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27th Clásica San Sebastián - ProT

Spain, August 4, 2007

La Clásica Donostiarra - Tour redemption via the Alto de Jaizkibel

By Gregor Brown

Xavier Florencio tops 2006 Clásica Donostiarra
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Following on the heels of the Tour de France the Clásica San Sebastián will be a chance for many riders to make amends in the biggest Spanish one-day race on the cycling calendar. The professional peloton will rendezvous in the Basque costal city of San Sebastián this Saturday, August 4, for a 225-kilometre loop though the surrounding mountains.

The parcours along the Bay of Biscay favours the numerous cyclists that inhabit this part of Spain rich in cycling. It is certainly no sprinters' day out, like Paris-Tours later this fall, however, the climbs that the organizers have included in will most likely not be enough to split the peloton completely and a small break could decide the day. Xavier Florencio (Bouygues Telecom) profited from his turn of speed to better Stefano Garzelli last year to take his biggest win and put his name on the cycling map.

The cyclists of the 27th Clásica Donostiarra will encounter the toughest of the day's climbs at kilometre 193, the category one Jaizkibel. The climb rears its ugly head 32 kilometres from the finish and typically provides the decisive split in the remaining gruppo.

Following the Jaizkibel is the category 3 Alto de Gurutze at kilometre 211. The gruppetto that makes it over the top of the Alto de Gurutze first will need to have a decent advantage over the peloton as there are still 14 kilometres of racing remaining to the line and the small uncategorized kick of the Alto de Miracruz with three kilometres to go.

Nine climbs (six categorized):
Cat. 3 Alto de Orio-Zudugarai at kilometre 19
Cat. 3 Alto de Meagas at kilometre 27
Cat. 2 Alto de Azkarate at kilometre 56.5
Cat. 2 Alto de Udana at kilometre 99
No Cat. Alto Irurain at kilometre 157
No Cat. Alto de Gaintxurizketa at kilometre 180
Cat. 1 Alto de Jaizkibel at kilometre 193
Cat. 3 Alto de Gurutze at kilometre 211
No Cat. Alto de Miracruz at kilometre 222

The views from Jaizkibel are not appreciated
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

Twenty teams will line-up to contest the nine Altos including three wildcard Spanish Professional teams. Wildcards Relax-GAM, Karpin-Galicia and Fuerteventura-Canarias should light the race with ample attacks in the earlier stages to help the initial escape form. The riders from these teams will provide the race's fodder and then get blasted out the back when the action is turned to high in the race's finale.

The real favourites will come from Spanish ProTour teams Caisse d'Epargne, Saunier Duval-Prodir and Euskaltel-Euskadi. Caisse d'Epargne will send Spanish TT Champ Iván Gutiérrez and Alejandro Valverde, both fresh from their Tour de France participation, along with Joan Horrach, Pablo Lastras, David López García, Aitor Pérez, Joaquím Rodríguez and José Joaquín Rojas. Valverde is a hot favourite, after finishing sixth in the Tour the victory-hungry Murciano will want to launch his artilleries as he tests his legs for the Vuelta a España (starting September 1). Expect professional support from Rodríguez as the 'Green Bullet' makes his bid.

Hot-favourite Valverde
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

Euskaltel-Euskadi is essentially the home-team and will want to leave its mark after a lacklustre Tour. Although the team has not yet released its full roster, it is expected to lead with Haimar Zubeldia, Mikel Astarloza and Samuel Sánchez. Sammy Sánchez beautifully proved his one-day abilities with wins in Vuelta stage 13 and the GP Zürich last fall.

Saunier Duval will look to pick up from its back-to-back wins of 2004 and 2005. Its likely candidate is Juan José Cobo and Italian Riccardo Riccò. The 23 year-old Riccò, winner of Giro d'Italia's Le Tre Cima di Lavaredo, is coming back after a mid-season pausa and a lucrative contract renewal.

Returning champ and wearer of dossard number 1, Xavier Florencio, will want to make an impression after going winless since last year's event. CSC's deadly brother duo, Luxemburgers Fränk and Andy Schleck, will form a strong union with Carlos Sastre. Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas) like compatriot Riccò will be on the pausa-springboard and should receive full team support as he builds for the World Championships.

Renaissance man, Christophe Moreau of Ag2r Prévoyance, may have something left from the Tour and will be looking to fly his French national champion's jersey with pride. Discovery Channel will be there to contest with George Hincapie and Allan Davis. Hincapie is coming off of the Tour with form and will draw upon his friend's (Lance Armstrong) success of 12 years ago while Davis has the better sprint kick to do the deed in San Sebastián.

World Champion Paolo Bettini of Quick.Step won't take part due to tendonitis in his left knee but the Belgium-based team will draw inspiration from Tour stage winner, Frenchman Cédric Vasseur. T-Mobile will field maillot jaune wearer Linus Gerdemann and Lampre-Fondital will hope for a small sprint to utilize Italians Alessandro Ballan or Fabio Baldato.

The forecast for this Saturday in San Sebastián is expected to be perfect cycling conditions with 28°C and crystal clear skies that will provide for spectacular views from the 465-metre peak of the Jaizkibel.

Live coverage

This Saturday Cyclingnews will be covering the 27th Clásica San Sebastián live. Coverage begins around 15:30 local European time (CEST)/ 9:30 (USA East)/ 23:30 Australia (EST) - also on WAP-enabled mobile devices at http://live.cyclingnews.com/wap/