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Donostia San Sebastian Klasikoa 2021 - Preview

Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar)
Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar) (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar) will travel directly from the Tokyo Olympic Games, after winning the silver medal in the road race on July 25 and the gold medal in the time trial on July 28, to compete at the Donostia San Sebastian Klasikoa held on July 31 in Spain. 

"I already had Donostia San Sebastian Klasikoa in my mind, yet wanted to wait until today to decide. It's one of the most beautiful races. Don't know how I'll deal with the jetlag, but I want to enjoy this!" Van Vleuten wrote in a post on Twitter Wednesday following her gold-medal performance in the time trial in Tokyo.

The women's one-day classic, held previously as a 1.Pro event, was a late addition to the Women's WorldTour calendar after the cancellation of the first edition of the Women's Itzulia stage race that was supposed to happen in May by the same organisers.

This is the third edition of Donostia San Sebastian Klasikoa, while the second edition was cancelled in 2020 due to COVID-19.  Organisers of the men's WorldTour Clásica Ciclista San Sebastián launched this as their inaugural women's race in 2019, won by Lucy Kennedy.

It is one of the hilliest one-day races on the calendar and well-suited to the pure climbers, particularly because of the climbs over Jaizkibel, Gurutze and finally, the brutally steep Murgil.

The event will resume the Women's WorldTour, currently led by Demi Vollering (SD Worx), who won Liège-Bastogne-Liège and La Course, however, her team is currently not on the start list. Van Vleuten is runner-up in the WorldTour standings followed by Marianne Vos (Jumbo-Visma) in third place.

Only six of the nine Women's WorldTeams will  take the start line on Saturday. In addition to SD Worx missing the race, Team DSM and Canyon-SRAM have also opted not  to sent teams. 

Who to watch

SAN SEBASTIAN SPAIN AUGUST 03 Podium Lucy Kennedy of Australia and Team MitcheltonScott Celebration Trophy during the 39th Clasica Ciclista San Sebastian 2019 Womens Race a 1267km stage from Portuexe San Sebastian to Alameda del Boulevard San Sebastian ehitzulia Klasikoa on August 03 2019 in San Sebastian Spain Photo by Amaia ZabaloGetty Images

Australian Lucy Kennedy won the inaugural event in 2019 (Image credit: Getty Images)

Annemiek van Vleuten will be the big favourite for the one-day race in Spain. She has a love of racing in the mountainous Basque Country and no doubt carries winning form into the race for her Spanish-based Movistar team, which is extra special as an event on home soil.

Lucy Kennedy returns with Team BikeExchange as the defending champion after winning the inaugural edition in 2019. The Australian's form will be somewhat unknown after a long recovery from a crash at Liège-Bastogne-Liège, where suffered fractures to her hand, collarbone and eye socket. She will line up with a strong team that includes Spain's Ane Santesteban and Janneke Ensing, who was second in 2019, are also strong climbers and contenders for the win.

Ruth Winder is also on the start list for the one-day race, after competing in the road race at the Olympic Games for the United States. She will be one of the strongest opportunists in the field and looking for a victory in San Sebastian for Trek-Segafredo before retiring at the end of the season.

Erica Magnaldi (Ceratizit-WNT Pro Cycling) will be one to watch after a 13th place overall at the Giro d'Italia Donne, she will have had some time to recover and train for the one-day race on hilly terrain that suits her well.

Spain's Eider Merino (A.R. Monex Women's Team) is one of the pure climbers in the bunch and will want to impress on home spoil. Formerly racing for Movistar, Merino has finished in the top 10 overall at the Giro d'Italia Donne (2018) and Emakumeen Bira (2019).

Tatiana Guderzo (Alè BTC Ljubljana), former world champion, has shown promising form this year finishing eighth overall at the Giro d'Italia Donne, second in the road race at the Italian Championships, and eighth overall at Tour de Suisse, making her a contender in Spain.

Évita Muzic (FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope) is the new French Champion. She is one of the big up-and-coming stars of the sport finishing third in the youth classification at the Giro d'Italia Donne and second in the youth classification at Vuelta a Burgos.

The route

Donostia San Sebastian Klasikoa 2021 - Map

Donostia San Sebastian Klasikoa 2021 - Map (Image credit: Donostia San Sebastian Klasikoa)

The women's peloton will tackle a challenging 139km race that starts and finishes in Donostia.

From the start the race heads to Orio, where a breakaway could form in the area of Aia, passing through the first category 3 climb of the day located at the 26.6km mark.

The race then heads toward the category 2 Jaizkibel climb, 7.5km at 5.6 per cent, that peaks at the 90km mark. This climb is decisive and could prove to be the main judge of the race.

The riders will then contest the back-to-back climbs, third-category Gurutze, 2.7km at 5.2 per cent, and second-category Murgil, which is only 2.1km but with slopes as steep as 20 per cent.

The last climb is followed by a fast and technical descent that gives way to the last four kilometres of flat roads into the finish line in Donostia.

Donostia San Sebastian Klasikoa 2021 Profile

Donostia San Sebastian Klasikoa 2021 - Profile (Image credit: Donostia San Sebastian Klasikoa)

What to expect

As is its men's WorldTour counterpart, Donostia San Sebastian Klasikoa is one of the most exciting one-day race of the late season.

SD Worx is currently not listed on the start list for the one-day race having had most of their riders on the team participating at the Olympic Games. Without the dominant Dutch team on hand to control the race, nor powerful top-tier teams Canyon-SRAM and Team DSM, this leaves the opportunity wide open for riders from other teams to take the win.

The field will still be strong with top teams FDJ, BikeExchange, Ale BTC Ljubljana, Movistar, Liv Racing and Trek-Segafredo, and that will make for a challenging race alongside 14 Continental teams in the event.

Due to the mountainous nature of the race, and the significant early-race climbs, one could anticipate a select early breakaway. However, the major deciding climbs come near the end of the race, and so watch for an explosion of attacks over the double ascents of the Gurutze.

Should a reduced front group remain somewhat intact ahead of the Murgil, this is the place where the race will be won and lost. It is notoriously steep with pitches at 20 per cent, and the perfect place for a pure climber to make a move. Any gap opening here is likely to hold on the technical descent into Donostia. 

Kirsten Frattini is an honours graduate of Kinesiology and Health Science from York University in Toronto, Canada. She has been involved in bike racing from the grassroots level to professional cycling's WorldTour. She has worked in both print and digital publishing, and started with Cyclingnews as a North American Correspondent in 2006. Moving into a Production Editor's role in 2014, she produces and publishes international race coverage for all cycling disciplines, edits news and writes features. Currently the Women's Editor at Cyclingnews, Kirsten coordinates global coverage of races, news, features and podcasts about women's professional cycling.

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