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Donostia San Sebastian Klasikoa 2021 - The contenders

Lucy Kennedy (Team BikeExchange
Lucy Kennedy (Team BikeExchange) (Image credit: Getty Images)

Donostia San Sebastian Klasikoa is a relatively new  women’s races on the international calendar embarking on its third edition on July 31 in Spain. 

A late addition to the Women’s WorldTour this year, the one-day race will see just six of the nine top-tier teams competing through the mountainous terrain of the Basque Country.

The women's peloton will tackle a challenging 139km race that includes four ascents; an opening ascent in Aia, followed by a mid-race climb Jaizkibel, and back-to-back climbs over Gurrutze and Murgil before a descent to the finish in Donostia.

The peloton will field six top-tier teams BikeExchange, Movistar, Ale BTC Ljubljana, Liv  Racing, FDJ Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope, and Trek-Segafredo racing alongside 14 Continental teams. 

Cyclingnews highlights some of  the riders to watch for Donostia San Sebastian Klasikoa.

Lucy Kennedy (Team BikeExchange)

The Australian climber’s form will be somewhat unknown after a long recovery from a crash at Liège-Bastogne-Liège, where suffered fractures to her hand, collarbone and eye socket. However, she is back and ready to race, lining up as the defending champion after winning the inaugural edition in 2019. 

She will line up with a strong team that includes Ane Santesteban and Janneke Ensing, who was second in 2019, are also strong climbers and contenders for the win. 

Kennedy’s injuries meant that she missed out on the selection to the Tokyo Olympic Games.  Although she hasn’t raced since the spring, she said she’s had time to get back on her bike in training and is prepared to take the start line again. It will be interesting to see how she fares in the race and cycling fans will be watching to see the spark that netted her the win in 2019.

Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar)

Gold medalist Netherlands Annemiek Van Vleuten celebrates on the podium of the womens cycling road individual time trial during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at the Fuji International Speedway in Oyama Japan on July 28 2021 Photo by Ina FASSBENDER AFP Photo by INA FASSBENDERAFP via Getty Images

Annemiek van Vleuten wins gold in the time trial at Olympic Games (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Fresh off of winning two medals at the Tokyo Olympic Games - silver medal in the road race on July 25 and the gold medal in the time trial on July 28 -  Van Vleuten made the long  journey back to Europe to compete at the Donostia San Sebastian Klasikoa. 

She is the big favourite for the one-day race not only because of her high-level form right now but also because she has a special interest in competing in Spanish races. Also, her Spanish-based Movistar team will have a goal of winning on home soil.

Van Vleuten has already proven both her strength and loyalty to the team’s home-race objectives after winning Setmana Ciclista Valenciana, Emakumeen Nafarroako, and standing on the podium at Navarra Women’s Elite Classic, Gran Premio Ciudad de Eidar, Durango-Durango Emmakumeen Saria and Vuelta a Burgos, all held in Spain in May.

Tatiana Guderzo (Ale BTC Ljubljana)

Tatiana Guderzo

Tatiana Guderzo (Ale BTC Ljubljana) (Image credit: Getty Images)

She is a veteran of the sport  and former world champion. Guderzo has shown continued dedication to top-level racing, even despite having considered retirement during the last couple of years.

She has shown promising form this year, too, finishing eighth overall at the Giro d'Italia Donne, along with second in the road race at the Italian Championships, and eighth overall at Tour de Suisse.

She is as much a strong stage racer as she is a one-day rider, and with her world-class climbing form, she is a contender in Spain.

Audrey Cordon-Ragot (Trek-Segafredo)

Audrey Cordon Ragot (Trek-Segafredo)

Audrey Cordon Ragot (Trek-Segafredo) (Image credit: Bert Geerts/dcp-bertgeerts@xs4all.nl)

Cordon-Ragot is normally racing in a support role at Trek-Segafredo but she might have an opportunity at leading the team in the one-day mountainous race. 

She has shown some of the best form in years, which was on full display at the French National Championships in June where she won the time trial title and finished second in the road race from a select five-rider group that sprinted for the win.

A top rouleur in the peloton, she excels on rolling terrain, in breakaways and small groups, and she's a fast finisher. Her victory at the Tour de l’Ardeche last year was a great example of just how strong a rider she is when given the opportunity to race for the win.

Pauliena Rooijakkers (Liv Racing)

CITTIGLIO ITALY MARCH 21 Pauliena Rooijakkers of Netherlands and Team Liv Racing during the 45th Trofeo Alfredo BindaComune di Cittiglio 2021 Womens Elite a 1418km stage from Cocquio Trevisago to Cittiglio 257m TrBinda UCIWWT on March 21 2021 in Cittiglio Italy Photo by Tim de WaeleGetty Images

Pauliena Rooijakkers (Liv Racing) (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

A team leader at Liv Racing, Rooijakkers is a strong climber and a smart race tactician. She can support a teammate or slip into a leadership position with ease during any type of race. 

Top-10s in the early-season’s Brabantse Pijl and Festival Elsy Jacobs led to a strong run in the series of Spanish races in May with eight place at Emakumeen Nafarroako Women’s Elite, fifth at Durango-Durango Emakumeen Saria and then ninth overall at  Vuelta a Burgos.

Rooijakkers finished third at Donostia San Sebastian Klasikoa in its inaugural edition in 2019, riding into the breakaway after the Jaizkibel climb. It was the winning move that rewrote the CCC-Liv team’s strategy from getting Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio on the podium to Rooijakkers on the podium instead.

Rooijakkers has matured a lot as a rider in the intervening two years and we can expect her to be in contention for the win this time around.

Erica Magnaldi (Ceratizit-WNT)

VILLARCAYO SPAIN MAY 21 Erica Magnaldi of Italy and Ceratizit WNT Pro Cycling Team during the 6th Vuelta A Burgos Feminas 2021 Stage 2 a 97km stage from Pedrosa de Valdeporres to Villarcayo VueltaBurgos BurgosFem UCIWWT on May 21 2021 in Villarcayo Spain Photo by Luc ClaessenGetty Images

Erica Magnaldi (Ceratizit -WNT Pro Cycling Team) (Image credit: Getty Images)

Magnaldi will be one to watch after a 13th place overall at the Giro d'Italia Donne, she will have had some time to recover and train for the one-day race on hilly terrain that suits her well.

Magnaldi joined Ceratizit-WNT in 2019 to lead the team on the climbs. She was fourth overall at the Tour of California Women’s Race (2018) and 10th in the overall at the Giro d’Italia Donne the next year. 

She is almost always among the top 10 on mountainous stages of races like the Giro d’Italia Donne, Setmana Ciclista Valenciana, Giro della Toscana, and Tour de l’Ardeche.

At Donostia San Sebastian Klasikoa, she will have more freedom to create an opportunity for victory or to follow winning moves on the four ascents.

Ane Santesteban  (Team BikeExchange)

MORTEGLIANO ITALY JULY 09 Ane Santesteban Gonzalez of Spain and Team BikeExchange at arrival during the 32nd Giro dItalia Internazionale Femminile 2021 Stage 8 a 1294km stage from San Vendemiano to Mortegliano GiroDonne UCIWWT on July 09 2021 in Mortegliano Italy Photo by Luc ClaessenGetty Images

Ane Santesteban (Team BikeExchange) (Image credit: Getty Images)

Billed as a climber with resilience and toughness for multi-day racing, Santesteban was brought into BikeExchange ready to support team leader Amanda Spratt while also developing her own strengths in the sprints and an improved time trialling technique.

This year, the Spanish rider finished in the top-10 at the series of home events Emakumeen Nafarroako Women's Elite Classics, Gran Premio Ciudad de Eibar, Durango - Durango Emakumeen Saria, which bodes well for her  position heading into Donostia San Sebastian Klasikoa.

Her team line up with a series of cards to play, too, with defending champion Lucy Kennedy and 2019 runner-up Janneke Ensing.

Evita Muzic (FDJ Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope)

PRATO NEVOSO ITALY JULY 03 Alena Amialiusik of Belarus and Canyon SRAM Racing Team at arrival during the 32nd Giro dItalia Internazionale Femminile 2021 Stage 2 a 1001km stage from Boves to Prato Nevoso Colle del Prel 1607m GiroDonne UCIWWT on July 03 2021 in Prato Nevoso Italy Photo by Luc ClaessenGetty Images

Evita Muzic (FDJ Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope) (Image credit: Getty Images)

Muzic is the new French Champion. She is one of the big up-and-coming stars of the sport finishing third in the youth classification at the Giro d'Italia Donne and second in the youth classification at Vuelta a Burgos this year. 

She took her first Women’s WorldTour victory at the Giro d’Italia Donne in 2020 on the final stage into Motta Montecorvino, proving her world-class position in the peloton.

Her performance to win the French title this year was nothing short of outstanding, out-sprinting a five-rider group to the finish line in Epinal. 

These performance will have no doubt given Muzic a boost of confidence heading into a one-day race like Donostia San Sebastian Klasikoa.

Eider Merino (A.R. Monex)

CASCATE DEL TOCE ITALY JULY 05 Eider Merino Cortazar of Spain and AR Monex Womens Pro Cycling Team during the 32nd Giro dItalia Internazionale Femminile 2021 Stage 4 a 112km Individual Time Trial from Fondovalle to Cascate Del Toce 1714m ITT GiroDonne UCIWWT on July 05 2021 in Cascate Del Toce Italy Photo by Luc ClaessenGetty Images

Eider Merino (A.R. Monex) (Image credit: Getty Images)

Merino is one of the pure climbers in the bunch and will want to impress her new team A.R. Monex on home spoil. Formerly racing for Movistar, Merino has finished in the top 10 overall at the Giro d'Italia Donne (2018) and Emakumeen Bira (2019).

She might not be as powerful as some of the other more punchy climbers in the field, but Merino is consistently among the top climbers in the big race. 

She is certainly a rider to watch  on the climbs through the Basque Country at Donostia San Sebastian Klasikoa.

Ruth Winder (Trek-Segafredo)

COLICO ITALY JULY 07 Ruth Winder of United States and Team Trek Segafredoduring the 32nd Giro dItalia Internazionale Femminile 2021 Stage 6 a 155km stage from Colico to Colico GiroDonne UCIWWT on July 07 2021 in Colico Italy Photo by Luc ClaessenGetty Images

Ruth Winder (Trek-Segafredo) (Image credit: Getty Images)

Trek-Segafredo have several cards to play in the one-day race and that includes Ruth Winder.

She arrives to Spain having just competed in the road race at the Olympic Games for the United States, where  she finished 45th after helping  compatriot Coryn Rivera to seventh.

She will be one of the strongest opportunists in the field and looking for a victory in San Sebastian for Trek-Segafredo before retiring at the end of the season.

She has had several stand-out performances this season, winning Brabantse Pijl, second at Navarra Women's Elite Classics, and seventh at La Flèche Wallonne Féminine.

Kirsten Frattini is an honours graduate of Kinesiology and Health Science from York University in Toronto, Canada. She has been involved in bike racing from the grassroots level to professional cycling's WorldTour. She has worked in both print and digital publishing, and started with Cyclingnews as a North American Correspondent in 2006. Moving into a Production Editor's role in 2014, she produces and publishes international race coverage for all cycling disciplines, edits news and writes features. Currently the Women's Editor at Cyclingnews, Kirsten coordinates global coverage of races, news, features and podcasts about women's professional cycling.