What's Cool In Road Cycling

SAN SEBASTIÁN’22 Preview: Who Can Win The Basque Classic?

The Spanish Classic

Clásica San Sebastián Preview: The Tour de France is behind us and the season moves into the next phase of the Vuelta a España, the Autumn Classics and the World championships. But to keep us keen we have the Clásica San Sebastián on Saturday. Ed Hood gives us his preview of the Basque one-day race.

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The climb of the ‘Jaizkibel’

San Sebastian, or ‘Donostia’ in the language of the Basque. A genteel place sited on the beautiful bay of La Concha; the Spanish royal family decamped here for the summer season, the cool breezes from the Bay of Biscay easier on the skin than the baking heat of Madrid, high on the plains.

La Concha

And it’s a gastronome’s delight with one of the highest number of Michelin starred restaurants per capita in the world.

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You won’t go hungry in San Sebastián

Their Clásica is a ‘baby’ in the world of top flight races with the first edition held as recently as 1981, the winner being Basque legend Marion Lejaretta who is ‘recordman’ for the race with three wins – ’81, ’82, ’87 and a second place in ’86.

Three time winner Marion Lajaretta

As a matter of interest, that first year, classy Englishman Graham Jones – who Peugeot raced to the point of exhaustion – was second, as he also was in Het Volk. The fact that the slender man from Berriz is the race’s most successful participant tells us much about the parcours; you must be able to climb – and descend.

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San Sebastián’22 profile

There are six categorised climbs within the race’s 224.8 kilometres; the ‘Jaizkibel’ being the most famous. It used to be the decisive ascent, coming late in the day, long at 8.3 K and exposed to the wind it now comes at 162K with the real killer the Murgil-Tontorra topping out at 217K – it’s ‘only’ 2.1K long but with an average of 10.1% and with ramps of 19% meaning it’s almost certainly where the winning move will come.

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San Sebastián’22 map

The race has some interesting winners on the role of honour; in 1989 mountain biker turned roadman Gerard Zadrobilek won for 7-eleven and Austria before going back to fat tyres.

Gerard Zadrobilek won in 1989

The next year saw Miguel Indurain’s only classic victory on that beautiful boulevard alongside the sands of La Concha.

Indurain taking his Classic win

And in 1992 it was Mexico’s Raul Alcala winning for PDM whilst a certain Lance Armstrong took his first classic win in the race in 1995.

Raul Alcala won a wet Clásica

The last decade has seen no surprise winners with Valverde twice, classy but now retired Kreuziger, Luis Leon Sanchez twice, Tony Gallopin, Adam Yates, Bauke Mollema, Michal Kwiatkowski and Julian Alaphilippe all accomplished ‘puncheurs’ who can get over the climbs and don’t wear out brake blocks on the descents.

Solo win by Remco Evenepoel in 2019

‘Wonder Kid,’ Remco grabbed his first Classic win here in 2019 – 2020 succumbed to Covid – whilst last year it was Native American of the Oneida people, Neilson Powless who took the honours for EF.

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The last winner – Neilson Powless

This year, seven previous winners ride:
# Neilson Powless [EF Education-EasyPost & USA] won off the back of last year’s Tour and is again a man on form with fourth on GC in the Tour de Suisse and two top four stage finishes in le Tour – then a top 20 in the final time test.

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The new guard of Evenepoel taking over

# Remco Evenepoel [Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl & Belgium] winner in 2019, returns to racing after a break since the Belgian Championships and will be fresh as paint – as a previous winner and after his Liege-Bastogne-Liege demonstration in the spring, a repeat win is well possible.

Alaphilippe before he was double World champion

# Julian Alaphilippe [Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl & France] winner in 2018 is in one his first UCi races since the French Championships, he missed le Tour due to injury but came back with a bang to win Stage One of the Tour de Wallonie atop le Mur de Huy – he’s hot.

Bauke Mollema won back in 2016 and will be there again in 2022

# Bauke Mollema [Trek-Segafredo & The Netherlands] took the honours in 2016 and on ‘stats’ is the second most successful rider in this race with a win and nine top 10 finishes off 10 starts – he’s an opportunist who, despite his age, you can never ‘write off.’ And witness a very strong sixth place le Tour’s closing time trial – if only he could sit still. . .

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Valverde back in 2014

# Alejandro Valverde [Movistar & Spain] comes back from a training crash having won this race twice, 2008 and 2014 – he’s also has the best track record in the race, two wins and eight top 10 finishes. It’s hard to see him on the podium but the man is ‘special.’

Nearly 10 years since Tony Gallopin won San Sebastián

# Tony Gallopin [Trek-Segafredo & France] won in 2013 but that was a long time ago and at 34 years-of-age it’s not the same Tony Gallopin anymore.

LL Sanchez… Maybe not

# Luis Leon Sanchez [Bahrain Victorious & Spain] has won twice 2010 and 2012 – but again, whilst the man is still a consummate professional, a podium is hard to envisage. And here are another seven names to conjure with. . .

Simon Carr on the attack in Flèche Wallonne 2022

# Simon Carr [EF Education-Easypost & GB] is a team mate of Powless and rides well on a parcours like this, he knows these roads and has won in the Basque Nation before.

Ayuso on stage 3 of Catalunya’22

# Juan Ayuso [UAE Team Emirates & Spain] the ‘coming man’ of Spanish cycling, UAE think so much of the 19 years-old that they have him on the books until 2025 – he must be due a big one soon.

Mohorič wasn’t too bad in Sanremo

# Matej Mohorič [Bahrain Victorious & Slovenia] despite not sparkling in the Tour, the parcours suits his characteristics and with a week of rest and recovery might just bounce back.

What can you say about Van Aert

# Wout van Aert [Jumbo-Visma & Belgium] makes his own rules about what rider is and isn’t capable of – witness his win in the Tour’s final time trial and huge margin of victory in the green jersey contest.

Matthews is in form at the moment

# Michael Matthews [Team BikeExchange & Australia] was very strong in the Tour, taking an impressive stage win. He’s won Plouay, Montreal and Quebec in the past – none of those are flat and his morale will be back to it’s best.

Michael Storer strong after the Tour?

# Michael Storer [Groupama-FDJ] performed a strong team role in le Tour; but in this race should have his freedom, he likes Spain – witness two stage wins in the 2021 Vuelta and remember that he was second in the super-hilly Tour of the Alps back in April.

Jai Hindley – Popular in the Basque Country

# Jai Hindley [BORA-hansgrohe] will be in his first race after his magnificent Giro – there can be no doubt about his climbing talent.

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You can always go to the beach

All of the above is qualified by how riders come out of the Tour; some with a week’s rest will be ‘pinging’ – other will be dead on their feet and longing for the season’s end.

Sagardoa for Saturday

And sorry, but no beer for this race – Sagardoa is the tipple. That’s cider to you and me, Dude – brand names, Galipette, Kupela and Zapiain will all hit the spot for you. Tapa!

# Stay PEZ for the ‘Race Report’ on Saturday and all the news in EUROTRASH Monday. #

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