Clásica San Sebastián 2014 preview – Ciclismo Internacional

Clásica San Sebastián 2014 preview

ByDavid Hunter

The Tour is over and we head to the Basque country for this excellent 1 day race. Back in 2010, the organisers decided to make the race harder, they introduced climbing the Jaizkibel and the Arkale, twice. This year, they’ve changed the route again. In an effort to show off their beautiful city they’ve added a finishing loop around the streets of San Sebastián. This is big news, as they’ve added a new climb, just 7km from the end of the race. Here’s the route.

ssNormally, the serious action is saved for the second climb of the Jaizkibel

jaizkibelThe cat 1 climb is 8km at 5.6%, but remove the last 2km and it’s 6km at 6.3%. It has a difficult start, easy middle and hard end. Not the most difficult climb, but it can blow the peloton apart, if done fast. We usually see a selection made on the second ascent. Last year Quintana attacked with Valverde to destroy the hopes of many. Tony Gallopin missed the initial attack, but was the last man to bridge to Valverde and co. In 2013, the winning move was made on the Arkale.


It’s 2.7km at 6.3%. Gallopin attacked on this climb and they didn’t manage to bring him back.

The change of route means that previous editions of the race mean nothing! After this climb the riders have around 15km before the final climb of the day, Bordako Tontorra.


It’s only 2.5km, but has an average gradient of 9% and multiple sections of 20%. This is a brilliant addition to the race.

There is only 7km remaining after this climb: 4km of descent and 3km of flat. Usually this would spell disaster for a lone break, but the peloton is going to be small and most teams will lack numbers. This means that a small gap is enough for a rider to stay away. The short, steep climb near the end of the race makes my mind wonder to the Ardennes Classics.

The big question is whether the race will be held all together until this point or will we see a selection on the Jaizkibel climb?

If the peloton approach the final climb together, then the riders who did well in the Ardennes will be successful here. We have 8 riders from the Amstel Gold top 10 here and 8 riders from the top 10 in Flèche Wallone. These riders are: Valverde, Martin, Mollema, Slagter, Vanendert, Albasini, Moreno, Gilbert, Gerrans, Geschke and Arashiro. Missing from that list but likely to feature here are Rodriguez, Sagan, Bardet and Stybar.

However, there is no guarantee that the race will be held together. We could still see attacks on the longer climbs to try and eliminate some of these punchy riders.

The other aspect to consider is rider preparation. Some riders come from the tour, others from Wallonie and some from altitude training. It’s always hard to predict how riders react to altitude training and this is a major consideration for Simon Geschke. He was very good in the Ardennes but will has body react in a positive way?

Of the non-tour riders, Stybar is in the best form. He, just about single handedly, helped Gianni Meersman to win the Tour de Wallonie. He easily closed down breaks and looks to be back to his best, after a disappointing first half of the season. His main issue will be the Jaizkibel, as he isn’t the best with longer climbs. Wary of his finishing speed, Movistar might go hard on the climb to try and eliminate him.

Most of the peloton will look towards Movistar. Valverde suffered in the final week of the tour, but we all know what a durable and resilient rider he is. He arrives with a strong team, who have been busy in the recent Spanish 1 day races. In particular, Igor Anton, Jonathan Castroviejo and Jose Herrada are looking very strong as they build towards the Vuelta. The Movistar team are capable of holding the race together, in anticipation of the final climb. They should find themselves with some help from Orica and Katusha.

I also have to consider the possibility of the race following history. If that is the case I like the look of Nico Roche and Greg Van Avermaet. Both riders know this race very well and both are in good form. Van Avermaet was climbing very well in the Tour and should cope with all the climbs. He’s a fast finisher and has a good record in the 1 day Classic races, this season, finishing 2nd in Omloop and Flanders.

Roche was brilliant here in 2013, dedicating his ride to Roman Kreuziger. He will be team leader and his climbing and descending skills are good enough to make him a major threat, if the peloton is greatly reduced.

The size of the peloton, after the 2nd climb of the Jaizkibel, will dictate what type of race we get.

An interesting addition to the race is Peter Sagan, but what Sagan will we get? He doesn’t usually do well, post Tour. In 2013 he did the London Classic, but was a DNF and in 2012 he was 34th in the Olympic Road Race. If he couldn’t win a stage in the Tour, I don’t see him winning here, but he is considered the favourite with the bookmakers.

Gianni Meersman is also in form, fresh from winning the Tour de Wallonie. He was 3rd here in 2012, but the new climb means he won’t feature at the end.

And what about our reigning champion, Tony Gallopin? I doubt we’ll see him winning again and he doesn’t even seem like Lotto’s 1st or 2nd option, I think they’ll look to Vanendert and Wellens.

Gilbert would normally be a contender with this finish but he’s recently been ill, so I’ve discounted him.

Prediction time…

I see it coming down to a battle between Valverde and Gerrans. When Valverde won the race in 2008, he had just finished 8th in the Tour and 34th in the final TT. This year he was 4th in the Tour and 28th in the final TT! Gerrans was pulled from the race before stage 17, with one eye on this race. He’ll be fresher than the Spaniard and I think this tips it his way. That being said, Gerrans could be vulnerable of the Jaizkibel climb, so expect Movistar to try and distance him.

So Gerrans to win from Valverde, but danger riders are Vanendert, Van Avermaet, Roche and Stybar. This is because Vanendert was excellent in the Ardennes and this race is a big focus for him. Stybar is clearly in form and a very fast finisher. Van Avermaet and Roche are in form and both have previous form in this race.

David Hunter

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