Race Report: At the end of a wet day in the Basque Country, Neilson Powless (EF Education-Nippo) out-sprinted Matej Mohrič (Bahrain Victorious) and Mikkel Frølich Honoré (Deceuninck – Quick-Step). EF set the win up for Powless with an attack from Simon Carr to spearhead the winning break of five riders. A late crash split the group and Powless won the sprint in San Sebastián.
Neilson Powless takes his first pro win
Neilson Powless was a surprise winner of the Clásica San Sebastián. The EF Education-Nippo rider broke away with a small group just before the final climb and fought his way to victory in Clásica San Sebastián. Second was Matej Mohorič, third Mikkel Frølich Honoré.
2021 San Sebastián course: The first part of the 224 kilometre 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 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 8 kilometres to the finish line. The parcours descends all the way from the San Sebastián suburb of Igueldo, to the finish line.
The big early break
A wet Basque country was the setting for the 41st edition of the Clásica San Sebastián on Saturday. Thirteen riders attacked early in the race. Among them WorldTour riders Aleksandr Riabushenko, Xandres Vervloesem, Jose Joaquin Rojas, Johan Jacobs, Javier Romo, Valerio Conti and Mickael Cherel, also ProTeam riders: Romain Hardy, Oscar Cabedo, Mikel Bizkarra, Jon Barrenetxea and Jeremy Cabot. They took a 4 minute lead on the peloton.
Cold and damp start for the peloton
The race situation didn’t change until the Jaizkibel 70 kilometres from the finish. The lead of the break had dropped, but the same thirteen riders pushed on. On the 7.9-kilometre climb, Romo made his move. The Spaniard and ex-triathlete attacked in the final 60 kilometres and took a lead of 1:30.
Egan Bernal making his return to racing
World champion, Alaphilippe, keeping his powder dry in the peloton
Jumbo-Visma led the peloton. The Dutch squad sacrificed Sam Oomen and Nathan Van Hooydonck to close the gap to the leader, hoping that Jonas Vingegaard could finish it at the line in san Sebastián.
The big break wasn’t allowed too much time and eventually split
At the foot of the Erlaitz (3.8km at 10.6%) Romo’s escape came to an end as we had two new riders attacking: Simon Carr and Mikel Landa. On the steep sections of the penultimate climb, the Brit and Spaniard quickly took a handful of seconds. However, the Bahrain Victorious rider was unable to hold his effort to the top and had to let Carr go, who then continued to ride ahead of the peloton.
Not a good day for wearing white
The EF Education-Nippo rider didn’t seem to have much chance of a victory on his own, until four riders crossed to him on the flat. With 25 kilometres to go, Neilson Powless, Mikkel Frølich Honoré, Lorenzo Rota and Matej Mohorič joined Carr and the lead of the five rose to over 1 minute.
Landa tried to go with the attack from Simon Carr
With this lead they started the final climb. The peloton now looked to have no chance for the victory. Despite an attack by Giulio Ciccone, they were unable to close the gap and the winner would come from the front group.
Mohorič went for a long sprint
It was close, but Powless took it
On the climb, Powless seemed to be the strongest. He rode away for a while, but just before the top the rest rejoined him. Four men, because Carr couldn’t hang on, then headed for the finish, until Honoré and Rota crashed on the descent.
Powless happy with the win
Mohorič and Powless managed to continue and would sprint for victory in the Basque city. However, Honoré managed to catch them and so we would have a three man sprint. Mohorič started first, but he was caught and passed by Powless in the final metres. With a small lead, the EF Education-Nippo rider pushed his wheel across the finish line to take his first professional victory.
Could Honoré have won if he hadn’t hit a wall?
Race winner, Neilson Powless (EF Education-Nippo): “I can’t find words for this. Over the past few days, my sports director (Juan Manuel Garate) has been very enthusiastic about the race, because he comes from here. Winning here is also good for him. We knew beforehand that we weren’t the favourites, so we tried to make it a hard race. We played our cards well. I saw a sharp turn coming because I looked at my Garmin. Those guys in front of me were too focused on the race. Fortunately I survived. I am so happy that my first professional victory is in this race. The Basque Country is great, especially with the fans on the roadside. It’s always great to race here.”
Clásica San Sebastián Result:
1. Neilson Powless (USA) EF Education-Nippo in 5:34:31
2. Matej Mohorič (Slo) Bahrain Victorious
3. Mikkel Frølich Honoré (Den) Deceuninck – Quick-Step
4. Lorenzo Rota (Ita) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux at 0:30
5. Alessandro Covi (Ita) UAE Team Emirates at 1:04
6. Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Deceuninck – Quick-Step
7. Odd Christian Eiking (Nor) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux
8. Jonas Vingegaard (Den) Jumbo-Visma
9. Gianni Moscon (Ita) INEOS Grenadiers
10. Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek-Segafredo
11. Gonzalo Serrano Rodriguez (Spa) Movistar Team
12. Maxim Van Gils (Bel) Lotto Soudal
13. Mark Padun (Ukr) Bahrain Victorious
14. Giulio Ciccone (Ita) Trek-Segafredo
15. Simon Carr (GB) EF Education-Nippo at 1:08
16. Egan Bernal Gomez (Col) INEOS Grenadiers at 1:09
17. Diego Ulissi (Ita) UAE Team Emirates at 1:36
18. Juan Ayuso Pesquera (Spa) Colpack Ballan
19. Ruben Guerreiro (Por) EF Education-Nippo
20. Gorka Izagirre Insausti (Spa) Astana-Premier Tech
21. Ruben Fernandez (Spa) Cofidis
22. Simon Yates (GB) BikeExchange
23. Christopher Hamilton (Aus) DSM
24. Sam Oomen (Ned) Jumbo-Visma
25. Andrey Zeits (Kaz) BikeExchange.