Along with Lorenzo Rota (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux), the three riders broke out of the peloton on the descent of Erlaitz, about 35km from the finish.
Despite being affected by a late crash on the run-in to the finish, which saw Rota distanced from the others, the leaders were able to avoid being caught by the small group of favourites in pursuit.
It was an unusual race that did not play out as expected. With Honore up the road, Deceuninck-QuickStep did not chase for race favourite Julian Alaphilippe, leaving Trek-Segafredo to do most of the work instead.
The advantage of over one minute that Powless, Honore, Mohoric, Rota and Powless’ teammate Simon Carr (who had been caught by the group having earlier broken clear on the Erlaitz ascent) held by the bottom of the final climb of Murgil Tontorra and it proved too much for the peloton to bring back.
After Carr was dropped on the climb, and Rota distanced after a crash on the run-in to the finish, Powless managed to win the three-man sprint in the finale.
“I can’t even put into words how much this means to me,” said a delighted Powless at the finish.
“Our director Juan Manuel [Garate] was so excited for us to come to this race. We didn’t have the favourite for the race, so we tried to ride the race smart. In the end, we played our cards perfectly. I’m so happy.
“My first professional victory. I’m just so happy to have taken it here in San Sebastian with a director in the car who’s a local. Every time I’ve race through the Basque Country it’s been incredible with the fans, so I’m super-happy to win in front of such enthusiastic crowds.
There were multiple crashes throughout the day, which took place in wet, treacherous conditions. The most significant of these occurred on the run-in to the finish among the leaders. Mohoric misjudged a corner and had to unclip, which caused Honore to crash into a wall, and Rota to be taken down.
“I was watching the map on my Garmin,” explained Powless when asked about the incident. “I think the guys who were in front of me were maybe too focussed on the situation of the race and not so much the road. I could see it was a sharp corner coming up that they ended up crashing in. In the end I was just happy to keep upright, and stay as fresh as possible for the end.
Mohoric managed to catch back to him 2.3km from the finish, and then Honore less than a kilometre later, but Powless was strongest in the sprint to take victory.
How it unfolded
A large group of sixteen riders formed a breakaway at the start of the 2021 San Sebastian, featuring: Lilian Calmejane, Mikael Cherel (both Ag2r Citroen), Valerio Conti, Alexandr Riabushebko (both UAE Team Emirates), Johan Jacobs, Jose Joaquin Rojas (both Movistar), Javier Romo (Astana-Premier Tech), Jeremy Cabot (Total Energies), Jokin Murguialday, Jon Barrenetxea (both Caja Rural-Seguros RGA), Mikel Bizkarra (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Tsgabu Grmay (BikeExchange), Oscar Cabedo, Daniel Navarro (both Burgos-BH), Xandres Vervloesem (Lotto-Soudal) and Romain Hardy (Arkea-Samsic).
This group remained clear over the early climbs of the day, with Bizkarra being first over Urraki, and Barrenetxea cresting the Alkiza first.
They were never given enough of a gap to have a chance of surviving, and by the foot of the famous Alto de Jaizkibel 70km from the finish, their lead was down to less than 1-30.
On Alto de Jaizkibel, Romo, Cabot, Vervloesem and Murguialday went clear from the rest of the break, before Romo shortly dropping the other three to become the sole leader of the race.
Jumbo-Visma and Ineos Grenadiers did most of the pace-setting in the peloton up the climb, wanting to make the race hard for their climbers. They began to pick up stragglers from the break, but Romo managed to increase his lead to up to 1:50 at the top.
The clouds darkened and the heavens opened as the riders went up the climb, making for a nervous descent on which both Yuriv Natarov (Astana-Premier Tech) and Omer Goldstein (Israel-StartUp Nation) crashed.
In typically aggressive fashion, two-time Tour de France stage winner Matej Mohoric (Bahrain-Victorious) attacked on the descent, and caught the remaining half a dozen riders from the break who were behind Romo. Unwilling to let such a dangerous rider clear, the peloton promptly brought them back, meaning Romo was left as the sole rider out front.
The wet weather continued to cause havoc when Wilco Kelderman and his two Bora-Hansgrohe teammates Matteo Fabbro and Giovanni Aleotti all went down on the slippery roads, along with one of the race motorbikes.
Romo hit the start of the Erlaitz climb with a lead of 50 seconds, as Jumbo-Visma increased the pace at the front of the peloton on the run-in to the important climb. UAE Team Emirates and EF Education-Nippo took over at the front once the climb began, but it was Bahrain-Victorious’s Mikel Landa who made the first attack.
With Simon Carr (EF Education-Nippo) on his wheel, Landa soon caught and passed Romo. But of the two new leaders, Carr proved much stronger, and he dropped Landa to crest the climb first.
Despite the severity of the climb, dozens of riders remained in the peloton by the top of the climb, and swelled to a bigger size as more caught up again on the descent.
While Landa dropped back into the peloton, Carr continued to increase his lead on the descent, up to 45 seconds.
Mohoric, Honore and Rota all made their decisive move out of the peloton on the descent, with Powless marking the move for his EF Education-Nippo teammate Simon Carr. Despite the presence of Powless, they worked well together to chase down Carr, and caught him 23km from the finish.
With the five leaders holding a gap of about 50 seconds over the peloton, Trek-Segafredo’s Giulio Ciccone did a committed turn at the front of the peloton in service of his team leader, Bauke Mollema. He received no help from the team of the other race favourite, Julian Alaphilippe’s Deceuninck-QuickStep, as they had Honore up the road.
Despite the efforts of Ciccone, his teammates and a UAE Team Emirates, the peloton struggled to reduce the gap to the leaders, which by the start of the final climb of Murgil Tontorra was over a minute.
There was another crash on a sharp corner leading up to the climb towards the front of the bunch, which might have disrupted and slowed down the chase.
In the break, Carr was dropped towards the start, prompting Powless to attack. Mohoric dragged him back with Honore on his wheel, and by the top the three were together, with Rota catching them soon after on the descent.
Ciccone attempted an attack out of the peloton on the climb, but neither him or anyone else from the peloton was able to catch up to the leaders, leaving Powless to take a surprise victory.
|Pos.||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Neilson Powless (USA) EF Education-Nippo||5:34:31|
|2||Matej Mohoric (Slo) Bahrain Victorious|
|3||Mikkel Honoré (Den) Deceuninck-QuickStep|
|4||Lorenzo Rota (Ita) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux||0:00:30|
|5||Alessandro Covi (Ita) UAE Team Emirates||0:01:04|
|6||Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Deceuninck-QuickStep|
|7||Odd Christian Eiking (Nor) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux|
|8||Jonas Vingegaard (Den) Jumbo-Visma|
|9||Gianni Moscon (Ita) Ineos Grenadiers|
|10||Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek-Segafredo|
|11||Gonzalo Serrano Rodriguez (Spa) Movistar Team|
|12||Maxim Van Gils (Bel) Lotto Soudal|
|13||Mark Padun (Ukr) Bahrain Victorious|
|14||Giulio Ciccone (Ita) Trek-Segafredo|
|15||Simon Carr (GBr) EF Education-Nippo||0:01:08|
|16||Egan Bernal Gomez (Col) Ineos Grenadiers||0:01:09|
|17||Diego Ulissi (Ita) UAE Team Emirates||0:01:36|
|18||Juan Ayuso Pesquera (Spa) Team Colpack Ballan|
|19||Ruben Guerreiro (Por) EF Education-Nippo|
|20||Gorka Izagirre Insausti (Spa) Astana-Premier Tech|
|21||Ruben Fernandez (Spa) Cofidis|
|22||Simon Yates (GBr) Team BikeExchange|
|23||Christopher Hamilton (Aus) Team DSM|
|24||Sam Oomen (Ned) Jumbo-Visma|
|25||Andrey Zeits (Kaz) Team BikeExchange|
|26||Jai Hindley (Aus) Team DSM||0:01:39|
|27||Adam Yates (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers|
|28||Geoffrey Bouchard (Fra) AG2R Citroën Team||0:02:02|
|29||Ben Hermans (Bel) Israel Start-up Nation||0:02:51|
|30||James Knox (GBr) Deceuninck-QuickStep|
|31||Gianluca Brambilla (Ita) Trek-Segafredo||0:03:59|
|32||Juan Pedro Lopez Perez (Spa) Trek-Segafredo|
|33||Dries Devenyns (Bel) Deceuninck-QuickStep|
|34||Mikel Landa Meana (Spa) Bahrain Victorious|
|35||Héctor Carretero (Spa) Movistar Team|
|36||Stefano Oldani (Ita) Lotto Soudal||0:04:23|
|37||Jan Bakelants (Bel) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux|
|38||Romain Seigle (Fra) Groupama-FDJ||0:04:26|
|39||Harry Sweeny (Aus) Lotto Soudal|
|40||Julen Amezqueta Moreno (Spa) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA|
|41||Roger Adria Oliveras (Spa) Equipo Kern Pharma|
|42||Kobe Goossens (Bel) Lotto Soudal|
|43||Simone Petilli (Ita) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux|
|44||Warren Barguil (Fra) Team Arkea-Samsic|
|45||Urko Berrade Fernandez (Spa) Equipo Kern Pharma|
|46||Luis Leon Sanchez (Spa) Astana-Premier Tech||0:04:49|
|47||Nicholas Schultz (Aus) Team BikeExchange||0:04:54|
|48||Pierre-Luc Périchon (Fra) Cofidis||0:05:00|
|49||Jaakko Hänninen (Fin) AG2R Citroën Team|
|50||Antwan Tolhoek (Ned) Jumbo-Visma||0:05:20|
|51||David de la Cruz (Spa) UAE Team Emirates||0:05:41|
|52||Mikel Nieve Iturralde (Spa) Team BikeExchange||0:05:56|
|53||Stephen Williams (GBr) Bahrain Victorious||0:06:38|
|54||Carlos Rodriguez Cano (Spa) Ineos Grenadiers||0:06:41|
|55||Oscar Rodriguez Garaicoechea (Spa) Astana-Premier Tech|
|56||Koen Bouwman (Ned) Jumbo-Visma|
|57||Jose Herrada (Spa) Cofidis||0:07:23|
|58||Anthony Roux (Fra) Groupama-FDJ||0:09:24|
|59||Angel Madrazo Ruiz (Spa) Burgos-BH|
|60||Larry Warbasse (USA) AG2R Citroën Team|
|61||José Rojas (Spa) Movistar Team|
|62||Jon Agirre Egaña (Spa) Equipo Kern Pharma|
|63||Jose Felix Parra Cuerda (Spa) Equipo Kern Pharma|
|64||Sergio Samitier Samitier (Spa) Movistar Team|
|65||Matteo Jorgenson (USA) Movistar Team|
|66||Fernando Barceló Aragon (Spa) Cofidis|
|67||Ibai Azurmendi Sagastibeltza (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi|
|68||William Barta (USA) EF Education-Nippo|
|69||Emil Vinjebo (Den) Team Qhubeka Assos|
|70||Victor de la Parte (Spa) Total Direct Energie|
|71||Santiago Buitrago Sanchez (Col) Bahrain Victorious|
|72||Kevin Colleoni (Ita) Team BikeExchange|
|73||Quinten Hermans (Bel) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux||0:09:41|
|74||Robert Stannard (Aus) Team BikeExchange|
|75||Cesare Benedetti (Ita) Bora-Hansgrohe|
|76||Alexander Cataford (Can) Israel Start-up Nation|
|77||Lars van den Berg (Ned) Groupama-FDJ|
|78||Einer Rubio Reyes (Col) Movistar Team|
|79||Gotzon Martin Sanz (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi|
|80||Jens Keukeleire (Bel) EF Education-Nippo||0:10:22|
|81||Lennard Hofstede (Ned) Jumbo-Visma||0:10:55|
|82||Sebastian Berwick (Aus) Israel Start-up Nation|
|83||Oier Lazkano Lopez (Spa) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA||0:11:29|
|84||Luis Angel Mate Mardones (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi||0:12:27|
|85||Victor Langellotti (Mon) Burgos-BH||0:14:06|
|86||Diego Rosa (Ita) Team Arkea-Samsic|
|87||Kilian Frankiny (Swi) Team Qhubeka Assos|
|88||Winner Anacona (Col) Team Arkea-Samsic|
|89||Romain Hardy (Fra) Team Arkea-Samsic|
|90||Kevin Vermaerke (USA) Team DSM|
|91||Yevgeniy Fedorov (Kaz) Astana-Premier Tech|
|92||Yuriy Natarov (Kaz) Astana-Premier Tech|
|93||Reto Hollenstein (Swi) Israel Start-up Nation|
|94||Valentin Ferron (Fra) Total Direct Energie|
|95||Javier Romo Oliver (Spa) Astana-Premier Tech|
|96||Jokin Murguialday (Spa) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA|
|97||Nathan Van Hooydonck (Bel) Jumbo-Visma|
|98||Sébastien Reichenbach (Swi) Groupama-FDJ|
|99||Jonathan Lastra Martinez (Spa) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA|
|100||Chris Harper (Aus) Jumbo-Visma||0:15:26|
|DNF||Mattia Cattaneo (Ita) Deceuninck-QuickStep|
|DNF||Josef Cerny (Cze) Deceuninck-QuickStep|
|DNF||Zdenek Stybar (Cze) Deceuninck-QuickStep|
|DNF||François Bidard (Fra) AG2R Citroën Team|
|DNF||Lilian Calmejane (Fra) AG2R Citroën Team|
|DNF||Mikaël Cherel (Fra) AG2R Citroën Team|
|DNF||Damien Touze (Fra) AG2R Citroën Team|
|DNF||Valerio Conti (Ita) UAE Team Emirates|
|DNF||Aleksandr Riabushenko (Blr) UAE Team Emirates|
|DNF||Matteo Trentin (Ita) UAE Team Emirates|
|DNF||Nikita Stalnov (Kaz) Astana-Premier Tech|
|DNF||Alexander Kamp (Den) Trek-Segafredo|
|DNF||Antonio Nibali (Ita) Trek-Segafredo|
|DNF||Charlie Quarterman (GBr) Trek-Segafredo|
|DNF||Giovanni Aleotti (Ita) Bora-Hansgrohe|
|DNF||Matteo Fabbro (Ita) Bora-Hansgrohe|
|DNF||Patrick Gamper (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe|
|DNF||Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Bora-Hansgrohe|
|DNF||Patrick Konrad (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe|
|DNF||Ide Schelling (Ned) Bora-Hansgrohe|
|DNF||Johan Jacobs (Swi) Movistar Team|
|DNF||Alessandro De Marchi (Ita) Israel Start-up Nation|
|DNF||Omer Goldstein (Isr) Israel Start-up Nation|
|DNF||Guy Niv (Isr) Israel Start-up Nation|
|DNF||Alexys Brunel (Fra) Groupama-FDJ|
|DNF||Clément Davy (Fra) Groupama-FDJ|
|DNF||Matthieu Ladagnous (Fra) Groupama-FDJ|
|DNF||Jonathan Caicedo (Ecu) EF Education-Nippo|
|DNF||Julien El Fares (Fra) EF Education-Nippo|
|DNF||Andrey Amador (CRc) Ineos Grenadiers|
|DNF||Daniel Martinez Poveda (Col) Ineos Grenadiers|
|DNF||Salvatore Puccio (Ita) Ineos Grenadiers|
|DNF||Jeremy Cabot (Fra) Total Direct Energie|
|DNF||Marlon Gaillard (Fra) Total Direct Energie|
|DNF||Fabien Grellier (Fra) Total Direct Energie|
|DNF||Florian Maitre (Fra) Total Direct Energie|
|DNF||Julien Simon (Fra) Total Direct Energie|
|DNF||Kevin Inkelaar (Ned) Bahrain Victorious|
|DNF||Domen Novak (Slo) Bahrain Victorious|
|DNF||Sander Armée (Bel) Team Qhubeka Assos|
|DNF||Carlos Barbero (Spa) Team Qhubeka Assos|
|DNF||Bert-Jan Lindeman (Ned) Team Qhubeka Assos|
|DNF||Connor Brown (NZl) Team Qhubeka Assos|
|DNF||Dylan Sunderland (Aus) Team Qhubeka Assos|
|DNF||Tsgabu Grmay (Eth) Team BikeExchange|
|DNF||André Carvalho (Por) Cofidis|
|DNF||Nathan Haas (Aus) Cofidis|
|DNF||Natnael Berhane (Eri) Cofidis|
|DNF||Aritz Bagües Kalparsoro (Spa) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA|
|DNF||Jon Irisarri Ricon (Spa) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA|
|DNF||Jon Barrenetxea Golzarri (Spa) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA|
|DNF||Mikel Bizkarra Etxegibel (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi|
|DNF||Mikel Iturria Segurola (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi|
|DNF||Joan Bou Company (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi|
|DNF||Xabier Mikel Azparren Irurzun (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi|
|DNF||Kevin Van Melsen (Bel) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux|
|DNF||Jonas Koch (Ger) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux|
|DNF||Romain Combaud (Fra) Team DSM|
|DNF||Chad Haga (USA) Team DSM|
|DNF||Nicolas Roche (Irl) Team DSM|
|DNF||Ilan Van Wilder (Bel) Team DSM|
|DNF||Daniel Navarro Garcia (Spa) Burgos-BH|
|DNF||Willem Jakobus Smit (RSA) Burgos-BH|
|DNF||Alex Molenaar (Ned) Burgos-BH|
|DNF||Oscar Cabedo Carda (Spa) Burgos-BH|
|DNF||Pelayo Sanchez Mayo (Spa) Burgos-BH|
|DNF||Filippo Conca (Ita) Lotto Soudal|
|DNF||Matthew Holmes (GBr) Lotto Soudal|
|DNF||Xandres Vervloesem (Bel) Lotto Soudal|
|DNF||Miguel Eduardo Florez Lopez (Col) Team Arkea-Samsic|
|DNF||Matis Louvel (Fra) Team Arkea-Samsic|
|DNF||Alan Riou (Fra) Team Arkea-Samsic|
|DNF||Raul Garcia Pierna (Spa) Equipo Kern Pharma|
|DNF||Savva Novikov (Rus) Equipo Kern Pharma|
|DNF||Jordi Lopez Caravaca (Spa) Equipo Kern Pharma|
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