By Bjorn Haake
The Clásica San Sebastián will serve as the final preparation race for the Olympic Games in Beijing with just seven days separating it from the men's road race in China. 239 kilometres stand between the start on the Atlantic Ocean and the winner receiving the traditional txapela hat.
The winner will be a power-man who doesn't mind some up-hills. Yet any contenders should have a good sprint, as often a small group arrives at the Donostia Boulevard (Donostia is the Basque word for San Sebastián) to contest the win. The zig-zag course features six categorised climbs. Despite that there are five metas volantes (intermediate sprints), but they are mostly on slightly uphill or downhill sections.
They day starts out with the Alto De Orio-Zudugarai (cat 3, km 19), the Alto de Garate (cat 2, km 31) and the Alto de Azkarate (cat 2, km 64). Then comes the first real difficulty of the day. The category two Alto de Udana starts after 84 kilometres. The riders will reach the top - 574 metres of altitude, the race's highest point - 23 kilometres later. This may not allow for decisive move yet, but will zap the energy of weaker riders and will show who won't be in the mix at the finish.
A likely escape will still have some leeway over the rollers after the descent from the Udana. However, when the bunch (or what is left of it) approaches the Alto de Jaizkibel, the main favourites will start making their moves. From Lezo at 10 metres of altitude the riders will climb to the top - 465 metres - in nine kilometres.
From the Jaizkibel the races will face a long downhill section, but a potential break has to survive the Alto de Arkale if it is to make it to the finish. The climb leaves 16 kilometres of flat-out racing. Small group, big group, bunch sprint, solo breakaway - you will never know in San Sebastián, which makes it such an attractive race.
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