Clásica San Sebastián 2021 – Preview

SAN SEBASTIAN SPAIN AUGUST 03 Remco Evenepoel of Belgium and Team DeceuninckQuickStep Fans Public during the 39th Clsica Ciclista San Sebastin 2019 a 2273km race from DonostiaSan Sebastin to DonostiaSan Sebastin Klasikoa dklasikoa on August 03 2019 in San Sebastian Spain Photo by David RamosGetty Images
Remco Evenepoel (Deceuninck-QuickStep) took victory at the last edition of the race in 2019 (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Following the Tour de France and the Olympics road race and time trial, the road cycling season continues apace with another big event coming up on Saturday: the Clásica San Sebastián.

The one-day race, known as Donostiako Klasikoa in Basque, returns to the calendar after a year off due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It's usually a chance for climbers and puncheurs to continue their good form from the Tour, as well as for those who are getting back to racing after a summer break.

With plenty of star names having raced in Tokyo, the start list is a little less high profile than in recent years, though there are plenty of worthy contenders set to do battle over the 231.5-kilometre course in and around San Sebastián.

2018 winner Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-QuickStep) is back following a stage win and a day in yellow at the Tour. He'll be joined on the start line by 2016 winner and fellow Tour stage winner Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo). 

Tour podium finisher Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) and Giro d'Italia champion Egan Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers) are among the other contenders set to take part.

The contenders

Alaphilippe is the major favourite heading into the race, having won it three years ago. He's well suited to the course, can win alone or sprinting from a small group, and should be in good form after the Tour. A strong Deceuninck-QuickStep team, including Zdenek Stybar and Mattia Cattaneo, will be supporting the world champion.

Unsurprisingly, Ineos Grenadiers bring what looks to be the strongest team. Giro d'Italia champion Egan Bernal returns to racing for the first time since his triumph and he'll be joined by Adam Yates and Dani Martínez, with all three heading for the Vuelta a España next month.

Trek-Segafredo bring a strong team, too, lining up with Vincenzo Nibali, Bauke Mollema and Giulio Ciccone straight from Tokyo. Jumbo-Visma are led by Tour de France runner-up Jonas Vingegaard, while Bora-Hansgrohe will look to Wilco Kelderman as well as Matteo Fabbro and Patrick Konrad.

Teenage Spanish prodigy Juan Ayuso rides his third race day for UAE Team Emirates, fresh off second place at the Prueba Vilafranca. He'll ride the longest race of his career so far, with Valerio Conti and Diego Ulissi alongside him.

As well as Ayuso, home hopes rest with Bahrain Victorious' Mikel Landa – joined by Mark Padun and Gino Mäder – and the Astana-Premier Tech pairing of Gorka Izagirre and 2012 winner Luis León Sánchez. Movistar are led by Miguel Angel López,

Other big names set to race include Simon Yates (Team BikeExchange), Dan Martin (Israel Start-Up Nation) and Jai Hindley (Team DSM).

The course

The riders will do battle on a course slightly different to the one Remco Evenepoel soloed to victory on two years ago. Many of the same major climbs remain as they race around the north-east of the Basque Country.

After the peloton rolls out from San Sebastián, they'll tackle two uncategorised climbs inside the first 40 kilometres before the Alto de Azkarate (4.2km at 7.4 per cent) 60 kilometres in.

The Alto de Urraki (8.6km at 6.9 per cent) follows shortly after, before the Alto de Alkiza (4.5km at 5.8 per cent). Following that long opening loop to the west of San Sebastián, the route will take the riders north-east for 50 kilometres of rolling roads before the second loop of the day to the east of the city.

There, the famous Alto de Jaizkibel (7.9km at 5.5 per cent) lies in wait 63 kilometres from the finish – 28 kilometres closer than in 2019. An intermediate sprint at Hondarribia follows before the next, brutal, climb of the Alto de Erlaitz (3.9km at 10.6 per cent), 43 kilometres out.

What's left of the peloton will then pass through the finish line before tackling the closing loop to the west. The climb of the Alto de Murgil (2.1km at 10 per cent) is the final test of the day, with the Alto de Mendizorrotz not part of the closing circuit this year.

At the top of the Murgil, just 8.5 kilometres separates any attackers – or a small group – from victory.

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