 edition will be run over a 224km route. The first part of the Classic runs along the entire famous green coast of Gipuzkoa and is mostly flat; it’s a good terrain for the escape to form although it will be very hard fought to make it into the break. In the second part of the race, the mountains arrive, with passes of the legend that is the Jaizkbel (2nd Cat.) – in early editions the ‘crunch point’ of the race – and Erlaitz (1st Cat.). These two ascents will serve to separate the wheat from the chaff and the strongest will shape the future of the race. They pass through the finish line before undertaking the last climb to Murgil (2nd Cat.). The climb, short but with very hard ramps, will end up filtering the group. From the top there are barely eight kilometres to the finish line, so it is very important to start the climb well positioned. The parcours descends all the way from the San Sebastian high suburb of Igueldo, all the way to the finish line.

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San Sebastián map and profile 2021

It’s a hard race, apart from all that climbing, the wind whips in from the Bay of Biscay to make life hard for the ciclista.

Donostiako Klasikoa – Clásica San Sebastián 2021

The winner?:
That’s hard to predict, coming as it does after Le Tour – and this year the Tokyo Olympics, some riders are ‘done’ whilst others after a short recovery, are ‘flying.’ The start list contains no less than four previous winners, five if we consider Luis Leon Sanchez’ two wins.

LL Sanchez winning in Ordizia last week

Can they win again?
Home Boy Luis Leon Sanchez (Astana – Premier Tech) won in 2010 and 2012, it would be easy to say that at 37 years-of-age it’s time to put him out to graze but foxy Murcian ‘LL’ still excels on home ground; third in the GP Indurain to Valverde back in the spring and a winner just last week of the cult Prueba Villafranca – Ordiziako Klasika in the Basque Country.

Tony Gallopin
Tony Gallopin back in la Vuelta’18

However, the story is different for 2013 winner, France’s Tony Gallopin (AG2R Citroen); criteriums apart its three years since he last won that stage in the Vuelta.

Bauke Mollema in 2017

In 2016 winner, big Dutchman, Bauke Mollema (Trek Segafredo) we have another 34 years-oldie but goodie who can still win Tour de France stages and big single day races like the Trofeo Laigueglia. And as the Watt saving gurus preach sitting still to keep the ‘aero signature’ to a minimum, Bauke just keeps on bobbin’ along.

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Alaphilippe – Winner in 2018

The most recent previous winner could well win it again, ‘for sure,’ Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck – Quick-Step & France) ‘passed’ on the Olympics to prep for the Worlds – who wouldn’t want to keep that lovely maillot? He carries dossard one and this year has won the Flèche, finished a narrow second at Liège and there was that wonderful Stage One win in Le Tour. Yup, he can repeat.

Juan Ayuso
Juan Ayuso – Young and talented

From the past, let’s look forward and, ‘The New Wave.’ Juan Ayuso (UAE Team Emirates & Spain) is just 18 years-old but dominated the Baby Giro and has already made his mark among the pros, finishing top 20 in his first race, the Giro dell Appennino and second to LL in the Ordiziako Klasika just last week. UAE are so impressed by him that they have him on the books until 2025, one to watch.

Gino Mader – Another young rider to watch

Young Suisse, Gino Mader (Bahrain Victorious) has emerged as a winner this year with stages in the his home Tour and the Giro but perhaps the flight from Japan to the Basque nation after the Olympic individual time trial will be too wearing?

3rd in the Tour de France – Jonas Vingegaard

If you watched the 2020 Vuelta you may have wondered, like me, who was this skinny guy with the unfamiliar face taking Roglič deep into the biggest mountains in Iberia? Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo Visma) may hail from the flatlands of Denmark but can climb with the very best, as his podium in Le Tour confirmed. At 24 years-of-age, like Mader, the quiet man from Jutland can win this race.

Simon Carr – A ‘coming man.’

‘Brit’ Simon Carr (EF Education Nippo) announced his WorldTour with a ride just outside the top 10 at the Strade Bianche, since then the 22 year-old has ridden a good first Giro and finished top 10 in the Ventoux Challenge and Route d’Occitanie; a ‘coming man.’

Diego Ulissi won the Settimana Ciclistica Italiana earlier this month

And in the, ‘Any Other Suspects’ file:
Diego Ulissi (UAE Team Emirates & Italy) is hot off two stage wins and the GC in the Settimana Ciclistica Italiana.

giro21 yates
Simon Yates could match his brother

If it’s lumpy then former Vuelta winner, Simon Yates (Team BikeExchange & GB) has to be considered, twin ‘bruv’ Adam won in 2015 so he’ll be keen to match him on bragging rights.

Miguel Ángel López – ‘Sooperman’ could do with a win

Mount Ventoux Challenge winner, Miguel Angel Lopez (Movistar & Colombia) will be keen to make amends after a disappointing Tour de France. But as I intimated at the start, it’s a hard one to predict and it could well be an outsider with, ‘diamonds in his legs’ on the day. . .

* Teams and riders list HERE.

Win in San Sebastián and get to wear a big Txapela

# Keep it PEZ for the Race Report and Photo Gallery on Saturday. For live action go to SteepHillTV. #

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