Gilbert's stunning season continues with San Sebastian victory

Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) continued his magical 2011 season with a resounding victory in the Clasica San Sebastian ahead of Carlos Barredo (Rabobank) and Greg Van Avermaet (BMC).

Always a stylish performer, Gilbert has attained a level of dominance rarely seen in one-day racing over the past twelve months, and there was a certain degree of inevitability about his victory on a baking hot afternoon in the Basque Country.

In a fractious finale that saw the lead group splinter and reform on numerous occasions after the sweeping descent of the Jaizkibel, Gilbert showed typical sangfroid to bring order to the chaos on the final run-in to San Sebastian, with the help of teammate Jelle Vanendert.

A little over 3km from the line, Carlos Barredo was dangling off the front of the lead group but nobody was willing to take the initiative to close the gap, and it was at that moment that Gilbert sensed his opportunity. On the unclassified rise of the Alto Miracruz on the outskirts of San Sebastian, the Belgian champion ripped free of his companions and instantly closed the 10-second gap to Barredo.

On reaching the Rabobank man’s wheel, Gilbert didn’t even pause for breath, and simply jumped over the top of Barredo to solo clear to an emphatic win. While a group of strong men including Fränk Schleck (Leopard Trek), Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) and Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) chased behind, they must have realised the futility of their pursuit when faced with Gilbert’s rich vintage of 2011 form.

In barely a kilometre, Gilbert had opened out an insurmountable lead, and as was the case in the Ardennes Classics in the spring, he had time to sit up in the finishing straight and enjoy his victory, the latest offering from the most productive period of the Belgian master’s career.

The plucky Barredo clipped off the front of the chase group to come home in second place 12 seconds down, while Gilbert’s local rival Van Avermaet held off Rodriguez, Dries Devenyns (Quick Step) and Schleck in the sprint for the third step on the podium.

How it unfolded

With two ascensions of the Jaizkibel on the menu in the afternoon, the big hitters were always likely to keep their powder dry in the early exchanges, and there was a relatively tranquil start to proceedings in San Sebastian. After 12km, the day’s early break formed, with Irish champion Matt Brammeier (HTC-Highroad) forging clear in the company of Murilo Fischer (Garmin-Cervélo), Karsten Kroon (BMC), Klaas Lodewyck (Omega Pharma-Lotto), Eloy Ruiz (Andalucia Caja Rural) and Julian Sanchez Pimienta (Caja Rural).

The sextet enjoyed a smooth collaboration and stretched their lead to a maximum of 10 minutes over an unconcerned peloton before Euskaltel-Euskadi began to peg them back on the approach to the first climb of the Jaizkibel with 80km to race.

On the slopes of the climb, Brammeier and Ruiz lost contact, while the gap began to tumble behind, and by the time they tackled the Jaizkibel for the second time with 40km to go, Kroon and Fischer were the sole survivors and their lead was inside two minutes.

Samuel Sanchez was the first of the big favourites to show his hand with a searing attack on the Jaizkibel that brought him up to the leaders. Barredo was quick to follow, before a short acceleration from Gilbert saw a group of 15 riders form on the front approaching the summit. Another dig from Sanchez over the top saw him briefly sally clear with Devenyns and Vanendert, but the strength in depth of the group behind meant that they wouldn’t get far.

In spite of those pyrotechnics, the Jaizkibel did not prove as decisive as expected. After the sweeping descent, there were still no fewer than 30 riders at the head of the race, with Damiano Cunego the only notable absentee. The Italian was surprisingly dropped after his Lampre-ISD team had been prominent in chasing the early break and he never succeeded in getting back on.

Passing through Irun and sensing a certain disorganisation in the lead group, Stijn Devolder (Vacansoleil-DCM) punched clear with 24km to go, and he had 30 seconds in hand at the foot of the final climb, the short and sharp Arkale. The deceptively tough slopes would take their toll, however, and his gap shrank accordingly.

It was at this point that Gilbert played his first card, sending his teammate Vanendert up the road in the company of Haimar Zubeldia (RadioShack), which allowed him the luxury of sitting in the wheels while the chase arranged itself behind. Vanendert and Zubeldia crossed the summit of the climb in front, but they were reeled back in shortly afterwards thanks to the efforts of Sanchez and Rodriguez.

Their pursuit saw what would be the winning break come together over the top of the Arkale, as a 10-man group featuring Gilbert, Schleck and Van Avermaet formed on the descent. In the finale, it was Barredo who opted to risk all with a clever attack 7km from the line, and for a moment it appeared as though the canny Spaniard was going to capitalise on a lack of collaboration in a leading group replete with on-form big names.

The illusion quickly evaporated, however. With a little over 4km to go as the road began to rise slightly, Fränk Schleck turned and looked to Gilbert to contribute to the chase. Barely 500 metres later, the Belgian was alone in front and the race was over. As simple as that.

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Full Results
1Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto5:48:52
2Carlos Barredo Llamazales (Spa) Rabobank Cycling Team0:00:12
3Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing Team0:00:14
4Joaquím Rodríguez Oliver (Spa) Katusha TeamRow 3 - Cell 2
5Dries Devenyns (Bel) Quickstep Cycling TeamRow 4 - Cell 2
6Fränk Schleck (Lux) Leopard TrekRow 5 - Cell 2
7Haimar Zubeldia Agirre (Spa) Team RadioShackRow 6 - Cell 2
8Samuel Sanchez Gonzalez (Spa) Euskaltel-EuskadiRow 7 - Cell 2
9Rigoberto Uran Uran (Col) Sky ProcyclingRow 8 - Cell 2
10Jelle Vanendert (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto0:00:50
11Simon Gerrans (Aus) Sky Procycling0:02:05
12Simone Ponzi (Ita) Liquigas-CannondaleRow 11 - Cell 2
13Matti Breschel (Den) Rabobank Cycling TeamRow 12 - Cell 2
14Francesco Gavazzi (Ita) Lampre - ISDRow 13 - Cell 2
15Jose Joaquin Rojas Gil (Spa) Movistar TeamRow 14 - Cell 2
16Murilo Antonio Fischer (Bra) Team Garmin-CerveloRow 15 - Cell 2
17Juan Jose Cobo Acebo (Spa) Geox-TMCRow 16 - Cell 2
18Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Quickstep Cycling TeamRow 17 - Cell 2
19Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Team Garmin-CerveloRow 18 - Cell 2
20Mathias Frank (Swi) BMC Racing TeamRow 19 - Cell 2
21Manuele Mori (Ita) Lampre - ISDRow 20 - Cell 2
22Sébastien Minard (Fra) AG2R La MondialeRow 21 - Cell 2
23Nicolas Roche (Irl) AG2R La MondialeRow 22 - Cell 2
24Daniel Navarro Garcia (Spa) Saxo Bank SungardRow 23 - Cell 2
25Stijn Devolder (Bel) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling TeamRow 24 - Cell 2
26Eduard Vorganov (Rus) Katusha TeamRow 25 - Cell 2
27Rob Ruijgh (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling TeamRow 26 - Cell 2
28Daniel Moreno Fernandez (Spa) Katusha TeamRow 27 - Cell 2
29Luis Leon Sanchez Gil (Spa) Rabobank Cycling TeamRow 28 - Cell 2
30Linus Gerdemann (Ger) Leopard Trek0:02:08
31David Lopez Garcia (Spa) Movistar TeamRow 30 - Cell 2
32Vladimir Gusev (Rus) Katusha TeamRow 31 - Cell 2
33Denis Menchov (Rus) Geox-TMCRow 32 - Cell 2
34Ivan Basso (Ita) Liquigas-CannondaleRow 33 - Cell 2
35Jérôme Pineau (Fra) Quickstep Cycling Team0:02:36
36Michael Barry (Can) Sky Procycling0:04:16
37Gorazd Stangelj (Slo) Pro Team AstanaRow 36 - Cell 2
38Antonio Piedra Perez (Spa) Andalucia Caja GranadaRow 37 - Cell 2
39Joost Van Leijen (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling TeamRow 38 - Cell 2
40Laurens Ten Dam (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team0:04:27
41José Herrada Lopez (Spa) Caja Rural0:05:04
42Sergio Pardilla Belllón (Spa) Movistar Team0:05:31
43Markel Irizar Aranburu (Spa) Team RadioShack0:06:33
44Peter Velits (Svk) HTC-HighroadRow 43 - Cell 2
45Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre - ISDRow 44 - Cell 2
46Rafael Valls Ferri (Spa) Geox-TMCRow 45 - Cell 2
47Jesús Herrada Lopez (Spa) Movistar TeamRow 46 - Cell 2
48Leonardo Bertagnolli (Ita) Lampre - ISDRow 47 - Cell 2
49Vicente David Bernabeu Armengol (Spa) Andalucia Caja GranadaRow 48 - Cell 2
50Stefan Denifl (Aut) Leopard TrekRow 49 - Cell 2
51Fabricio Ferrari (Uru) Caja RuralRow 50 - Cell 2
52Xabier Zandio Echaide (Spa) Sky ProcyclingRow 51 - Cell 2
53Damiano Caruso (Ita) Liquigas-CannondaleRow 52 - Cell 2
54Paolo Tiralongo (Ita) Pro Team AstanaRow 53 - Cell 2
55Johann Tschopp (Swi) BMC Racing TeamRow 54 - Cell 2
56Yuriy Trofimov (Rus) Katusha TeamRow 55 - Cell 2
57Karsten Kroon (Ned) BMC Racing TeamRow 56 - Cell 2
58Imanol Erviti Ollo (Spa) Movistar Team0:09:08
59Josep Jufre Pou (Spa) Pro Team AstanaRow 58 - Cell 2
60Julian Dean (NZl) Team Garmin-CerveloRow 59 - Cell 2
61Ruben Perez Moreno (Spa) Euskaltel-EuskadiRow 60 - Cell 2
62Mirko Selvaggi (Ita) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling TeamRow 61 - Cell 2
63Rémy Di Gregorio (Fra) Pro Team AstanaRow 62 - Cell 2
64Fumiyuki Beppu (Jpn) Team RadioShackRow 63 - Cell 2
65Fabio Felline (Ita) Geox-TMCRow 64 - Cell 2
66Julien Loubet (Fra) AG2R La MondialeRow 65 - Cell 2
67Blel Kadri (Fra) AG2R La MondialeRow 66 - Cell 2
68Philip Deignan (Irl) Team RadioShackRow 67 - Cell 2
69Mikel Landa Meana (Spa) Euskaltel-EuskadiRow 68 - Cell 2
70Oscar Freire Gomez (Spa) Rabobank Cycling TeamRow 69 - Cell 2
71Adrián Palomares Villaplana (Spa) Andalucia Caja GranadaRow 70 - Cell 2
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Mountain 1 - Alto Orio - Zudugarai (Cat. 3) 19km
1Julian Sanchez Pimienta (Spa) Caja Rural3pts
2Matthew Brammeier (Irl) HTC-Highroad2Row 1 - Cell 3
3Murilo Antonio Fischer (Bra) Team Garmin-Cervelo1Row 2 - Cell 3
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Mountain 2 - Alto Garate (Cat. 2) 29.4km
1Eloy Ruiz Pinto (Spa) Andalucia Caja Granada6pts
2Julian Sanchez Pimienta (Spa) Caja Rural4Row 1 - Cell 3
3Karsten Kroon (Ned) BMC Racing Team2Row 2 - Cell 3
4Klaas Lodewyck (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto1Row 3 - Cell 3
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Mountain 3 - Alto de Jaizkibel (Cat. 1) 156.2km
1Julian Sanchez Pimienta (Spa) Caja Rural10pts
2Klaas Lodewyck (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto8Row 1 - Cell 3
3Murilo Antonio Fischer (Bra) Team Garmin-Cervelo6Row 2 - Cell 3
4Karsten Kroon (Ned) BMC Racing Team4Row 3 - Cell 3
5Eloy Ruiz Pinto (Spa) Andalucia Caja Granada2Row 4 - Cell 3
6Matthew Brammeier (Irl) HTC-Highroad1Row 5 - Cell 3
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Mountain 4 - Alto de Arkale (Cat. 2) 179km
1Julian Sanchez Pimienta (Spa) Caja Rural6pts
2Karsten Kroon (Ned) BMC Racing Team4Row 1 - Cell 3
3Murilo Antonio Fischer (Bra) Team Garmin-Cervelo2Row 2 - Cell 3
4Klaas Lodewyck (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto1Row 3 - Cell 3
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Mountain 5 - Alto de Jaizkibel (Cat. 1) 196.2km
1Samuel Sanchez Gonzalez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi10pts
2Jelle Vanendert (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto8Row 1 - Cell 3
3Dries Devenyns (Bel) Quickstep Cycling Team6Row 2 - Cell 3
4Fränk Schleck (Lux) Leopard Trek4Row 3 - Cell 3
5Mathias Frank (Swi) BMC Racing Team2Row 4 - Cell 3
6Eduard Vorganov (Rus) Katusha Team1Row 5 - Cell 3
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Mountain 6 - Alto de Arkale (Cat. 2) 219km
1Jelle Vanendert (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto6pts
2Haimar Zubeldia Agirre (Spa) Team RadioShack4Row 1 - Cell 3
3Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto2Row 2 - Cell 3
4Fränk Schleck (Lux) Leopard Trek1Row 3 - Cell 3
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Mountains classification
1Julian Sanchez Pimienta (Spa) Caja Rural23pts
2Jelle Vanendert (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto14Row 1 - Cell 3
3Samuel Sanchez Gonzalez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi10Row 2 - Cell 3
4Karsten Kroon (Ned) BMC Racing Team10Row 3 - Cell 3
5Klaas Lodewyck (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto10Row 4 - Cell 3
6Murilo Antonio Fischer (Bra) Team Garmin-Cervelo9Row 5 - Cell 3
7Eloy Ruiz Pinto (Spa) Andalucia Caja Granada8Row 6 - Cell 3
8Dries Devenyns (Bel) Quickstep Cycling Team6Row 7 - Cell 3
9Fränk Schleck (Lux) Leopard Trek5Row 8 - Cell 3
10Haimar Zubeldia Agirre (Spa) Team RadioShack4Row 9 - Cell 3
11Matthew Brammeier (Irl) HTC-Highroad3Row 10 - Cell 3
12Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto2Row 11 - Cell 3
13Mathias Frank (Swi) BMC Racing Team2Row 12 - Cell 3
14Eduard Vorganov (Rus) Katusha Team1Row 13 - Cell 3
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Sprint 1 - Azpeitia, 50km
1Matthew Brammeier (Irl) HTC-Highroad3pts
2Klaas Lodewyck (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto2Row 1 - Cell 3
3Eloy Ruiz Pinto (Spa) Andalucia Caja Granada1Row 2 - Cell 3
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Sprint 2 - Andoain, 116km
1Matthew Brammeier (Irl) HTC-Highroad3pts
2Murilo Antonio Fischer (Bra) Team Garmin-Cervelo2Row 1 - Cell 3
3Julian Sanchez Pimienta (Spa) Caja Rural1Row 2 - Cell 3
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Sprint 3 - Irun, 168.5km
1Karsten Kroon (Ned) BMC Racing Team3pts
2Julian Sanchez Pimienta (Spa) Caja Rural2Row 1 - Cell 3
3Murilo Antonio Fischer (Bra) Team Garmin-Cervelo1Row 2 - Cell 3
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Sprint 4 - Oiartzun, 183.4km
1Klaas Lodewyck (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto3pts
2Karsten Kroon (Ned) BMC Racing Team2Row 1 - Cell 3
3Murilo Antonio Fischer (Bra) Team Garmin-Cervelo1Row 2 - Cell 3
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Sprint 5 - Irun, 208.5km
1Stijn Devolder (Bel) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team3pts
2Daniel Moreno Fernandez (Spa) Katusha Team2Row 1 - Cell 3
3Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing Team1Row 2 - Cell 3
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Sprint 6 - Oiartzun, 223.4km
1Rigoberto Uran Uran (Col) Sky Procycling3pts
2Samuel Sanchez Gonzalez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi2Row 1 - Cell 3
3Fränk Schleck (Lux) Leopard Trek1Row 2 - Cell 3
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Sprint classification
1Matthew Brammeier (Irl) HTC-Highroad6pts
2Karsten Kroon (Ned) BMC Racing Team5Row 1 - Cell 3
3Klaas Lodewyck (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto5Row 2 - Cell 3
4Murilo Antonio Fischer (Bra) Team Garmin-Cervelo4Row 3 - Cell 3
5Rigoberto Uran Uran (Col) Sky Procycling3Row 4 - Cell 3
6Stijn Devolder (Bel) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team3Row 5 - Cell 3
7Julian Sanchez Pimienta (Spa) Caja Rural3Row 6 - Cell 3
8Samuel Sanchez Gonzalez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi2Row 7 - Cell 3
9Daniel Moreno Fernandez (Spa) Katusha Team2Row 8 - Cell 3
10Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing Team1Row 9 - Cell 3
11Fränk Schleck (Lux) Leopard Trek1Row 10 - Cell 3
12Eloy Ruiz Pinto (Spa) Andalucia Caja Granada1Row 11 - Cell 3
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Teams classification
1Rabobank Cycling Team17:30:58
2Katusha Team0:00:02
3Quickstep Cycling Team0:00:33
4Sky Procycling0:02:13
5Vacansoleil - DCM Pro Cycling Team0:04:04
6BMC Racing Team0:04:30
7Leopard Trek0:04:33
8Movistar Team0:05:22
9Lampre - ISD0:06:21
10Geox TMC0:06:24
11Liquigas - CannondaleRow 10 - Cell 2
12Team Garmin - Cervelo0:08:56
13AG2R - La MondialeRow 12 - Cell 2
14Team RadioShack0:11:33
15Euskaltel - Euskadi0:14:08
16Pro Team Astana0:15:35
17Andalucia - Caja GranadaRow 16 - Cell 2

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