Welcome to our live coverage of the final stages of the 2012 Clásica de San Sebastián. This one day race in the north of Spain is seen as a key warm-up for some of the riders tackling the Vuelta a Espana, which starts at the weekend, but is a prestigious WorldTour race in its own right.
124km remaining from 234km
We join proceedings as the riders approach the halfway point in the race. We have a leading duo, who have broken clear of the main peloton and are just over six minutes clear.
The local fans will be happy as the breakaway riders are both Spaniards. The veteran Adrian Palomares is alongside Javier Aramendia and both are also employed by home-based teams.
The riders have already tackled a category 2 and a category 3 climb today. There are four more cataegorised climbs to come, including a pair of category 1s. All four of these occur in the last 80km of the race.
The biggest gap that these two established was 12 minutes. In the last 40km that has halved as the peloton tries to reel them in.
Temperatures are now up to 32 degrees Celsius. Tough conditions for the riders out there.
Last year's race was won by Philippe Gilbert, though the BMC man is not present to defend his crown (or should we say sombrero) this time round.
110km remaining from 234km
The gap is now down to just over five minutes...
Away from today's race, things are building nicely towards the Vuelta, which starts in Pamplona on Saturday. Team news is filtering through every day. Orica-GreenEdge have revealed their squad this morning and there's a few surprises in it. Find out who has made their team right here.
Today's race always has a strong contingent of Spaniards. This year is no different. Luis Leon Sanchez (Rabobank), Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) and Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) all started this morning. Valverde (2008) and Leon Sanchez (2010, pictured) are both former winners. Full start list is available right here.
Movistar look to be doing most of the work at the front of the peloton. Setting the pace for Valverde. Gap remains just over five minutes.
The two category 1 climbs this afternoon are ascents of the fearsome Jaizikbel. The second of these has often been a turning point in past editions of this race. They will tackle it for the first time with 77km left and for the second time with 38km to go. With a maximum gradient of 8.5%, it's a huge test for the climbers.
Away from the race, the transfer season got underway on August 1st and plenty of moves have already been made. The biggest move so far has seen Vincenzo Nibali swap Liquigas for Astana, but you can keep track of all the major moves so far right here.
98km remaining from 234km
Less than 100km to go now. The gap between the two leaders and the peloton is four-and-a-half minutes...
Are you having withdrawal symptoms because of the end of the Olympics? Relieve them temporarily by having a look through our gallery of the best moments from the cycling events.
These two leaders attacked and broke clear at the 35km mark this morning. They have been out in front for over 100km now.
90km remaining from 234km
The leaders are now approaching the bottom of the Jaizikbel for the first time. They have 12km of pain ahead of them before they reach the summit. How will it change the race? Will they be caught?
And Aramedia and Palomares are on the climb...
Aramendia is a decent climber but only has one minor race win to his name. That came when he was a teenager. Palomares has seven stage wins in his long career, including one at this year's Tour of Chile.
And the peloton are closing rapidly on the leading pair. They have shaved almost three minutes off the gap in the opening stages of the climb...
It's Movistar who have done most of the damage here...
They are relentless in their chase. The leading duo are in their sights and the peloton is only 20 seconds behind them...
Liquigas also prominent at the front of the peloton as they surge up this climb...
80km remaining from 234km
Nairo Quintana (Movistar) and Eros Capecchi (Liquigas) make an attack but are rapidly countered by Michael Rogers (Sky). The two leaders have been swallowed up and the peloton is together with 2.5km of this climb to go.
And as they head to the top, Quintana and Capecchi attack again. Can they make it stick this time? Looks like they have about 8 seconds on the pack...
And it looks like the attack has stuck, and we have a third member of the latest breakaway. Tomasz Marcynski (Vacansoleil) has joined Quintana and Capecchi and they are already over the top of the climb. They appear to be about 30 seconds clear of the pack, just waiting on official confirmation.
70km remaining from 234km
The main peloton is also over the climb and the entire field is now motoring downhill. At the front of the chasers is Olympic road race champion Alexander Vinokourov (Astana, pictured). This is reportedly his last race before he retires.
And the chasers are catching this leading trio quickly on the descent...
And we have another attack. It's a Liquigas rider, but not Capecchi. It's Tiziano Dall'Antonia. He's built up a lead of over 30 seconds.
60km remaining from 234km
60km to go now. A chase group has broken away from the main peloton in pursuit of Dall'Antonia. Just awaiting details...
Looks like there are 11 riders in the chase group. Vinokourov and Robert Gesink are in there. Still trying to confirm exact details...
Dall'Antonia is now on the next climb. It's a category 2, the Alto de Arkale.
And Dall'Antonia is over the climb. He's been joined by Marcczynski at the front...
Peloton is bunching up again behind these two leaders...
The leading duo are now almost a minute clear of the peloton. One more ascent of the Jaizikbel and the Alto de Arkale to come.
50km remaining from 234km
We're entering the last 50km now. Just over an hour of racing left to go...
In more Vuelta news, we caught up with Andrew Talansky (Garmin-Sharp) for an exclusive chat. He warmed up for the Vuelta by winning the Tour de L'Ain, the first stage race win of his career. Find out what he had to say about it right here.
Gap is now under 30 seconds. It's Astana and Lampre who are on the front of the peloton doing the work at this point.
45km remaining from 234km
And they're about to tackle the Jaizkibel for the second and final time. Gap is down to 15 seconds. Rigoberto Uran (Sky) moves to the front of the peloton for the first time...
And the leaders have been swallowed up. Peloton is together again now on the climb. Whon will attack? Nicolas Roche also makes his first appearance near the front...
And Marczynski goes again. This time he has Paulinho (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank) for company. Tiralongo, Valverde, Uran and Vinokourov all near the front of the chasing peloton.
Lots of fans out on this section of the course...
Paulinho has decided it's a mistake to try and break clear at this stage. He's gone back to the pack.
ABANDONMENT: Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Lotto-Belisol) has retired from the race
40km remaining from 234km
Rabobank increasing the pace slightly in behind. Luis Leon Sanchez and Robert Gesink moving to the front of the peloton.
Riders are about 2km from the summit of the climb now. All to play for here. Excitement building as some big names queue up in behind plotting their moves...
And that's it - over the top of the Jaizkibel for the final time. Bit of a plateau now before the descent and then the final category 2 climb.
Riders hitting speeds of over 75km/h on this descent...
32km remaining from 234km
Amazing views of the city of San Sebastian here as the riders enter the final 30km. Gorgeous summer afternoon in northern Spain.
Looks like we now have a leading bunch of about five riders on this descent. Waiting for confirmation...
Izaguirre (Euskaltel), Henao (Sky) and Marczynski are in this leading quintet. There's a Saxo Bank rider in there too and another Vacansoleil rider...
23km remaining from 234km
Henao helping out Izaguirre with some fluid there...
Not too far off this final category 2 climb now. Still the chasing pelton is biding its time. Gap is under 20 seconds...
Movistar back working hard at the front. They've done a lot of the donkey work today. They have a very strong team here today. Valverde, Cobo, Moreno and Visconti all capable of winning.
20km remaining from 234km
Gap is holding steady here with under 20km to go...
On the final climb now. This is where things should unfold. Peak will be reached in 3km...
No real attack yet from the chasers. Gap is coming down moderately on the climb...
And Henao has dropped the other four leaders and is out on his own in front...
15km remaining from 234km
Uran, Mollema, Ullisi, Rodriguez, Van Avermaet all go in pursuit of Henao...
10km remaining from 234km
We have two big groups now coming together. About 30 riders in total...
Henao. Valverde, Henao, Urán, Mollema, Ullisi, Rafal Majka, Daniel Martin and Van Avermaet all up there at the front. Luis Leon Sanchez also lurking dangerously.
Numerous attacks probable here in the last few kilometres...
Richie Porte (Sky), Bauke Mollema and Luis Leon Sanchez (Rabobank) and Joaquim Rodriguez have attacked...
It's Sanchez who is a few metres clear of the other three with 7km to go. Mollema's role could be tactical here...
Sanchez is now a good 30 metres clear. The others have caught up with the chasers. Has Sanchez gone too early?
Less than 5km to go for Sanchez. Can he hang on for the win?
He has a gap of about 11 seconds...
He's looking comfortable as he enters the last 4km...
3km remaining from 234km
Sanchez is almost through the slight incline here. If he reaches it in tact then he looks set for the win...
No sense of urgency in the chase group here. How much do they have left? And have they left it too late?
Ten second lead with 2km to go...
Sanchez looking good for his second win here in three seasons...
He's inside the last kilometre, which stretches out along the seafront...
SANCHEZ WINS IN A TIME OF 5:55:30
Seventh win of the year for the Spaniard, who sends the home crowd into raptures
Seven is the lucky number today - it's the seventh Spanish victory in the last nine stagings of the race
Looks like Meersman (Lotto-Belisol) in second and Gerrans (Orica-GreenEdge) in third. Awaiting confirmation...
TOP THREE FINISHERS (TBC)
1 Luis Leon Sanchez (Rabobank) 05:55:30
2 Gianni Meersman (Lotto-Belisol) 05:55:36
3 Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEdge) 05:55:36
OFFICIAL TOP FIVE FINISHERS:
1 Luis Leon Sanchez Gil (Spa) Rabobank Cycling Team
2 Simon Gerrans (Aus) Orica GreenEdge Cycling Team
3 Gianni Meersman (Bel) Lotto Belisol Team
4 Christophe Le Mevel (Fra) Garmin - Sharp
5 Bauke Mollema (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team
So a combination of a daring attack by Luis Leon Sanchez inside the final 10km and a lack of dominance by any single team conspired to deliver the Spaniard to his seventh win of the season and his second in San Sebastian in the last three years. Sanchez picked his moment to perfection, waiting until after the final climb and pouncing on some hesitation between his rivals as the peloton regrouped.
Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEdge) showed a welcome return to form by pipping Gianni Meersman into second place. After a barren run of late he has recaptured the rhythm that saw him win the Tour Down Under and Milan San Remo earlier in the season.
We'll have full results, reaction and photos right here as we get them. Join us on Saturday for our live coverage of the opening stage of the 2012 Vuelta a Espana.
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