Anyone suffering from post-Tour de France blues will be pleased to hear that many of the riders will be back racing this weekend in Spain at the Clásica de San Sebastián (Saturday, August 1).
The likes of podium finisher Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), stage winners Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha), Romain Bardet (Ag2r) and Thibaut Pinot (FDJ), and disappointed GC hopeful Tejay van Garderen (BMC) will all line up, with some riding on the wave of top form coming out of the Tour, and others completely exhausted.
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Winning here may not mean as much as taking a Tour de France stage, but, due to its history and WorldTour status, victory on the Basque Country coastline is still a major addition to anyone’s palmares – especially for Spanish riders, for whom this is their nation’s major one-day classic.
With several difficult climbs and a leg-sapping length of 219km, it is a selective race that tends to split the race into several small pieces. The route also tends to favour proactive racing rather than defensive tactics, with each of the last four editions being won by solo attackers.
Chris Froome and all of his Tour lieutenants aside from Peter Kennaugh and Nicolas Roche will not be present, instead taking a well-deserved break after their yellow jersey triumph.
British interest will instead lie with the Yates brothers, Simon and Adam, who appeared to leave the Tour with good form following eye-catching rides up Alpe d’Huez. Adam’s performance last year (he was in the lead group before crashing on the final descent) suggests he could compete for the win, although he faces stiff competition from a strong field.
Clásica de San Sebastián 2015: The favourites
Alejandro Valverde, Movistar
Having finished on the podium at the Tour last week and won both Liege-Bastogne-Liege and Fleche-Wallonne in the spring, Valverde is enjoying the best season of his controversial career to date, at the grand age of 35. Having won last year’s edition with a bold attack on the descent, as well as in a seven-man sprint in 2008, another victory will make him joint all-time winner here.
Joaquim Rodriguez, Katusha
Two stage wins at the Tour should mean Rodriguez goes into this race with confidence, and the fact he did not have to manage the stress of riding for GC could also means he brings fresh legs with him too. Despite this being a home race for the 36-year old and the parcours suiting his punchy style, Rodriguez has never won here, though frequently features in the key selection.
Philippe Gilbert, BMC
BMC bring a very strong team with them to San Sebastian, with Tour stage winner Greg van Avermaet and Spaniard Samuel Sanchez both capable of winning. Their best bet, however, looks to be Philippe Gilbert, who won in 2011 and has enjoyed a successful month winning both the GP Pino Cerami and a stage of the Tour de Wallonie.
Julian Alaphilippe, Etixx-QuickStep
23-year old Alaphilippe was the revelation of the spring, coming out of no-where to finish second at Fleche-Wallonne, Liege-Bastogne-Liege and the Tour of California. It is a big ask for such a young rider to reach such a high peak of form twice in the same season though, and Etixx have another potential winner in their ranks with Zdenek Stybar.
Mikel Landa, Astana
Over two years before his breakthrough podium finish at the Giro this season, Landa caught the eye with a sixth place finish at the 2013 San Sebastian. Though he specialises in tougher, more mountainous terrain, the many hills of the parcours could provide him a platform to break clear and challenge for the win.
Clásica de San Sebastián 2015: Teams
Ag2r La Mondiale
Caja Rural-Seguros RGA
Trek Factory Racing
Clásica de San Sebastián 2015: TV guide
British Eurosport will be showing live coverage of the race.
Saturday, August 1
2.30-4.30pm, Clásica de San Sebastián LIVE, British Eurosport
7.00-8.00pm, Clásica de San Sebastián highlights, British Eurosport
Clásica de San Sebastián: Recent winners
2014 Alejandro Valverde (Spa)
2013 Tony Gallopin (Fra)
2012 Luis Leon Sanchez (Spa)
2011 Philippe Gilbert (Bel)
2010 Luis Leon Sanchez (Spa)
2009 Carlos Barredo (Spa)
2008 Alejandro Valverde (Spa)
2007 Leonardo Bertagnolli (Ita)
2006 Xavier Florencio (Spa)
2005 Constantino Zaballa (Spa)
Clásica de San Sebastián: Last year’s top 10 (2014)
1. Alejandro Valverde (Esp) Movistar 5:31:11
2. Bauke Mollema (Ned) Belkin +0.14 sec
3. Joaquim Rodriguez (Esp) Katusha +0.14 sec
4. Mikel Nieve (Esp) Sky +0.14 sec
5. Tony Gallopin (Fra) Lotto-Belisol +0.26 sec
6. Jelle Vanendert (Bel) Lotto-Belisol +0.26 sec
7. Haimar Zubeldia (Esp) Trek Factory Racing +0.26 sec
8. Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC +0.40 sec
9. Giovanni Visconti (Ita) Movistar +0.40 sec
10. Zdenek Stybar (Cze) Omega Pharma – Quickstep +0.43 sec
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