Clásica de San Sebastián 2018 Preview – Ciclismo Internacional

Clásica de San Sebastián 2018 Preview

By David Hunter

Have you missed me? After enjoying a nice vacation, I’m back in the preview chair and ready to roll. First up is one of the favourite races, in one of my favourite places. If you love steep climbs, this is the race for you. The organisers have stuck with the traditional route as it’s a beauty.

We have over 4000m of climbing and a mythical climb too. The Jazkibel is one that many cycle-tourists have done, it is a real beauty. In terms of the race, the riders have to climb it twice, but the final ascent crests with over 50km to go, making it too early for big attacks. The outcome of the race is determined by the final climb, Alto de Murgil.

The climb is 2.8km at 7.6%, which doesn’t sound that hard, but it is. The hill has a few sections of 20% and it blows the legs to pieces. The road is narrow and the fans are very close to the riders, especially as you near the crest. Since being introduced into the race in 2016, this is where the race finds out who has the legs. Once over the top we still have 8km remaining, which usually helps a few riders come back to the head of the race. In 2016 Mollema went solo from the false flat at the top, last year Kwiatkowski won from a small group.

Tour Legs

I don’t want to bore long term readers, but this has to be mentioned. Riders coming from a three week block at the Tour have a huge advantage over the rest. Some of these riders will not have recovered sufficiently, but others will still be flying and the winner of the race will come from this group.

Weather

A glorious day for the peloton.

Contenders

Julian Alaphilippe – two stages wins and the polka-dot jersey, Alaphilippe leaves the Tour as one of the big winners. The likeable Frenchman has won more races in 2018 than the rest of his pro career, he is really starting to come of age. He loves riding in the Basque Country, the punchy roads are well suited to him. QuickStep arrive with a mixed team, they have some experience but they also give an opportunity to some of their younger riders. If Alaphilippe can be delivered into the right position, he will be a very hard man to beat. He can climb, descend and sprint, the perfect mix for this race.

Mikel Landa – his home race. If it finished at the top of the final climb, he’d win. The following descent is bad news for Landa, making it very difficult for him. To win this race, Landa needs around 20 seconds at the top of the climb, that will be very hard to achieve.

Bauke Mollema – the Trek man has a good record in this race, winning in 2016 and finishing 3rd in 2017. The Dutch climber didn’t have a great Tour, mainly due to a crash on the cobbles. He then switched his attention to stages, but his best result was 3rd in Carcassonne. Riders love coming back to races where they have been successful, it gives them an immediate confidence boost. Due to a lack of a sprint, Mollema knows he needs to gap his rivals, a move he pulled of in 2016. Can he do something similar this year?

Dan Martin – I’m really pleased to see the Irishman on the startlist. He is a fantastic one day racer and will love the route. After a strong performance in the Tour de France, he starts the race as one of the favourites. He climbs well and has a fast sprint, but the presence of Alaphilippe will worry him. His sprint is faster than the vast majority of climbers, but not the Frenchman. If Martin is going to win this race, he needs to drop Alaphilippe on the climb.

Steven Kruijswijk – not normally a man you’d associate with a one day race. Those feelings have to be put to one side, as big Stevie ended the Tour in brilliant form. There is a good chance of him making the front group, but it’s highly unlikely he’ll win.

Greg Van Avermaet – it seems that the change of route in 2016 made this race too hard for him. The final climb is just a little bit too long and steep for him to challenge the climbers.

Gorka Izagirre – another rider who’s racing at home. Gorka is enjoying a brilliant season and he is the proud owner of the Spanish national jersey. Both he and his brother are very strong riders and they’ll hope to be challenging for the win.

Egan Bernal – his performance in the Tour was extraordinary. We all know what a talent he is, but he reached a new level in France. On paper this is a good race for him, but given his age, I must think that fatigue will have a big impact. If he has somehow got anything left in the tank, he will be a worry to the other riders.

Michael Matthews – had to quit the Tour due to illness. Given what I’ve said about Tour riders having an advantage, I can’t see him challenging for the win. He would have to be on top form to win this race.

Tim Wellens – just won the Tour de Wallonie, but this race is a different level. He route does suit him, but he’ll find it very hard against the Tour de France riders.

Prediction Time

Given the way he was riding in the Tour, I’ve got to pick Julian Alaphilippe.

David Hunter

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