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Bertagnolli marks splendid return

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Bertagnolli marks splendid return

Bertagnolli marks splendid return (Image credit: Régis Garnier)
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UCI Pro Tour leader Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas)

UCI Pro Tour leader Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas) (Image credit: Régis Garnier)
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Leonardo Bertagnolli (Liquigas)

Leonardo Bertagnolli (Liquigas) (Image credit: Régis Garnier)
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Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner) signs in.

Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner) signs in. (Image credit: Régis Garnier)
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Janez Brajkovic (Discovery Channel)

Janez Brajkovic (Discovery Channel) (Image credit: Régis Garnier)
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Anthony Charteau (Crédit Agricole)

Anthony Charteau (Crédit Agricole) (Image credit: Régis Garnier)
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Damiano Cunego (Lampre Fondital)

Damiano Cunego (Lampre Fondital) (Image credit: Régis Garnier)
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Giovanni Visconti (Quick.Step Innergetic) tries to sign !

Giovanni Visconti (Quick.Step Innergetic) tries to sign ! (Image credit: Régis Garnier)
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A special bike for Damiano Cunego (Lampre-Fondital).

A special bike for Damiano Cunego (Lampre-Fondital). (Image credit: Régis Garnier)
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Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) answers the press.

Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) answers the press. (Image credit: Régis Garnier)
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Carlos Sastre (Team CSC)

Carlos Sastre (Team CSC) (Image credit: Régis Garnier)
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Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) at home is very popular.

Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) at home is very popular. (Image credit: Régis Garnier)
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Damiano Cunego (Lampre-Fondital) looks a bit tired on the start.

Damiano Cunego (Lampre-Fondital) looks a bit tired on the start. (Image credit: Régis Garnier)
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The break of four has been brought back and now Rushlee Buchanan (NZ National Team) and Sarah Roy (Australia NTID Team) have a slender lead.

The break of four has been brought back and now Rushlee Buchanan (NZ National Team) and Sarah Roy (Australia NTID Team) have a slender lead. (Image credit: Régis Garnier)
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Swiss champion Beat Zberg (Gerolsteiner).

Swiss champion Beat Zberg (Gerolsteiner). (Image credit: Régis Garnier)
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Allan and Scott Davis in family...

Allan and Scott Davis in family... (Image credit: Régis Garnier)
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Last year winner Xavier Florencio (Bouygues Telecom) and Samuel Sánchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi).

Last year winner Xavier Florencio (Bouygues Telecom) and Samuel Sánchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi). (Image credit: Régis Garnier)
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UCI Pro Tour leader Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas) on the start line.

UCI Pro Tour leader Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas) on the start line. (Image credit: Régis Garnier)
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Fränk Schleck (Team CSC) finished 26.

Fränk Schleck (Team CSC) finished 26. (Image credit: Régis Garnier)
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UCI Pro Tour leader Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas) congratulates his teammate for this victory.

UCI Pro Tour leader Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas) congratulates his teammate for this victory. (Image credit: Régis Garnier)
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The traditional champagne for the victory in San Sebastián...

The traditional champagne for the victory in San Sebastián... (Image credit: Régis Garnier)
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A big meeting with Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) and Miguel Indurain.

A big meeting with Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) and Miguel Indurain. (Image credit: Régis Garnier)
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Leonardo Bertagnolli (Liquigas) wins the Clásica San Sebastián 2007.

Leonardo Bertagnolli (Liquigas) wins the Clásica San Sebastián 2007. (Image credit: Régis Garnier)
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The first victory in Classic for Leonardo Bertagnolli (Liquigas).

The first victory in Classic for Leonardo Bertagnolli (Liquigas). (Image credit: Régis Garnier)
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Leonardo Bertagnolli (Liquigas) salutes Garate who finished two.

Leonardo Bertagnolli (Liquigas) salutes Garate who finished two. (Image credit: Régis Garnier)
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Garate, Bertagnolli and Valverde on the podium.

Garate, Bertagnolli and Valverde on the podium. (Image credit: Régis Garnier)
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Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas) steels in the first place on the UCI Pro Tour ranking

Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas) steels in the first place on the UCI Pro Tour ranking (Image credit: Régis Garnier)
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Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas) at the start.

Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas) at the start. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Riders start on the Bay of Biscay.

Riders start on the Bay of Biscay. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Di Luca goes easy at the start.

Di Luca goes easy at the start. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas) has an eye for the wins.

Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas) has an eye for the wins. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Miguel Indurain followed the race.

Miguel Indurain followed the race. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Giovanni Visconti (Quick.Step Innergetic) is the current Italian National Champion.

Giovanni Visconti (Quick.Step Innergetic) is the current Italian National Champion. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Schleck ... Andy and Fränk.

Schleck ... Andy and Fränk. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas) rides in his all white ProTour kit.

Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas) rides in his all white ProTour kit. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Caisse does the chase work for Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne).

Caisse does the chase work for Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne). (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) sends his squadra to the front.

Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) sends his squadra to the front. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Joaquím Rodríguez (Caisse d'Epargne) worked hard for Valverde.

Joaquím Rodríguez (Caisse d'Epargne) worked hard for Valverde. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Leonardo Bertagnolli (Liquigas) charges early on.

Leonardo Bertagnolli (Liquigas) charges early on. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Leonardo Bertagnolli (Liquigas) on the move towards his race win.

Leonardo Bertagnolli (Liquigas) on the move towards his race win. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne)

Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Joaquím Rodríguez (Caisse d'Epargne) in his Spanish National kit.

Joaquím Rodríguez (Caisse d'Epargne) in his Spanish National kit. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Tin-Tin Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner) was in the thick of the action.

Tin-Tin Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner) was in the thick of the action. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner)

Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner) (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Carlos Sastre (Team CSC)

Carlos Sastre (Team CSC) (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Giovanni Visconti (Quick.Step Innergetic) cuts his path.

Giovanni Visconti (Quick.Step Innergetic) cuts his path. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Leonardo Bertagnolli (Liquigas) wins.

Leonardo Bertagnolli (Liquigas) wins. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Leonardo Bertagnolli (Liquigas) takes la Clásica San Sebastián.

Leonardo Bertagnolli (Liquigas) takes la Clásica San Sebastián. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Leonardo Bertagnolli (Liquigas) wins on the streets of San Sebastián.

Leonardo Bertagnolli (Liquigas) wins on the streets of San Sebastián. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Alessandro Ballan (Lampre-Fondital) finishes behind Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne).

Alessandro Ballan (Lampre-Fondital) finishes behind Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne). (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Kisses for Leonardo Bertagnolli (Liquigas).

Kisses for Leonardo Bertagnolli (Liquigas). (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Txapela time for Leonardo Bertagnolli (Liquigas).

Txapela time for Leonardo Bertagnolli (Liquigas). (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Podium with Juan Manuel Gárate (Quick.Step Innergetic), Leonardo Bertagnolli (Liquigas) and Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne).

Podium with Juan Manuel Gárate (Quick.Step Innergetic), Leonardo Bertagnolli (Liquigas) and Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne). (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas) in the ProTour jersey.

Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas) in the ProTour jersey. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Teammates Leonardo Bertagnolli (Liquigas) and Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas).

Teammates Leonardo Bertagnolli (Liquigas) and Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas). (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Yes! Leonardo Bertagnolli (Liquigas) confirms.

Yes! Leonardo Bertagnolli (Liquigas) confirms. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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The Killer and Big Mig meet.

The Killer and Big Mig meet. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Damiano Cunego (Lampre-Fondital) at the presentation

Damiano Cunego (Lampre-Fondital) at the presentation (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Giovanni Visconti (Quick.Step Innergetic) in his Italian National Championship colors

Giovanni Visconti (Quick.Step Innergetic) in his Italian National Championship colors (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Riccardo Ricco (Saunier Duval-Prodir) is all smiles at the start

Riccardo Ricco (Saunier Duval-Prodir) is all smiles at the start (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas) in the all-white ProTour leader's kit

Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas) in the all-white ProTour leader's kit (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Di Luca at the start.

Di Luca at the start. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Joaquím Rodríguez (Caisse d'Epargne)

Joaquím Rodríguez (Caisse d'Epargne) (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne)

Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Sylvain Chavanel (Cofidis)

Sylvain Chavanel (Cofidis) (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Team Gerolsteiner patrol the front of the race early.

Team Gerolsteiner patrol the front of the race early. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Caisse D Epargne try to set things up for Valverde.

Caisse D Epargne try to set things up for Valverde. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Alejandro Valverde sits safely I a pocket of team-mates

Alejandro Valverde sits safely I a pocket of team-mates (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Rodriguez and Valverde up the tempo

Rodriguez and Valverde up the tempo (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Rodriguez in Azione

Rodriguez in Azione (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner) shows the effects of the summer weather

Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner) shows the effects of the summer weather (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Davide Rebellin

Davide Rebellin (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Attacco Bertagnolli (Liquigas) makes a successful launch late in the race

Attacco Bertagnolli (Liquigas) makes a successful launch late in the race (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Rodriguez on the Azione climb

Rodriguez on the Azione climb (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Rodriguez tried to keep the race together for Valverde on the final climbs

Rodriguez tried to keep the race together for Valverde on the final climbs (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Gruppo Bertagnolli

Gruppo Bertagnolli (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Fränk Schleck (Team CSC) spent some time setting tempo at the front of main group

Fränk Schleck (Team CSC) spent some time setting tempo at the front of main group (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Fränk Schleck

Fränk Schleck (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Visconti arrives at the finish in the second group on the road

Visconti arrives at the finish in the second group on the road (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Giovanni Visconti (Quick.Step Innergetic)

Giovanni Visconti (Quick.Step Innergetic) (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Valverde finished 3rd

Valverde finished 3rd (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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The final podium

The final podium (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Gara

Gara (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Giovanni Visconti in the bunch earlier in the 225-kilometer race

Giovanni Visconti in the bunch earlier in the 225-kilometer race (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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The early break on the Alto De Jakzibel

The early break on the Alto De Jakzibel (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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On the Alto De Jakzibel

On the Alto De Jakzibel (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Rodriguez again

Rodriguez again (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Danilo Di Luca during the race

Danilo Di Luca during the race (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)

27th Clásica San Sebastián - ProT

Spain, August 4, 2007

ProTour standings

Il Trentino takes La Clásica Donostiarra over Gárate

Leonardo Bertagnolli has marked a splendid return to his best by winning the 27th edition of the Clásica San Sebastián today in Spain. The 29 year-old Italian of Team Liquigas escaped at 11 kilometres remaining of the 225-kilometre race with Juan Manuel Gárate (Quick.Step Innergetic) to then overpower the Spaniard in a head to head sprint on the hot finishing straight along the Bay of Biscay. A small chase headed by Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) and Alessandro Ballan (Lampre-Fondital) finished around a half-minute back.

The sixth-year professional from Trento had to stop for a month this spring for what doctors diagnosed as cardiac arrhythmia but he was able to build back to top-form and mark his first win after 17 months.

"This was one of my most important victories, as important as the stage win of the Vuelta a España and the stage win of the Giro d'Italia," proudly stated Bertagnolli to Cyclingnews after the day of work. "After the health problems I had this year and the five-month break in competition I was had to make I am very happy about my win in San Sebastián. [sister city of Trento - ed.]

"I did not expect to win, but when I saw that Gárate began the sprint very early, I knew that I had luck."

Bertagnolli said 'grazie' to his Liquigas team that signed him on from Cofidis this last winter. "I dedicate this victory to my team that let me recuperate without pressure."

The Alto de Jaizkibel at 32 kilometres to go did not finalize the race but it definitely helped decide it. At the top of the 465-metre climb the small move of José Luis Arrieta (Ag2r Prévoyance), Michael Albasini (Liquigas) and Jurgen Van de Walle (Quick.Step Innergetic) was barely holding on to its gains. Spaniard Arrieta went full throttle down the race's major climb (number six in total) but behind him, at under one minute, was a group of who's who in cycling.

"When we had three minutes, and I saw that David López was with us," Luis Arrieta explained of the escape. "I thought that Caisse d'Epargne perhaps would not work hard to reach us but when I saw that López could not follow us I saw it difficult to win because we did not really have a big advantage."

Valverde, Ronde van Vlaanderen winner Ballan, 2006 winner Xavier Florencio (Bouygues Telecom), consistent Carlos Sastre (Team CSC) and four Quick.Step riders were out for the kill. The Alto de Gurutze did the deed when Valverde attacked like mad to squash the three front runners and cleared the way for a Gárate and Bertagnolli to go clear on the descent.

Arrieta was satisfied that he took the day's mountain's competition. "The win of the mountain classification makes me proud, because the Clásica is a very prestigious race."

Belgium-based Quick.Step played the team card to perfection by putting Van de Walle in the escape and then countering with Gárate once the trio's move was caught. When the 2005 Spanish Champion went up the road he left Barredo and Italian Champ Giovanni Visconti to mark any move that would attempt to go clear.

The duo's move looked like an aperitif for the final showdown but as the kilometres ticked by it became apparent that it had substance.

Through the congested outskirts of the Basque city Gárate and Bertagnolli kept swapping the duties on the front and by the unclassified Alto de Miracruz at three kilometres remaining they had 38 seconds. The gap was made more convincing by the total lack of responsibilities in the chase. Caisse had giving up its efforts, Saunier Duval had fired its missile with José Angel Gomez Marchante (Saunier Duval-Prodir) and Euskaltel's Mikel Astarloza was being heavily marked. The Basque was able to make it off the front but he was discouraged by Asturiana rider Barredo who was covering for Gárate.

Gárate had the faster finish on paper and he led through the semi-curve that saw the successful launch of Florencio last year. However, Bertagnolli had some gas left in his tank to power the thrusters one last time. He throttled at 100 metres remaining with Gárate on his left and the Bizkaiko Golkoa on his right to mark an emotional return to the top.

"I began to sprint too early," noted a disappointed Gárate. "I thought that I was faster than Bertagnolli in the sprint. As we passed lots of kilometres away, I was tired. I intended to surprise him, but that did not work. In the end, I reached his back wheel, but it was impossible for me to give more."

Valverde had the help of his Caisse d'Epargne gunner Joaquím Rodríguez in the race's finale but 'The Green Bullet' was left with an uncooperative four-man move into San Sebastián. Ballan, Sastre, Astarloza and Barredo were not eager to help the winner of the 2006 Liège-Bastogne-Liège add yet another trophy into his Murcian treasure chest. The group battled for third while Bertagnolli fell into the arms of his soigneur. Valverde proved his speed to take third over Ballan with Barredo in fifth, Astarloza sixth and Sastre seventh.

How it unfolded

The Clásica San Sebastián celebrated its 27th birthday on Saturday as more than 150 riders set off under sunny skies and temperatures just under 30°C.

An escape broke away after just 30 kilometers; initiated by Paolo Bossoni (Lampre-Fondital). He was followed by Francesco Bellotti (Crédit Agricole), three riders from Euskaltel and Mauro Facci (Quick.Step Innergetic).

Pressure in the main pack broke the peloton down to a chasing group of about 30 as the lead group whittled down to four riders. Four became three when José Luis Arrieta (Ag2r Prévoyance) led over the Alto de Jaizkibel followed by Jurgen Van de Walle (Quick.Step Innergetic) and Michael Albasini (Liquigas) and dropped David López García (Caisse d'Epargne).

The leaders had only a 50-second advantage after the second-to-last climb. Behind them, Alejandro Valverde attacked the main group but was quickly covered. So he attacked again and was able to bridge to the three leaders, bringing a smaller contingent from the chase group with him.

Juan Manuel Gárate (Quick.Step Innergetic) and Leonardo Bertagnolli (Liquigas) built a small gap over the new leading group into the final climb.

As the unclassified Alto de Miracruz started, the duo had about 20 seconds on the chase. Ballan attacked from behind. Sastre, Valverde, Astarloza and Barredo stuck with him.

But the two leaders held their lead and Bertagnolli led Garate under the 1K to go marker. Garate fired through the final corner and the pair go head-to-head with 300 meters to go but Bertagnolli muscled past to take the win after 5.12.44 of racing.

Valverde led led the group of five over the line for third.

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