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28th Clásica San Sebastián - ProT

Spain, August 2, 2008

Complete Live report

Live commentary by Brecht Decaluwé

15:18 CEST   
Hello and welcome back to Cyclingnews' live coverage. We (and you and the racers) have barely recovered from the Tour, but on we go. The next round of the ProTour is the Clásica San Sebastián. Lots of people will try to get a last test in before the Olympic Games in Beijing. Which means a very elite field will tackle the 239 kilometres. As always, all eyes will be on the Jaizkibel, when the decisive phase is expected to start.

15:43 CEST   
The racers were in good spirits when they left this morning, despite the grueling six categorised climbs ahead of them. Three riders have gone clear, including Giampaolo Cheula of Barloworld. We will get more in a bit.

15:51 CEST    195km/44km to go
The first riders already reached the Jaizkibel and there is a leading group of about thirty riders in front. Alexandre Kolobnev is alone in the attack, but the Russian leads with only a small margin of ten seconds over the small peloton. The rest of the starters already abandoned the Spanish one-day classic.

15:56 CEST   
The early breakaway has been caught a while ago. It looks like most favourites are still in the group of thirty riders. We spotted Valverde, Rebellin and also world champion Paolo Bettini is among them. The Italian has no less than four team-mates with him; they are leading the group. Garate - another team-mate - was dropped just a minute ago. Clearly Bettini is feeling strong.

World Champ Paolo Bettini is looking very strong over the Jaizkibel
Photo ©: Régis Garnier
(Click for larger image)

15:59 CEST   
After 23 kilometres there was a crash that included Rik Verbrugghe. The Belgian was brought over to the hospital where doctors found out Verbrugghe had a broken collarbone. The 34 year-old was very disappointed and talked about the end of his career. We might here more on this later.

16:02 CEST    207km/32km to go
Kolobnev has been caught back and the riders are over the top of the Jaizkibel now and enjoy a splendid view over the region now. We bet most don't pay attention for this, as the descent isn't really straight forward.

16:07 CEST   
No Française des Jeux riders in the front, and also the troubled Crédit Agricole riders aren't featuring in the big leading group. The riders are taking it rather easy now. Some riders like Garate and Arrieta manage to get back to the front where local boy Samuel Sanchez is featuring as well. We expect spectacle on the Alto de Arkale.

16:08 CEST    209km/30km to go
The riders made it safely down to the valley and now there are only thirty kilometres left to San Sebastián.

16:12 CEST   
Quick Step keeps the pace steady. Thomas Voeckler is near the TV-camera again, but unlike his Tour de France appearances he's now asking the camera to leave.

16:15 CEST   
Some riders are hiding away in this group, but we spotted big guns like Alberto Contador and Denis Menchov.

16:19 CEST   
Alejandro Valverde has his lieutenant Joachim Rodriguez with him, and Andy Schleck is there as well. Meanwhile Quick Step is still leading the group. Bettini must feel very strong. If the Italian could win in San Sebastián the that would be his second win in the Clasica, just like Laurent Jalabert. Record holder in San Sebastián is Marino Lejarreta with three wins during the eighties.

16:20 CEST    220km/19km to go
Quick Step's Jurgen Vandewalle is pulling hard in the front and he'll probably drop away when the riders hit the Alto de Arkale in a moment.

16:24 CEST   
The riders hit the Alto de Arkale and Garate is dropped right away. The average gradient is more than 6% with a maximum gradient of 7,1%. There's an acceleration from Team Columbia's Constantin Sivtsov, but Quick Step keeps him under control.

16:24 CEST   
Bettini jumps away and the group explodes!

16:26 CEST   
Only about fifteen riders are able to get back to the front when Bettini assess the damages. Contador drops back!

16:27 CEST    224km/15km to go
Bettini accelerated again and is now keeping a steady pace in front of the group. Valverde jumps away behind his back but the Spanish champion can't get a gap on the world champion. We're on the top of the Arkale now and Valverde is away with Bettini and Rebellin. The gaps are small.

16:28 CEST   
'Sammy' Sanchez joined the leaders and jumped away in the descent. The local crowds go crazy when they're seeing a local rider in front.

16:32 CEST    229km/10km to go
We're still descending the Arkale and Sanchez is caught back by a group with David Moncoutié, Valverde, Bettini and Rebellin. A group of about twelve riders isn't too far back.

16:33 CEST    232km/7km to go
It's been eleven years since Davide Rebellin won the Clasica San Sebastián. Respect for the Italian that he can still fight for the victory nowadays.

16:35 CEST   
All riders in front are taking strong pulls. Clearly they don't want the others to return. In the chasing group Liquigas is doing the work. The gap is only nine seconds.

16:35 CEST   
The break may be racing for sponsors and contracts. Moncoutié and Bettini's obligations with the team end end of the year, Rebellin will try to get someone to take over Gerolsteiner.

16:36 CEST   
Moncoutié would be the first Frenchman since Laurent Jalabert to win. Jaja took it in 2001 and 2003.

16:36 CEST    232km/7km to go
The organisation in the chasing group isn't good and there are attacks. Meanwhile the leaders are approaching Donostia, or San Sebastián like we know the Basque city.

16:38 CEST    234km/5km to go
Some riders returned to the front and there are about thirteen riders in the front. Moncoutié jumps away as this happened and he is joined by Rebellin.

16:39 CEST    235km/4km to go
Two Caisse d'Epargne riders are pulling for Valverde and Moncoutié and Rebellin are caught back.

16:40 CEST    236km/3km to go
There are a lot of fast riders in the group and we expect a rider to jump away in the last kilometre. Maybe Kolobnev again?

16:42 CEST    237km/2km to go
Menchov is doing some sort of attack but it looks more like a 'Ullrich' acceleration. Menchov isn't getting anywhere. Yaroslav Popovych is the next to try and he gains a couple of metres. The Silence-Lotto rider is joined by Rebellin. The Italian is very strong and he isn't risking a sprint today.

16:43 CEST    238km/1km to go
'Popo' and Rebellin are caught back, but there is no organisation in front.

16:44 CEST   
We're approaching the last kilometre next to the fantastic beach in San Sebastian and Moncoutié sneaks away on his socks.

16:44 CEST   
The French rider has a couple of metres and goes full on now. Sanchez brings everybody back.

16:45 CEST   
Valverde is leading from far out and he finally takes the win in San Sebastián!

16:47 CEST   
It's been a while, but with Valverde the race has a big name on their winner's list. Kolobnev came second, and Rebellin third before Bettini, Pellizotti and Menchov. Sanchez is seventh before Goubert, Zubeldia and Moncoutié.

16:49 CEST   
Valverde started the sprint and he quickly had a gap over Bettini who could only notice that he wasn't fast enough today. Kolobnev was strong and on Valverde's wheel, but the Russian couldn't overtake the Spanish champion. Rebellin lost of a lot of power in the attacks, but he has something left for a good sprint.

16:53 CEST   
Originally Valverde wasn't featuring in the big group and some team-mates had to drop back to get their leader to the front of the race. In the sprint Valverde proved he was worth the team's trust. While crossing the line a delighted Valverde made his usual Zorro-move. This one-day classic was featuring between two big races (Tour de France and Olympic road race) but it has been an exciting race with the big guns featuring all race long.

16:57 CEST   
During the flash-interview at the finish line a fresh looking Valverde said he was relieved. "It was very important for me. Last year I finished third and now I really wanted to win. I felt guilty when I wasn't featuring in the big group despite having six team-mates there," Valverde talked about the early race moments. "It's a tougher finale now with the new climb. I thought we were gone with the five of us but eventually it came down to a sprint. I knew it would be hard against Bettini and Sanchez but I managed to win it. Tomorrow I'm leaving for the Olympics," Valverde said.

17:06 CEST   
Thanks for joining us in our live coverage today. Next up will be Olympic Games. The road races and time trials will be one of the first events. See you then!

Provisional results

1 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne
2 Alexandr Kolobnev (Rus) Team CSC
3 Davide Rebellin (Ita) Gerolsteiner
4 Paolo Bettini (Ita) Quick Step
5 Franco Pellizotti (Ita) Liquigas
6 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank
7 Samuel Sánchez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi
8 Stéphane Goubert (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
9 Haimar Zubeldia (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi
10 David Moncoutié (Fra) Cofidis
11 Yaroslav Popovych (Ukr) Silence-Lotto