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25th Clasica San Sebastian - ProT
Spain, August 13, 2005
By Shane Stokes
One of the strongest fields assembled this season for a one day race will line upon Saturday in the Clásica San Sebastián in Spain. The provisional start list reads like a who's who of modern cycling, with Tour de France stars such as Michael Rasmussen (Rabobank), Cadel Evans (Davitamon-Lotto), Levi Leipheimer (Gerolsteiner), George Hincapie, Yaroslav Popovych (both Discovery Channel), Christophe Moreau and Andrei Kasheckin (Credit Agricole) all down to start.
Other big names expected are ProTour leader Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas-Bianchi), Olympic champion Paolo Bettini (Quick.Step), 2004 Tour of Italy winner Damiano Cunego (Lampre-Caffita), Tour de Suisse champ Aitor Gonzalez (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner), great American hope Tom Danielson (Discovery Channel) and former world road race champion Igor Astarloa (Team Barloworld Valsir), who returned to winning ways in the Tour de Burgos.
Of course, much attention will be justifiably focused on the rider wearing dossard number 1, namely Miguel Martin Perdiguero of the Phonak Hearing Systems team. Last year the Spaniard surprised Bettini and then-World Cup leader Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner) when he won a five up sprint to take the win, with fellow Spaniards Marcos Antonio Serrano Rodriguez (Liberty Seguros) and Alberto Martinez (Relax-Bodysol) landing fourth and fifth. Basso was a handful of seconds back in sixth, one place ahead of another strong rider, Gerolsteiner's Georg Totschnig. Form permitting, Perdiguero has the right mixture of climbing ability and sprint power to challenge once more for the prize.
The Clásica San Sebastián will feature the now-customary tough, hilly course. The third category Alto de Orio gets things going some 19 kilometres after the race pulls away from El Diario Vasco, with the second category Alto de Garate coming just over ten kilometres later. Two more cat two climbs follow, the Alto de Azkarate (59.3 km) and the Alto de Udana (101.5), then things get really nasty just before the 200 kilometre mark with the first category Alto de Jaizkibel shaking it all up. Just 227 kilometres remain from the summit to the finish, with the cat three Alto de Gurutze (213.5 km) providing a good springboard for victory. Meta volantes bonus sprints at Zaratz (22 km), Azpeitia (50 km), Tolosa (143 km), Irun-Letxunborro (208.2 km) and Oiartzun (215.5 km) will inject a little more urgency along the way, providing further incentive for aggression in what should be a gripping race.
The Clásica San Sebastián has a mightily-impressive list of past winners, with Perdiguero, Bettini, Laurent Jalabert, Erik Dekker, Francesco Casagrande, David Rebellin, Udo Bolts and Lance Armstrong taking the honours over the past decade. Further back, riders such as Armand de las Cuevas, Claudio Chiappucci, Raul Alcala, Gianni Bugno and Miguel Indurain triumphed, proving that the difficult course profile always ensures a worthy winner. Climbing specialist Marino Lejarreta is top dog with three editions of the race to his credit, including the first ever Clásica San Sebastián some 25 years ago. That first win will be honoured with a special presentation to the Basque strongman at this year's race.