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SanSebastiбn’07: Big Basque Beret for Bertagnolli

There have been some big stars win the San Sebastiбn Classic in the past, but lately it’s been a wide open race for the smaller fish to take the bait. Today Italian Leonardo Bertagnolli (Liquigas) had the dubious pleasure of wearing an enormous Basque hat on the top step of the podium.

The Tour de France is over and now we have some Classics before the Vuelta a Espaсa and the World Championships. The Clasica San Sebastian is Spain’s biggest one day race, based on the north coast going up to the French border and taking in nine climbs, the hardest being the famous, Alto de Jaizkibel, 33 kilometers from the finish. The Jaizkibel will sort out who’s who and then the two final climbs of the Gurutze and Miracruz will confirm the action and the winner.

The Basque Country is a hotbed of cycling, but today’s winner could come from Murcia in the shape of Alejandro Valverde, home team Euskaltel will want a win as they have had a low profile for a while, then again we could get a shock winner as the San Sebastian classic has thrown up some surprises in the past, like last year’s winner, Xavier Florencio, Tour winner, Alberto Contador will not win today as he is not here, but Discovery have sent a strong team with Brajkovic, Davis, Devolder, Rubiera and a recovered, Tom Danielson. Other possible winners are; Di Luca, Sanchez. Schleck x 2, Sastre, Moreau and Vasseur.

The racing on the numerous Basque climbs was intense today, and many found themselves ridden right out of the race early on.

At the start Dani Di Luca said “it will be difficult for me today, but I am looking forward to the World Championships.” Davide Rebellin’s favorite is Valverde or someone from the Green Bullet’s team, Caisse d’Epargne.

A break went away on the Alto de Meagas after only 28 kilometers when Paolo Bossoni (Lampre) attacked to be joined by Arrieta (Ag2r), Russ (Gerolsteiner) and Chavanel (Cofidis). They were caught on the Jaizkibel and were replaced up front by Albasini (Liquigas), Lopez Garcia (Caisse d’Epargne) and Van de Walle (Quick Step) and soon had a gap of nearly a minute and a half on the descent.

It’s unlikely that this break will succeed as Valverde’s team are riding hard behind, an attempted attack on the Jaizkibel by Gomez Merchante (Saunier Duval) doesn’t go very far and he is soon pulled back as Gerolsteiner and Quick Step show that they can also do some chasing, or in Quick Step’s case riding tempo protecting Garate and Visconti, and not bringing Van de Walle back too soon.

Hey, is that? No no no, it’s Bettini’s protege, Giovanni Visconti, and every race he seems to be getting better and better.

Last year’s winner Xavier Florencio had made it into the chase group which is quite small, now that they have covered 200 kilometers and only have the last two climbs to go. On the 3rd cat climb of the Gurutze, Schleck (CSC) was pulling the chasers closer to the escapers, not fast enough for the “Green Bullet” (Valverde) as he attacks, crosses and passes the three leaders, splitting the (now) lead group even further, but with 12 kilometers to the finish it’s far too early.

Oh yeah, and it was a hot one.

The leading bunch is now down to less than 30 riders; if you hadn’t made it to this group then you might as well go for an early shower. Garate (Quick Step) and Bertagnolli (Liquigas) manage keep a lead hovering around 20 seconds as the chasers split trying to get across in ones and twos, instead of a combined effort. With 5 kilometers of wide roads to the finish, Garate and Bertagnolli look like they could pull this off if they don’t start messing around for the sprint.

Garate’s teammate, Barredo manages to mark Astarloza (Euskaltel) and Ballan (Lampre) off the front of the main bunch, but they are soon joined by Valverde and Sastre (CSC), but they have left it too late as they hit the last kilometer.

Bertagnolli gets left on the front coming to 500 meters to the line, Garate jumps but the Italian has his measure and looks like he passes him effortlessly to take the win from Garate and Valverde takes the sprint for third.

Italian Leonardo Bertagnolli dons the Basque Txapela after a rough first half of the season. He’s flanked by Spaniards: Garate and Valverde.

It was a hard race, but I think there are a few tired legs from the Tour and also a lot of riders here that will be riding La Vuelta a Espaсa starting on the first of September and are possibly not firing on all cylinders, yet! I’m sure the last Grand Tour of the year will be more exciting than today’s race and hopefully for all the right sporting reasons!

The 27th Clбsica San Sebastiбn Result:
1st Leonardo Bertagnolli (Ita) Liquigas in 5:12:45
2nd Juan Manuel Gбrate (Spa) Quick-Step Innergetic
3rd Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne
4th Alessandro Ballan (Ita) Lampre-Fondital
5th Carlo Scognamiglio (Ita) Milram
6th Mikel Astarloza (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi
7th Carlos Sastre (Spa) Team CSC
8th Iсigo Landaluze (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi
9th Xavier Florencio (Spa) Bouygues Telecom
10th Giovanni Visconti (Ita) Quick-Step Innergetic

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