Evenepoel solos to victory in Clásica San Sebastián

Remco Evenepoel (QuickStep-AlphaVinyl) showed his form ahead of next month’s La Vuelta España with a dominant display to win the Clásica San Sebastián.

The Belgian launched his winning move on the Erlaitz climb with 44 kilometres remaining, riding Simon Yates (Team BikeExchange-Jayco) off his wheel and soloing to victory.

Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl set up a winning attack by reeling in the day’s breakaway, allowing Evenepoel the chance to enforce his superiority on the race.

Pavel Sivakov (Ineos Grenadiers) placed second at just under two minutes down, while Tiesj Benoot (Jumbo-Visma) took the final podium spot at 2:31.

Tour de France runner-up Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) cracked with over 60 kilometres remaining on the climb of Jaizkibel as QuickStep drove the pace.

22-year-old Evenepoel came into the race from a training camp having not raced for a month and showed his form ahead of the Vuelta. It was the second time the Belgian has won Clásica San Sebastián after also winning in 2019 as a neo-pro.

Evenepoel looked comfortable as he tackled the steep Murgil climb in the final kilometres before descending into the finish and had time to enjoy the moment.

Ineos Grenadiers duo Sivakov and Carlos Rodríguez had led the chase behind but the latter fell back on the steep final climb of the Murgil. Sivakov held onto to second place while Benoot bridged across to Rodríguez on the Murgil from the remaining breakaway riders and finished third.

“I felt super good today,” said Evenepoel. “I felt fresh coming into the race today and what came out of my legs was the freshness. I felt really good and decided to speed it up on Jaizkibel which was the plan from before and it worked out. 

“When you make it hard from Jaizkibel on this course then it’s a long and hard final. To come here into San Sebastián was really hard because there was a headwind but I managed to keep my power quite high and I tried to keep my head as low as possible. It was amazing, I’m really happy with this victory. 

“It has been a long training camp and I was excited to start here. To finish off the work of the boys is just amazing.” 

How it unfolded 

The 41st Clásica San Sebastián consisted of 224 kilometres in the Basque country with 3,941 metres of climbing to test the legs of those fresh from the Tour de France, with steep climbs and unpredictable descents. 

The route consisted of six classified climbs, culminating with the second-category Murgil topping out with eight kilometres remaining before a fast descent into San Sebastien. 

Within six kilometres of the race starting, a group of eight riders went clear consisting of Theo Delacroix (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux), Manuele Boaro (Astana Qazaqstan Team), Ibai Azurmendi (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Oscar Cabedo (Burgos-BH), Fabien Grellier (Total Energies) and Eugenio Sanchez (Equipo Kern Pharma). Also amongst the leading group were Team DSM duo Casper Pedersen and Martijn Tusveld. 

Keen not to miss the day’s move, Jon Barrenetxea (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA) was chasing the leaders as they hit the slopes of the opening climb of Azkarate. After bridging across, he reached the summit of Azkarate first ahead of Cabedo and Sanchez. The trio were battling out the king of the mountains competitions and repeated the result at the summit of the 6.6-kilometre climb of Urraki. 

The third climb was the 4.5-kilometre challenge of Alkiza with the steepest slops of 7.6% but with a flatter section in the middle. Once again Barrenetxea was the quickest to the summit to add three more points to his tally in the king of the mountains competition. 

With 90 kilometres remaining the breakaway had a gap of one minutes and 27 seconds ahead of the bunch marshalled by UAE Team Emirates for Pogačar. 

After claiming maximum points on the first three king of the mountains climbs, Barrenetxea was the first of the nine-man breakaway caught by the peloton on the undulating terrain ahead of the next test of Jaizkibel. 

With QuickStep pulling the peloton for Evenepoel into the second-category climb of Jaizkibel, the fractured breakaway had their gap reduced. Using the climb as a launchpad for their attack were Azurmendi and Boaro. However, the relentless pace set by QuickStep quickly caught anybody jumping out of the bunch and eventually told for Pogačar, who was dropped. 

Last year’s runner-up Matej Mohoric (Bahrain-Victorious) showed his descending skills with 58 kilometres remaining, forcing a gap which QuickStep soon pulled back.  The challenge of UAE Team Emirates was dealt a further blow as João Almeida crashed on the descent as Mohoric forced the pace. 

James Knox drove the pace into the climb of Erlaitz for teammate Evenepoel, who launched his winning attack. Despite being followed by a host of riders only Yates could follow Evenepoel’s pace. However, the British rider was also under pressure and eventually fell away, leaving Evenepoel alone with 44 kilometres of racing remaining. 

The race behind was completely fractured and Yates was being chased by a group including Sivakov and Rodríguez along with Benoot. Over the top of the Erlaitz climb Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo) bridged across to the chasers ahead of the 15-kilometre snaking descent down to San Sebastián. 

The Ineos riders went search of the Belgian who had a lead of one minute while the remains of the bunch sat at two minutes. On the flat and wide roads towards Donostia, Evenepoel was tucked into an aerodynamic position one minute ahead of the Ineos pair.

The situation was the same as lone leader Evenepoel passed the finish in San Sebastián heading onto the finishing loop with 16 kilometres remaining including the tough Murgil ascent. Taking on the two-kilometre climb, the Belgian looked composed as he tackled the gradients of up to 17% and kept increasing his advantage. 

In the chasing group behind, Yates was also paying for his previous efforts and was dropped by Mollema and Benoot, who were 40 seconds behind the Ineos pair. 

Frenchman Sivakov eventually left struggling teammate Rodríguez on the steeper slopes of the Murgil to maintain his second position into the finish 1:58 behind Evenepoel, who had time to saviour his win. 

Benoot was the strongest of the chasing breakaway bridging across and then leaving Rodríguez on the steep climb and then descending alone to finish third 2:31 behind. 

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