Gilbert's stunning season continues with San Sebastian victory

2009 champion Barredo holds off Van Avermaet for second

Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) continued his magical 2011 season with a resounding victory in the Clasica San Sebastian ahead of Carlos Barredo (Rabobank) and Greg Van Avermaet (BMC).

Always a stylish performer, Gilbert has attained a level of dominance rarely seen in one-day racing over the past twelve months, and there was a certain degree of inevitability about his victory on a baking hot afternoon in the Basque Country.

In a fractious finale that saw the lead group splinter and reform on numerous occasions after the sweeping descent of the Jaizkibel, Gilbert showed typical sangfroid to bring order to the chaos on the final run-in to San Sebastian, with the help of teammate Jelle Vanendert.

A little over 3km from the line, Carlos Barredo was dangling off the front of the lead group but nobody was willing to take the initiative to close the gap, and it was at that moment that Gilbert sensed his opportunity. On the unclassified rise of the Alto Miracruz on the outskirts of San Sebastian, the Belgian champion ripped free of his companions and instantly closed the 10-second gap to Barredo.

On reaching the Rabobank man’s wheel, Gilbert didn’t even pause for breath, and simply jumped over the top of Barredo to solo clear to an emphatic win. While a group of strong men including Fränk Schleck (Leopard Trek), Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) and Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) chased behind, they must have realised the futility of their pursuit when faced with Gilbert’s rich vintage of 2011 form.

In barely a kilometre, Gilbert had opened out an insurmountable lead, and as was the case in the Ardennes Classics in the spring, he had time to sit up in the finishing straight and enjoy his victory, the latest offering from the most productive period of the Belgian master’s career.

The plucky Barredo clipped off the front of the chase group to come home in second place 12 seconds down, while Gilbert’s local rival Van Avermaet held off Rodriguez, Dries Devenyns (Quick Step) and Schleck in the sprint for the third step on the podium.

How it unfolded

With two ascensions of the Jaizkibel on the menu in the afternoon, the big hitters were always likely to keep their powder dry in the early exchanges, and there was a relatively tranquil start to proceedings in San Sebastian. After 12km, the day’s early break formed, with Irish champion Matt Brammeier (HTC-Highroad) forging clear in the company of Murilo Fischer (Garmin-Cervélo), Karsten Kroon (BMC), Klaas Lodewyck (Omega Pharma-Lotto), Eloy Ruiz (Andalucia Caja Rural) and Julian Sanchez Pimienta (Caja Rural).

The sextet enjoyed a smooth collaboration and stretched their lead to a maximum of 10 minutes over an unconcerned peloton before Euskaltel-Euskadi began to peg them back on the approach to the first climb of the Jaizkibel with 80km to race.

On the slopes of the climb, Brammeier and Ruiz lost contact, while the gap began to tumble behind, and by the time they tackled the Jaizkibel for the second time with 40km to go, Kroon and Fischer were the sole survivors and their lead was inside two minutes.

Samuel Sanchez was the first of the big favourites to show his hand with a searing attack on the Jaizkibel that brought him up to the leaders. Barredo was quick to follow, before a short acceleration from Gilbert saw a group of 15 riders form on the front approaching the summit. Another dig from Sanchez over the top saw him briefly sally clear with Devenyns and Vanendert, but the strength in depth of the group behind meant that they wouldn’t get far.

In spite of those pyrotechnics, the Jaizkibel did not prove as decisive as expected. After the sweeping descent, there were still no fewer than 30 riders at the head of the race, with Damiano Cunego the only notable absentee. The Italian was surprisingly dropped after his Lampre-ISD team had been prominent in chasing the early break and he never succeeded in getting back on.

Passing through Irun and sensing a certain disorganisation in the lead group, Stijn Devolder (Vacansoleil-DCM) punched clear with 24km to go, and he had 30 seconds in hand at the foot of the final climb, the short and sharp Arkale. The deceptively tough slopes would take their toll, however, and his gap shrank accordingly.

It was at this point that Gilbert played his first card, sending his teammate Vanendert up the road in the company of Haimar Zubeldia (RadioShack), which allowed him the luxury of sitting in the wheels while the chase arranged itself behind. Vanendert and Zubeldia crossed the summit of the climb in front, but they were reeled back in shortly afterwards thanks to the efforts of Sanchez and Rodriguez.

Their pursuit saw what would be the winning break come together over the top of the Arkale, as a 10-man group featuring Gilbert, Schleck and Van Avermaet formed on the descent. In the finale, it was Barredo who opted to risk all with a clever attack 7km from the line, and for a moment it appeared as though the canny Spaniard was going to capitalise on a lack of collaboration in a leading group replete with on-form big names.

The illusion quickly evaporated, however. With a little over 4km to go as the road began to rise slightly, Fränk Schleck turned and looked to Gilbert to contribute to the chase. Barely 500 metres later, the Belgian was alone in front and the race was over. As simple as that.

Full Results
1Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto5:48:52 
2Carlos Barredo Llamazales (Spa) Rabobank Cycling Team0:00:12 
3Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing Team0:00:14 
4Joaquím Rodríguez Oliver (Spa) Katusha Team  
5Dries Devenyns (Bel) Quickstep Cycling Team  
6Fränk Schleck (Lux) Leopard Trek  
7Haimar Zubeldia Agirre (Spa) Team RadioShack  
8Samuel Sanchez Gonzalez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi  
9Rigoberto Uran Uran (Col) Sky Procycling  
10Jelle Vanendert (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto0:00:50 
11Simon Gerrans (Aus) Sky Procycling0:02:05 
12Simone Ponzi (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale  
13Matti Breschel (Den) Rabobank Cycling Team  
14Francesco Gavazzi (Ita) Lampre - ISD  
15Jose Joaquin Rojas Gil (Spa) Movistar Team  
16Murilo Antonio Fischer (Bra) Team Garmin-Cervelo  
17Juan Jose Cobo Acebo (Spa) Geox-TMC  
18Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Quickstep Cycling Team  
19Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Team Garmin-Cervelo  
20Mathias Frank (Swi) BMC Racing Team  
21Manuele Mori (Ita) Lampre - ISD  
22Sébastien Minard (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale  
23Nicolas Roche (Irl) AG2R La Mondiale  
24Daniel Navarro Garcia (Spa) Saxo Bank Sungard  
25Stijn Devolder (Bel) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team  
26Eduard Vorganov (Rus) Katusha Team  
27Rob Ruijgh (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team  
28Daniel Moreno Fernandez (Spa) Katusha Team  
29Luis Leon Sanchez Gil (Spa) Rabobank Cycling Team  
30Linus Gerdemann (Ger) Leopard Trek0:02:08 
31David Lopez Garcia (Spa) Movistar Team  
32Vladimir Gusev (Rus) Katusha Team  
33Denis Menchov (Rus) Geox-TMC  
34Ivan Basso (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale  
35Jérôme Pineau (Fra) Quickstep Cycling Team0:02:36 
36Michael Barry (Can) Sky Procycling0:04:16 
37Gorazd Stangelj (Slo) Pro Team Astana  
38Antonio Piedra Perez (Spa) Andalucia Caja Granada  
39Joost Van Leijen (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team  
40Laurens Ten Dam (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team0:04:27 
41José Herrada Lopez (Spa) Caja Rural0:05:04 
42Sergio Pardilla Belllón (Spa) Movistar Team0:05:31 
43Markel Irizar Aranburu (Spa) Team RadioShack0:06:33 
44Peter Velits (Svk) HTC-Highroad  
45Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre - ISD  
46Rafael Valls Ferri (Spa) Geox-TMC  
47Jesús Herrada Lopez (Spa) Movistar Team  
48Leonardo Bertagnolli (Ita) Lampre - ISD  
49Vicente David Bernabeu Armengol (Spa) Andalucia Caja Granada  
50Stefan Denifl (Aut) Leopard Trek  
51Fabricio Ferrari (Uru) Caja Rural  
52Xabier Zandio Echaide (Spa) Sky Procycling  
53Damiano Caruso (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale  
54Paolo Tiralongo (Ita) Pro Team Astana  
55Johann Tschopp (Swi) BMC Racing Team  
56Yuriy Trofimov (Rus) Katusha Team  
57Karsten Kroon (Ned) BMC Racing Team  
58Imanol Erviti Ollo (Spa) Movistar Team0:09:08 
59Josep Jufre Pou (Spa) Pro Team Astana  
60Julian Dean (NZl) Team Garmin-Cervelo  
61Ruben Perez Moreno (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi  
62Mirko Selvaggi (Ita) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team  
63Rémy Di Gregorio (Fra) Pro Team Astana  
64Fumiyuki Beppu (Jpn) Team RadioShack  
65Fabio Felline (Ita) Geox-TMC  
66Julien Loubet (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale  
67Blel Kadri (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale  
68Philip Deignan (Irl) Team RadioShack  
69Mikel Landa Meana (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi  
70Oscar Freire Gomez (Spa) Rabobank Cycling Team  
71Adrián Palomares Villaplana (Spa) Andalucia Caja Granada  
Mountain 1 - Alto Orio - Zudugarai (Cat. 3) 19km
1Julian Sanchez Pimienta (Spa) Caja Rural3pts
2Matthew Brammeier (Irl) HTC-Highroad2 
3Murilo Antonio Fischer (Bra) Team Garmin-Cervelo1 
Mountain 2 - Alto Garate (Cat. 2) 29.4km
1Eloy Ruiz Pinto (Spa) Andalucia Caja Granada6pts
2Julian Sanchez Pimienta (Spa) Caja Rural4 
3Karsten Kroon (Ned) BMC Racing Team2 
4Klaas Lodewyck (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto1 
Mountain 3 - Alto de Jaizkibel (Cat. 1) 156.2km
1Julian Sanchez Pimienta (Spa) Caja Rural10pts
2Klaas Lodewyck (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto8 
3Murilo Antonio Fischer (Bra) Team Garmin-Cervelo6 
4Karsten Kroon (Ned) BMC Racing Team4 
5Eloy Ruiz Pinto (Spa) Andalucia Caja Granada2 
6Matthew Brammeier (Irl) HTC-Highroad1 
Mountain 4 - Alto de Arkale (Cat. 2) 179km
1Julian Sanchez Pimienta (Spa) Caja Rural6pts
2Karsten Kroon (Ned) BMC Racing Team4 
3Murilo Antonio Fischer (Bra) Team Garmin-Cervelo2 
4Klaas Lodewyck (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto1 
Mountain 5 - Alto de Jaizkibel (Cat. 1) 196.2km
1Samuel Sanchez Gonzalez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi10pts
2Jelle Vanendert (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto8 
3Dries Devenyns (Bel) Quickstep Cycling Team6 
4Fränk Schleck (Lux) Leopard Trek4 
5Mathias Frank (Swi) BMC Racing Team2 
6Eduard Vorganov (Rus) Katusha Team1 
Mountain 6 - Alto de Arkale (Cat. 2) 219km
1Jelle Vanendert (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto6pts
2Haimar Zubeldia Agirre (Spa) Team RadioShack4 
3Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto2 
4Fränk Schleck (Lux) Leopard Trek1 
Mountains classification
1Julian Sanchez Pimienta (Spa) Caja Rural23pts
2Jelle Vanendert (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto14 
3Samuel Sanchez Gonzalez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi10 
4Karsten Kroon (Ned) BMC Racing Team10 
5Klaas Lodewyck (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto10 
6Murilo Antonio Fischer (Bra) Team Garmin-Cervelo9 
7Eloy Ruiz Pinto (Spa) Andalucia Caja Granada8 
8Dries Devenyns (Bel) Quickstep Cycling Team6 
9Fränk Schleck (Lux) Leopard Trek5 
10Haimar Zubeldia Agirre (Spa) Team RadioShack4 
11Matthew Brammeier (Irl) HTC-Highroad3 
12Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto2 
13Mathias Frank (Swi) BMC Racing Team2 
14Eduard Vorganov (Rus) Katusha Team1 
Sprint 1 - Azpeitia, 50km
1Matthew Brammeier (Irl) HTC-Highroad3pts
2Klaas Lodewyck (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto2 
3Eloy Ruiz Pinto (Spa) Andalucia Caja Granada1 
Sprint 2 - Andoain, 116km
1Matthew Brammeier (Irl) HTC-Highroad3pts
2Murilo Antonio Fischer (Bra) Team Garmin-Cervelo2 
3Julian Sanchez Pimienta (Spa) Caja Rural1 
Sprint 3 - Irun, 168.5km
1Karsten Kroon (Ned) BMC Racing Team3pts
2Julian Sanchez Pimienta (Spa) Caja Rural2 
3Murilo Antonio Fischer (Bra) Team Garmin-Cervelo1 
Sprint 4 - Oiartzun, 183.4km
1Klaas Lodewyck (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto3pts
2Karsten Kroon (Ned) BMC Racing Team2 
3Murilo Antonio Fischer (Bra) Team Garmin-Cervelo1 
Sprint 5 - Irun, 208.5km
1Stijn Devolder (Bel) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team3pts
2Daniel Moreno Fernandez (Spa) Katusha Team2 
3Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing Team1 
Sprint 6 - Oiartzun, 223.4km
1Rigoberto Uran Uran (Col) Sky Procycling3pts
2Samuel Sanchez Gonzalez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi2 
3Fränk Schleck (Lux) Leopard Trek1 
Sprint classification
1Matthew Brammeier (Irl) HTC-Highroad6pts
2Karsten Kroon (Ned) BMC Racing Team5 
3Klaas Lodewyck (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto5 
4Murilo Antonio Fischer (Bra) Team Garmin-Cervelo4 
5Rigoberto Uran Uran (Col) Sky Procycling3 
6Stijn Devolder (Bel) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team3 
7Julian Sanchez Pimienta (Spa) Caja Rural3 
8Samuel Sanchez Gonzalez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi2 
9Daniel Moreno Fernandez (Spa) Katusha Team2 
10Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing Team1 
11Fränk Schleck (Lux) Leopard Trek1 
12Eloy Ruiz Pinto (Spa) Andalucia Caja Granada1 
Teams classification
1Rabobank Cycling Team17:30:58 
2Katusha Team0:00:02 
3Quickstep Cycling Team0:00:33 
4Sky Procycling0:02:13 
5Vacansoleil - DCM Pro Cycling Team0:04:04 
6BMC Racing Team0:04:30 
7Leopard Trek0:04:33 
8Movistar Team0:05:22 
9Lampre - ISD0:06:21 
10Geox TMC0:06:24 
11Liquigas - Cannondale  
12Team Garmin - Cervelo0:08:56 
13AG2R - La Mondiale  
14Team RadioShack0:11:33 
15Euskaltel - Euskadi0:14:08 
16Pro Team Astana0:15:35 
17Andalucia - Caja Granada  

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