Remco Evenepoel (Deceuninck – Quick-Step) was victorious in his first ever WorldTour one day race as he took the win at the Clásica San Sebastián, attacking from 20km and keeping an elite peloton at bay.
The 19-year-old Belgian escaped from the bunch with Toms Skujiņš (Trek-Segafredo) in the closing kilometres before dropping the Latvian up the final steep climb of the day and solo-ing to the finish line, maintaining a 40 second advantage all the way.
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The bunch behind failed to get organised in their pursuit of the teenager, with Greg Van Avermaet (CCC) taking second in the bunch sprint with Marc Hirschi (Sunweb) third.
The teenager was perhaps allowed free-reign to follow Skujiņš wheel after team-mate and race favourite Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck – Quick-Step) abandoned the race after just 80km, clearly needing rest after his Tour de France heroics.
How it happened
The Clásica San Sebastián provides a lumpy parcours, allowing the likes of Julian Alaphilippe, Michał Kwiatkowski (Ineos) and Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo) to emerge victorious in recent editions.
Fernando Barceló (Euskadi Basque Country – Murias) took an early virtual lead in the king of the mountains classification, reaching the summit of two of the early climbs first from a group of nine escapees, as two riders abandoned the race after just 80km remaining.
The first was Ineos’ David de la Cruz and the more notable second abandon was Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck – Quick-Step), clearly in need of a break after his breathtaking ride in the recent Tour de France.
Movistar drove the peloton, seemingly to set things up for Alejandro Valverde later, the world champion having won the race previously and making his 11th appearance in the race, the most of any rider in the peloton.
Tour de France champion Egan Bernal (Ineos) was dropped from the peloton with 76km to go, as was Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott), with a number of the breakaway being reeled in.
Barceló soon found himself to be the lone rider out front, with 60km to go and a 48 second buffer over the bunch.
With 50km to go, the peloton crossed the finish line for the first time, with Barceló reeled in on the previous descent of the Erlaitz climb.
Omar Fraile (Astana) and Rui Costa (UAE Team Emirates) fleetingly attacked but were soon reeled in as CCC and Deceuninck – Quick-Step shared the work at the front of the peloton.
Toms Skujiņš (Trek-Segafredo) attacked with 21km to go and was joined by Remco Evenepoel (Deceuninck – Quick-Step). The duo had taken out a 26 second gap with 15km to the finish line.
Their advantaged had increased to 38 seconds with 12km to go, going up again to 44 seconds at the 10km banner as the pair headed uphill towards the final climb of the day, the Murgil, which averaged 7.6 per cent with highs of 19 per cent and situated 8km from the line.
Movistar and Astana hit the front of the peloton as they started the climb as Skujiņš tried to attack with Evenepoel then coming round him, neither able to distance the other with 9km to go.
Valverde then launched his attack, with Michael Woods (EF Education First) and Enric Mas (Deceuninck – Quick-Step) following his wheel before Patrick Konrad (Bora-Hansgrohe) came over the top.
Evenepoel dropped Skujiņš 500m to the summit of the murderous climb, as the gap back to the peloton came down to 35 seconds.
Hugh Carthy (EF Education First) then attacked the peloton, opening up a gap and hunting down the teenage Belgian.
Evenepoel reached the summit with a 40 second advantage as the peloton strung out behind, with Simon Clarke (EF Education First) leading the way after a nice one-two move from the American team.
The peloton failed to get organised behind as Evenepoel powered towards the finish, maintaining his gap and shaking his head in disbelief as he crossed the line having won a WorldTour one-day race at the first time of asking.
A victory made more stunning by the teenager being dropped at one point, then going back and collecting bottles before then dropping the peloton.
Greg Van Avermaet (CCC) led the bunch sprint home 38 seconds later, with Marc Hirschi (Sunweb) third and world champion Alejandro Valverde rounding out the top 10.
Clásica San Sebastián 2019 – San Sebastian to San Sebastian (227.3km)
1. Remco Evenepoel (Bel) Deceuninck – Quick-Step, in 5-44-27
2. Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) CCC, at 38 seconds
3. Marc Hirschi (Sui) Sunweb
4. Gorka Izagirre (Esp) Astana
5. Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek-Segafredo
6. Patrick Konrad (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe
7. Jelle Vanendert (Bel) Lotto-Soudal
8. Enric Mas (Esp) Deceuninck – Quick-Step
9. Michael Woods (Can) EF Education First
10. Alejandro Valverde (Esp) Movistar, all at same time