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Luis Leon Sanchez wins three-rider sprint

By:
Stephen Farrand

Caisse d'Epargne rider beats Vino and Sastre

Luis Leon Sanchez (Caisse d'Epargne) secured the biggest one-day victory of his career and no doubt boosted his contract negotiations for 2011 with a classy victory in the Clasica San Sebastian on Saturday, as the professional peloton got back to serious racing a week after the Tour de France.

Sanchez won the 2009 Paris-Nice but has seemed undecided whether he would focus on one-day classics or stage races. However he showed he has the qualities to win a Classic with a confident display on the new, hillier course of the Clasica that included climbing the Jaizkibel and the Arkale twice in the final 100km.

Sanchez was the first to attack on the second passage of the Jaizkibel summit and he quickly got a gap. Only Alexandre Vinokourov (Astana) and Carlos Sastre (Cervelo TestTeam) had the strength to get across to him and they held off the chasers to fight for victory.

Vinokourov looked the strongest but Sanchez cleverly forced him to lead out the sprint and had the speed to go past him in the final hundred metres. Sastre finished third in their slipstream as Sanchez celebrated his win.

With Caisse d'Epargne set to end their sponsorship this year and no new sponsors on the horizon, Sanchez has been linked to the Rabobank team. He refused to talk about his future immediately after winning, but his victory will surely have secured his future and made him a future contender for the Ardennes classics and shorter stage races like Paris-Nice.

"It's nice to win such an important race on such a demanding and long course, the new route made the race much tougher and more selective. " Sanchez said.

"The key moment of the race was over the Jaizkibel, that's when the move formed and the race was virtually decided. I found the strength to pull hard with Sastre and Vinokourov and we stay away. Vino showed he had very good legs and I had to hold on hard to make sure he didn't get away on that last little climb. But I managed it."

"Although I didn’t have a great race, I finished the Tour de France in good shape. This victory is a reward for good work of the team and motivates me for the rest of the season,"

Big names back to racing

After a week of criteriums and celebrations, most of the big names of cycling gathered in San Sebastian for Spain's only major one-day classic.

While thousands of people sunbathed on the beaches, Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank), Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi), 2009 winner Carlos Barredo (Quick Step) and a host of other Tour de France riders set off for the new 234km route. The Jaizkibel climb once again would shape the race but this year the nasty 7.8km climb would be covered twice. I t was bound to make a difference and make it difficult for riders who had not ridden the Tour de France like Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) and Filippo Pozzato (Katusha) to get a result.

The early break was created by three riders when Xavier Florencio (Cervelo TestTeam), Pierre Cazaux (Francaise des Jeux) and Jorge Martín Montenegro (Andalucía) went away. They were quickly allowed to open a big lead, with the gap touching eight minutes on the long loop south of San Sebastian. After 120km Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank) pulled out of the race. His team said he crashed but he later said he did not. Whatever the cause, Schleck's race was over.

Up front the trio's lead melted in the heat on the Jaizkibel and Juan Manuel Garate (Rabobank), Spanish national champion Jose Ivan Gutierrez (Caisse d'Epargne) and Gorka Verdugo (Euskaltel-Euskadi) powered across to them.

On the Arkale the three left the early breakaways behind but they were to be quickly caught on the second time up the Jaizkibel. First to up the pace and go after them was Alexandr Kolobnev (Katusha) and Richie Porte (Saxo Bank). Both looked good but perhaps showed their inexperience on the climb and were soon overtaken when the racing began in earnest.

Local hero Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) made a more serious move and got the cheers from the crowd before Vinokourov then took charge on the front as the road left the trees.

The Astana captain caused the major selection on the Jaizkibel and of the race, with only ten riders managing to hang on and stay in contention. These includes Luis Leon Sanchez and Samuel Sanchez, Carlos Sastre (Cervelo TestTeam), Nicolas Roche (Ag2r-La Mondiale), Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha), Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Transitions), Robert Gesink (Rabobank) and Porte.

Near the top of the Jaizkibel, Luis Leon Sanchez surged clear and the group split again, with Vino and Sastre the only ones able to hold the gap to eight seconds. They quickly caught him but the others missed a key chance. The rest formed a chase group but started their pursuit after the descent with a handicap of 40 seconds and a clear lack of hunger to get back in the race.

Up front Vino, Sastre and Luis Leon Sanchez all did smooth turns, while behind some riders were playing smart and hoping others would close the gap. On the Arkale climb Gesink did a lot of the chasing but when he got tired of working for everyone else, and jumped away, he was quickly chased down. The finish was only 15km away but the three up front seemed destined to fight for victory. The steady descent to the old centre of San Sebastian helped the three breakaways. The gap came down a little but they still had 20 seconds with five kilometres to go.

Sastre seemed happy to finish on the podium and looked tired but Vino wanted to win and tried to jump away on a short climb heading into town. He got a gap and powered on but Luis Leon Sanchez dug deep and managed to get on his back wheel over the top. The race would be decided in a sprint.

Sastre managed to get back on as Vino and Sanchez played games inside the final kilometre but he would not be a contender. Cleverly Sanchez forced Vino to stay on the front. The Kazakh tried to lead out the sprint in the final two hundred metres but then opened the door to the Spaniard by moving to the centre of the road. Sanchez powered through near the barriers to win by a bike length.

"I am really happy to achieve this podium after all the bad luck I’ve had this season,” Sastre said. “Two trips over the Jaizkibel makes this race a lot more realistic for me and I had good sensations throughout the race. The team did a great job to protect me in the first passage over the Jaizkibel. The legs responded when they needed to. I had some cramps in the final kilometers, but I am very satisfied.”

Vino was second and Sastre third, with veteran Haimar Zubeldia (RadioShack) sneaking away from the chasers to get fourth at 34 seconds. Rodriguez won the sprint for fifth at 37 seconds ahead of Hesjedal, Gesink and Roche but all the chasers knew they had missed a chance of victory. Only Sanchez got to smile while wearing the Basque Txapela hat.

Full Results

# Rider Name (Country) Team Result
1 Luis León Sánchez (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne 5:47:13  
2 Alexander Vinokourov (Kaz) Astana    
3 Carlos Sastre (Spa) Cervelo Test Team    
4 Haimar Zubeldia (Spa) Team Radioshack 0:00:34  
5 Joaquin Rodriguez (Spa) Team Katusha 0:00:37  
6 Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Garmin - Transitions    
7 Robert Gesink (Ned) Rabobank    
8 Nicholas Roche (Irl) AG2R La Mondiale    
9 Samuel Sánchez (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi    
10 Richie Porte (Aus) Team Saxo Bank    
11 Greg Avermaet (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto 0:02:14  
12 Carlos Barredo (Spa) Quick Step    
13 Chris Sörensen (Den) Team Saxo Bank    
14 Javier Moreno (Spa) Andalucia - Cajasur    
15 Eros Capecchi (Ita) Footon-Servetto 0:03:43  
16 Christian Knees (Ger) Team Milram    
17 Ruben Plaza (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne    
18 José Iván Gutierrez (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne    
19 Imanol Erviti (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne    
20 André Steensen (Den) Team Saxo Bank    
21 Inaki Isasi (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi    
22 Christophe Mevel (Fra) Française Des Jeux    
23 David García (Spa) Xacobeo Galicia    
24 Gorka Verdugo (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi    
25 Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre-Farnese Vini    
26 Morris Possoni (Ita) Sky Professional Cycling Team    
27 Dries Devenyns (Bel) Quick Step    
28 Giampaolo Caruso (Ita) Team Katusha    
29 Daniel Moreno (Spa) Omega Pharma-Lotto    
30 Laurent Didier (Lux) Team Saxo Bank    
31 Luis Pasamontes (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne    
32 Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Team Saxo Bank    
33 Robert Kiserlovski (Cro) Liquigas-Doimo    
34 Ezequiel Mosquera (Spa) Xacobeo Galicia    
35 David Arroyo (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne    
36 Gustavo César (Spa) Xacobeo Galicia    
37 Igor Anton (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi    
38 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Team Radioshack    
39 Volodymir Gustov (Ukr) Cervelo Test Team    
40 Alberto Benítez (Spa) Footon-Servetto 0:07:28  
41 Marco Pinotti (Ita) Team HTC - Columbia    
42 Nicki Sörensen (Den) Team Saxo Bank    
43 Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto    
44 Marcos Garcia (Spa) Xacobeo Galicia    
45 Jurgen De Walle (Bel) Quick Step    
46 Alexandr Kolobnev (Rus) Team Katusha    
47 Ángel Gómez J. (Spa) Andalucia - Cajasur    
48 Juan Antonio Flecha (Spa) Sky Professional Cycling Team    
49 David La Fuente (Spa) Astana    
50 Stefan Denifl (Aut) Cervelo Test Team    
51 David López (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne    
52 Anthony Roux (Fra) Française Des Jeux 0:09:01  
53 Niki Terpstra (Ned) Team Milram 0:09:44  
54 Juan Manuel Garate (Spa) Rabobank    
55 Valerio Agnoli (Ita) Liquigas-Doimo    
56 Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) Rabobank    
57 Angel Vicioso (Spa) Andalucia - Cajasur    
58 David Gutierrez (Spa) Footon-Servetto    
59 Gorazd Stangelj (Slo) Astana    
60 Martin Elmiger (Swi) AG2R La Mondiale    
61 Luca Mazzanti (Ita) Team Katusha    
62 Francesco Gavazzi (Ita) Lampre-Farnese Vini    
63 Markel Irizar (Spa) Team Radioshack    
64 Tejay Garderen (USA) Team HTC - Columbia    
65 Jelle Vanendert (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto    
66 Jan Bakelandts (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto    
67 Mickael Delage (Fra) Omega Pharma-Lotto 0:09:47  
68 Gonzalo Rabuñal (Spa) Xacobeo Galicia 0:11:59  
69 José Luis Rubiera (Spa) Team Radioshack    
70 Rubén Pérez (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi    
71 Alan Pérez (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi    
72 Maxim Iglinskiy (Kaz) Astana    
73 Iñigo Cuesta (Spa) Cervelo Test Team    
74 José Luis Arrieta (Spa) AG2R La Mondiale    
75 Delio Fernandez (Spa) Xacobeo Galicia    
76 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas-Doimo    
77 Daniele Pietropolli (Ita) Lampre-Farnese Vini    
78 Marco Marzano (Ita) Lampre-Farnese Vini    
79 Thibaut Pinot (Fra) Française Des Jeux    
80 Arthur Vichot (Fra) Française Des Jeux    
81 John-Lee Augustyn (RSA) Sky Professional Cycling Team    
82 Francesco Bellotti (Ita) Liquigas-Doimo    
83 Pedro Merino (Spa) Footon-Servetto    
84 Francesco Reda (Ita) Quick Step    
85 Laurens Dam (Ned) Rabobank    
86 Jorge Montenegro (Arg) Andalucia - Cajasur 0:17:18  
87 Julien Loubet (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale    
88 Fabio Felline (Ita) Footon-Servetto    
89 Josep Jufré (Spa) Astana    
90 Gert Dockx (Bel) Team HTC - Columbia    
91 Serafín Martínez (Spa) Xacobeo Galicia    
92 Andrey Kashechkin (Kaz) Lampre-Farnese Vini    
93 Steven Cozza (USA) Garmin - Transitions    
Alto de Orio - Zudugarai (3ª)
# Rider Name (Country) Team Result
1 Antonio Piedra (Spa) Andalucia - Cajasur 3  pts
2 Gert Dockx (Bel) Team HTC - Columbia 2  
3 Arthur Vichot (Fra) Française Des Jeux 1  
Alto de Gárate (2ª)
# Rider Name (Country) Team Result
1 Pierre Cazaux (Fra) Française Des Jeux 6  pts
2 Jorge Montenegro (Arg) Andalucia - Cajasur 4  
3 Xavier Florencio (Spa) Cervelo Test Team 2  
4 Antonio Cabello (Spa) Andalucia - Cajasur 1  
Alto de Jaizkibel (1ª)
# Rider Name (Country) Team Result
1 Xavier Florencio (Spa) Cervelo Test Team 10  pts
2 Jorge Montenegro (Arg) Andalucia - Cajasur 8  
3 José Gutierrez (Spa) Caisse D'Epargne 6  
4 Juan Manuel Garate (Spa) Rabobank 4  
5 Gorka Verdugo (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi 2  
6 Mickael Delage (Fra) Omega Pharma - Lotto 1  
Alto de Arkale (2ª)
# Rider Name (Country) Team Result
1 Juan Manuel Garate (Spa) Rabobank 6  pts
2 Gorka Verdugo (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi 4  
3 José Gutierrez (Spa) Caisse D'Epargne 2  
4 Stefan Denifl Cervelo Test Team 1    
Alto de Jaizkibel (1ª)
# Rider Name (Country) Team Result
1 Luis León Sánchez (Spa) Caisse D'Epargne 10  pts
2 Carlos Sastre (Spa) Cervelo Test Team 8  
3 Alexander Vinokourov (Kaz) Astana 6  
4 Nicholas Roche (Irl) AG2R - La Mondiale 4  
5 Richie Porte (Aus) Team Saxo Bank 2  
6 Joaquin Rodriguez (Spa) Team Katusha 1  
Alto de Arkale (2ª)
# Rider Name (Country) Team Result
1 Alexander Vinokourov (Kaz) Astana 6  pts
2 Luis León Sánchez (Spa) Caisse D'Epargne 4  
3 Carlos Sastre (Spa) Cervelo Test Team 2  
4 Robert Gesink (Ned) Rabobank 1  
Sprint - Azpeitia
# Rider Name (Country) Team Result
1 Jorge Montenegro (Arg) Andalucia - Cajasur 3  pts
2 Xavier Florencio (Spa) Cervelo Test Team 2  
3 Pierre Cazaux (Fra) Française Des Jeux 1  
Sprint - Andoain
# Rider Name (Country) Team Result
1 Jorge Montenegro (Arg) Andalucia - Cajasur 3  pts
2 Pierre Cazaux (Fra) Française Des Jeux 2  
3 Xavier Florencio (Spa) Cervelo Test Team 1  
Sprint - Irun
# Rider Name (Country) Team Result
1 Jorge Montenegro (Arg) Andalucia - Cajasur 3  pts
2 Xavier Florencio (Spa) Cervelo Test Team 2  
3 Juan Manuel Garate (Spa) Rabobank 1  
Sprint - Oiartzun
# Rider Name (Country) Team Result
1 Juan Manuel Garate (Spa) Rabobank 3  pts
2 José Iván Gutierrez (Spa) Caisse D'Epargne 2  
3 Gorka Verdugo (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi 1  
Sprint - Irun
# Rider Name (Country) Team Result
1 Alexander Vinokourov (Kaz) Astana 3  pts
2 Luis León Sánchez (Spa) Caisse D'Epargne 2  
3 Carlos Sastre (Spa) Cervelo Test Team 1  
Sprint - Oiartzun
# Rider Name (Country) Team Result
1 Carlos Sastre (Spa) Cervelo Test Team 3  pts
2 Alexander Vinokourov (Kaz) Astana 2  
3 Luis León Sánchez (Spa) Caisse D'Epargne 1  
Mountains classification
# Rider Name (Country) Team Result
1 Luis León Sánchez (Spa) Caisse D'Epargne 14  pts
2 Alexander Vinokourov (Kaz) Astana 12  
3 Jorge Montenegro (Arg) Andalucia - Cajasur 12  
4 Juan Manuel Garate (Spa) Rabobank 10  
5 Carlos Sastre (Spa) Cervelo Test Team 10  
6 José Gutierrez (Spa) Caisse D'Epargne 8  
7 Gorka Verdugo (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi 6  
8 Nicholas Roche (Irl) AG2R - La Mondiale 4  
9 Richie Porte (Aus) Team Saxo Bank 2  
10 Gert Dockx (Bel) Team HTC - Columbia 2  
11 Joaquin Rodriguez (Spa) Team Katusha 1  
12 Robert Gesink (Ned) Rabobank 1  
13 Stefan Denifl Cervelo Test Team 1    
14 Mickael Delage (Fra) Omega Pharma - Lotto 1  
15 Arthur Vichot (Fra) Française Des Jeux 1  
Sprint classification
# Rider Name (Country) Team Result
1 Jorge Montenegro (Arg) Andalucia - Cajasur 9  pts
2 Alexander Vinokourov (Kaz) Astana 5  
3 Carlos Sastre (Spa) Cervelo Test Team 4  
4 Juan Manuel Garate (Spa) Rabobank 4  
5 Luis León Sánchez (Spa) Caisse D'Epargne 3  
6 José Iván Gutierrez (Spa) Caisse D'Epargne 2  
7 Gorka Verdugo (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi 1  
Teams
# Rider Name (Country) Team Result
1 Team Saxo Bank 17:28:13  
2 Caisse d'Epargne 0:00:52  
3 Euskaltel - Euskadi 0:01:29  
4 Xacobeo Galicia 0:04:35  
5 Cervelo Test Team 0:04:37  
6 Team Katusha 0:05:14  
7 Omega Pharma-Lotto 0:06:51  
8 Quick Step    
9 Team Radioshack 0:07:27  
10 Astana 0:10:38  
11 Andalucia - Cajasur 0:12:52  
12 Rabobank 0:13:31  
13 Footon-Servetto 0:14:21  
14 AG2R La Mondiale 0:15:46  
15 Sky Professional Cycling Team 0:16:36  
16 Française Des Jeux 0:18:09  
17 Lampre-Farnese Vini 0:18:52  
18 Liquigas-Doimo    
19 Team HTC - Columbia 0:27:56