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Photo ©: Bettini

25th Clasica San Sebastian - ProT

Spain, August 13, 2005

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Commentary by Jeff Jones

Live report

Live coverage starts: 15:00 CEST
Estimated finish: 17:00 CEST

15:06 CEST   
Welcome to Cyclingnews' airborne coverage of the 25th edition of the Clasica San Sebastian/Donostia Klasikoa. This ProTour classic is run over a traditional parcours of 227 km, featuring several medium level climbs, culminating in the Alto de Jaizkibel at km 195. This is traditionally the breaking point of the race, as the 8 km, 5.73 percent climb is a tough prospect after nearly 200 km of hard racing. But with 12 km to go, there is the Alto de Gurutze, a Cat. 3 climb of 2.8 km, also averaging 5 percent. This can often serve as the spring plank for the winning move of the day.

Riders to watch today include ProTour leader Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas-Bianchi), who will be looking to strengthen his advantage over his rivals after missing out on the points in Hamburg a couple of weeks back. There's also defending champion Miguel Angel Martin Perdiguero and sidekick Oscar Pereiro (Phonak), Carlos Sastre (CSC), Cadel Evans and Axel Merckx (Davitamon-Lotto), Chris Horner (Saunier Duval), Christophe Moreau (Credit Agricole), Allan Davis (Liberty Seguros), Juan Antonio Flecha (Fassa Bortolo), George Hincapie and Yaroslav Popovych (Discovery), Serguei Ivanov (T-Mobile), Davide Rebellin and Levi Leipheimer (Gerolsteiner), David Moncoutié (Cofidis), Francisco Mancebo (Illes Balears), Paolo Bettini and Filippo Pozzato (Quick.Step), Damiano Cunego and Giuliano Figueras (Lampre), Thomas Voeckler (Bouygues), Philippe Gilbert (Francaise des Jeux), Aitor Gonzalez (Euskaltel-Euskadi), and Igor Astarloa (Barloworld).

It is rather a decent line up.

15:20 CEST   
The story so far...

The peloton started in San Sebastian at 11:30 in dry, but fairly cool conditions: the temperature was in the low 20s at the start, and hasn't really moved much. A light NNE was at the riders' backs for the first part of the course, as Óscar Laguna (Relax- Fuenlabrada) took the points on the Alto de Orio, also taking the sprint at Zarautz ahead of Karsten Kroon and Adrian Palomares. On the Alto de Garate (km 29), the break of the day was established when Christophe Moreau (CA), Michael Barry (Discovery), Patxi Vila (Lampre), Ruban Lobato (Saunier Duval), Mauro Facci (Fassas Bortolo), Roberto Laiseka (Euskaltel), Matthias Kessler (T-Mobile) and Antonio Tauler (Illes Balears) escaped. Lobato was first over the top of the climb.

But by the Cat. 2 Alto de Azkarate (59 km), the group of eight riders had 4'30 lead, increasing it to a maximum of 6'05 after 90 km, but then the peloton started to clamp down and they haven't been given much more than that.

On the 8 km/3.2 percent Alto de Udana after 101 km, the group had 5'38, and has kept that gap now as we approach the final half of the race. The average speed so far is 43.8 km/h, which is reasonably quick but it should slow down as the climbs take their toll and the wind blows in the riders' faces.

15:27 CEST    157km/70km to go
The lead group is travelling well, but they are not being given much freedom as the hungry peloton has now closed the gap to 3'35 with 70 km of the bike race left.

15:29 CEST   
The pace is such that the riders are ahead of the fastest schedule, and a finish at around 17:00 is predicted.

15:35 CEST    168km/59km to go
The main teams working today are Phonak, Gerolsteiner, Barloworld-Valsir and Quick Step. They don't have riders in the break, so they have to do the donkey work.

15:47 CEST    176km/51km to go
There are no more categorised climbs until the Jaizkibel now, but the parcours is still up and down in the lead up to the feared climb. The eight riders are doing their best to cling on to their lead, but are fighting a losing battle against the might of the peloton.

15:50 CEST   
Laiseka comes through for his turn with Michael Barry (Discovery) on his wheel. Kessler and Lobato follow.

15:51 CEST    181km/46km to go
The gap is down to 1'37 as Barloworld leads the chase in the peloton. The eight leaders aren't going to be out there for much longer. Allan Davis is moved up to the front by his Liberty teammates.

15:52 CEST    182km/45km to go
The Jaizkibel is starting in about 5 km, as now Davitmon-Lotto takes a turn at the front of the bunch. Belgian champion Baguet in third wheel.

15:54 CEST    184km/43km to go
The steepest part of the Jaizkibel is at the bottom, with the first kilometre averaging 8.2 percent. Then it eases to 6-7 percent, with a "flat" spot of 3.9 percent between km 3-4, then back to 6-7 percent for a couple of kilometres, before the top part of the climb eases off to 4.6 and 1.2 percent for the final two kilometres.

15:56 CEST    185km/42km to go
The gap is down to a minute as the leaders get very close to the foot of the feared climb. They're not going to last too much longer. 6'05 wasn't really a gap you could do a lot with.

15:57 CEST    186km/41km to go
The battle for position is full on now as Di Luca moves up. Then Axel Merckx brings up Cadel Evans.

15:58 CEST   
Tauler and Facci get a small gap as the climb looms. Laiseka is off the back of the break a little bit, but survives.

15:59 CEST    188km/39km to go
The climb starts - I'll try to get a time. The gap is 30 seconds to the peloton.

Lobato attacks first, but the others react.

16:00 CEST   
The peloton is on the climb too, with the Barloworld boys to the fore. But now Stangelj (Lampre) makes the first attack.

16:00 CEST   
In the break, Patxi Vila is doing the work at a steady pace.

16:00 CEST   
Moncoutié goes after Stangelj.

16:02 CEST   
The peloton sweeps up the back of the break. Only Christophe Moreau (CA), Patxi Vila (Lampre), Ruban Lobato (Saunier Duval), and Matthias Kessler (T-Mobile) are left. Valjavec (Phonak) is setting tempo in the peloton. Astarloa is well placed.

16:03 CEST   
Valjavec drives the bunch up the climb and the break is pretty much history. Vila does one more turn.

16:04 CEST   
The break gradually disintegrates with Moreau and Vila looking back for the bunch. Don't worry, it's coming...

16:05 CEST   
Moreau doesn't really sit up, but he can't survive as Sastre attacks hard for CSC. Then one of the Rabobank riders counters - is that Veneberg?

16:06 CEST   
It ain't Veneberg, it's Denis Menchov (Rabobank) who is leading the race now. He's chased by Sastre, Rebellin and a Saunier rider. He has about 4 seconds.

16:08 CEST   
The chasing group grows as Luis Perez, Cadel Evans, and Levi Leipheimer get on the back. But Menchov still has a gap as he reaches a flat spot. Joaquin Rodriguez is the Saunier man.

Haimar Zubeldia (Euskaltel) closes to the chase group too.

16:10 CEST   
In the lead we have Denis Menchov (Rabobank), being chased at 10 seconds by Joaquin Rodriguez (Saunier), Haimar Zubeldia (Euskaltel), Davide Rebellin, Levi Leipheimer (Gerolsteiner), Carlos Sastre (CSC), Cadel Evans (Davitamon-Lotto), Stefano Garzelli (Liquigas) and Luis Perez (Cofidis). Leipheimer is setting the tempo for Rebellin. Where is Di Luca? Not here...

16:11 CEST    192km/35km to go
Menchov has got 14 seconds now but will have a tough time holding off a group of nine after the descent. The Russian is doing a good ride though.

Bits of the peloton are chasing too. Bettini is a fair way down.

16:12 CEST    193km/34km to go
Popovych is leading a couple of Saunier riders, one of which attacks in pursuit of a group in front. He bridges the gap, but they haven't got the front 1 + 9 yet.

Menchov looks back and sits up. 1 km to the summit.

16:13 CEST   
Leipheimer continues to drive the chase group as the Jaizkibel starts to flatten out. They are hauling in Menchov, who seems to want to be the first over the top at least.

16:14 CEST   
The chasing group of nine have a good 20 seconds on a much larger group, which has Popovych, Mancebo, Cunego, Zaballa and Astarloa in it. Relax is leading the chase there.

16:17 CEST    195km/32km to go
Menchov has 4 seconds now on the first chase group and 20 seconds on the Mancebo-led one. He is caught at the top of the climb by Leipheimer, but was first to the top.

The Mancebo group is at 15 seconds.

16:18 CEST   
The Mancebo group could well reach the front 10 on the descent. 15 seconds isn't much.

The time for the climb: between 17'05 and 17'10 (for Menchov). Anyone want to have a stab at the average power? 8 km at 5.73 percent, very light headwind.

16:20 CEST    197km/30km to go
The leaders: Denis Menchov (Rabobank), Joaquin Rodriguez (Saunier), Haimar Zubeldia (Euskaltel), Davide Rebellin, Levi Leipheimer (Gerolsteiner), Carlos Sastre (CSC), Cadel Evans (Davitamon-Lotto), Stefano Garzelli (Liquigas), and Luis Perez (Cofidis).

The chase group of 15-20 is coming back though. Haven't spotted Di Luca, but if he's in this group, he should be able to get some more ProTour points.

The bunches come together on the descent. We have perhaps 30 leaders now.

16:21 CEST    198km/29km to go
Aitor Gonzalez (Euskaltel) is almost onto the front group now. He was just off the back on the climb.

16:22 CEST    200km/27km to go
Bettini, Verbrugghe, and Garrido have all abandoned. No sign of HEW winner Pozzato, but he might be up in front. They are heading down to Hondarribia now.

16:23 CEST    202km/25km to go
Aitor Gonzalez is about 20m off the back, but he'll get them. He hasn't been racing much since he won the Tour de Suisse, and will now be preparing for the Vuelta.

16:25 CEST   
This lead group is not hanging around. Aitor Gonzalez is not having an easy time getting back on, probably cursing his teammate - Zubeldia? - who is leading the group.

16:26 CEST    203km/24km to go
The lead bunch reaches Hondarribia, very strung out. Michele Scarponi (Liberty) is sitting in last wheel.

16:28 CEST    205km/22km to go
Most of the Barloworld team have abandoned, but they put Astarloa in the front group, so job done for them.

Aitor inches his way onto the group, but can't close the gap. His team director might want to tell Zubeldia to slow down a bit... Too late now - Chris Horner attacks! He's riding for Davitamon-Lotto next year and in 2007, it's been confirmed.

16:28 CEST    207km/20km to go
Gonzalez finally makes it onto the back of Luis Perez's wheel in the lead group. Now it will be easier.

Horner looks back and sees he has a gap.

16:30 CEST    208km/19km to go
Horner is caught as the speed stays high in the lead group. The cooperation is not great, but there are enough riders who want to keep the pace up.

16:31 CEST    210km/17km to go
They go through the Meta Volante in Irun and there is another attack. Four riders, including Horner again, have a gap. This looks more promising.

16:32 CEST   
Horner, and Leipheimer are there, and a Domina Vacanze and Illes Balears rider. They have a nice gap.

16:34 CEST    212km/15km to go
The four leaders hit the Alto de Gurutze, the final climb of the day. They are: Chris Horner (Saunier), Levi Leipheimer (Gerolsteiner), Luca Solari (Domina), Xabier Zandio (Illes Balears). But Rebellin closes the gap with six or seven others. The bunch is broken.

16:36 CEST   
The front group is 20 riders strong now, as Rodriguez (Saunier) attacks. Rebellin is right on him, as is Astarloa. But Igor can't hold the pace and drops back.

16:38 CEST    213km/14km to go
They reach the top of the Gurutze and four riders are clear: Joaquin Rodriguez (Saunier), Denis Menchov (Rabobank), Stefano Garzelli (Liquigas) and Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner). The gap is not great though.

16:38 CEST   
Nope, it all comes back. In bits.

16:40 CEST    215km/12km to go
The lead group is quite big again as Sastre led the rest back to Rebellin and co. No more climbs now, but there is still time for an attack. This group is surely too big to get to the finish together.

16:41 CEST    216km/11km to go
Off the descent of the Gurutze and through Oiartzun, we still have a lead group of 25 odd riders. Di Luca isn't here, as far as we can tell. But Rebellin certainly is.

16:42 CEST   
Al Stolz reckons Menchov's average power output for the Jaizkibel was 425 watts, fairly roughly.

16:42 CEST    217km/10km to go
A group of seven or so has a 100m gap on the rest now. 8 seconds is the gap, but the chasers are strung out in pursuit.

16:43 CEST    218km/9km to go
It's a handy break - 14 seconds now, as the break flies along. No names yet, but soon.

16:45 CEST    219km/8km to go
Garzelli is one of the leaders, as is Zaballa, Zubeldia, Mazzoleni, Mosquera (Kaiku), Moncoutié (Cofidis) and Rodriguez. Two Sauniers in the lead. The gap is 20 seconds to a Menchov led chase.

16:47 CEST    221km/6km to go
The seven leaders: Stefano Garzelli (Liquigas), Haimar Zubeldia (Euskaltel), Zaballa, Rodriguez (Saunier), Mosquera (Kaiku), David Moncoutié (Cofidis), Eddy Mazzoleni (Lampre). They have 20 seconds as they approach San Sebastian. Rebellin and Menchov are chasing them, but Horner is in second wheel, not coming through of course as his teammates are up there.

28 seconds!

16:49 CEST    222km/5km to go
The leaders are gone, surely. It's over half a minute now and they're not hanging around. Garzelli is probably the best sprinter here, but watch for the Sauniers.

It's not Ezequiel Mosquera in the Kaiku pink, it's Yon Bru!! Probably my favourite rider name.

16:49 CEST   
Yon Bru is much easier to type as well.

16:49 CEST    223km/4km to go
Menchov leads the chasers, but it's 42 seconds and growing. They ain't coming back. The race will be decided among the seven leaders.

16:50 CEST   
Garzelli takes a spell at the back of the group. He can probably gamble a bit, as the Sauniers want to keep the pace high. Bru is the only non-ProTour rider here. Zubeldia looks good today.

16:51 CEST    224km/3km to go
It's up to 50 seconds as Zaballa attacks. Garzelli looks round and it's Moncoutié who reacts. Zaballa is away.

16:52 CEST   
Could this be two in a row for Saunier? Zaballa has got a good gap and Rodriguez is doing some good spoiler work behind.

16:52 CEST    225km/2km to go
Zaballa has what looks to be an unbeatable gap. 10 seconds as Garzelli tries to organise a chase. Bru helps. But Zaballa is long gone...

16:53 CEST   
The six (well, five) chasers must work together if they are to have a chance. It may be too late. 12 seconds to Zaballa in front.

16:53 CEST    225.7km/1.3km to go
Zaballa gets out of the saddle and drives up a small climb. Nearly 1 km to go.

16:54 CEST    226km/1km to go
Zaballa takes advantage of the tailwind and drives to the kilometre to go banner. He'll take it, definitely.

16:54 CEST   
Constantino Zaballa (Saunier Duval) has 15 seconds under the kilometre to go banner as Garzelli looks at the others again. Nope. Bit late for arguing.

16:55 CEST    227km/0km to go
Zaballa looks back quickly a couple of times but he is home and hosed. Great ride set up by some great team work. Two from two for Saunier Duval!

16:56 CEST   
Rodriguez leads out for second and takes it with a massive gap to Mazzoleni, Garzelli, Bru, Moncoutié and Zubeldia. Yus took eighth from the next group, very close behind.

17:03 CEST   
Despite not featuring in the finale, Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas-Bianchi) will keep the ProTour leader's jersey.

OK, that's all from us in the blimp today. We'll be back with full results, report and pics later, along with everything else!


1 Constantino Zaballa Gutierrez (Spa) Saunier Duval - Prodir    5.24.18
2 Joaquin Rodriguez Oliver (Spa) Saunier Duval - Prodir            0.20
3 Eddy Mazzoleni (Ita) Lampre - Caffita                                
4 Stefano Garzelli (Ita) Liquigas - Bianchi                            
5 Yon Bru (Spa) Kaiku                                                  
6 David Moncoutié (Fra) Cofidis - Le Crédit par Téléphone              
7 Haimar Zubeldia (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi                          0.31
8 Unai Yus Kerejeta (Spa) Bouygues Telecom                         0.40
9 Leonardo Bertagnolli (Ita) Cofidis


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