Remco Evenepoel ended his (first) year in the rainbow bands with a record-equalling third victory at Clásica San Sebastián by beating Pello Bilbao (Bahrain-Victorious) in a two-up sprint. The young Belgian attacked the peloton on the longest climb of the day with 70 kilometres left to race, taking a small group with him including Bilbao and Aleksandr Vlasov, and it proved the decisive move of the day.
- It took a while for a breakaway to establish itself, Romain Bardet (DSM-Firmenich) eventually forming part of the five-man move two weeks after crashing out of the Tour de France, along with Franck Bonnamour (AG2R-Citroën), Julien Bernard (Lidl-Trek), Nathan van Hooydonck (Jumbo-Visma) and local hero Mikel Iturria (Euskaltel-Euskadi). Theirs was not a hopeful mission though, their gap edging towards five minutes at its maximum, but already coming down at around the half-way point.
- It all started to kick off on the Erlaitz climb, the only first-category ascent of the race at 4 km long and with a 10.3 percent average gradient. With only Bardet and Van Hooydonck hanging onto a slim lead from the early break, Remco Evenepoel made his inevitable characteristic acceleration near the top of the climb. He was joined by Aleksandr Vlasov (Bora-Hansgrohe), Alberto Bettiol (EF Education-EasyPost), and Pello Bilbao (Bahrain Victorious), and this elite quartet joined the leaders with 70 km to go.
- The pace set by Evenepoel on the penultimate climb reduced the lead group to three with 40 km to go, Bardet and Van Hooydonck paying for earlier efforts, and Bettiol struggling on the steeper gradients. There were attempts to bridge from the reduced peloton – notably from Tour de France stage winner Felix Gall – but the organisation and commitment was far from sufficient to make a dent in the gap.
- The leading trio started the final climb, the second-category Murgil (2.1 km at 9.9%), with a massive advantage exceeding three minutes, and between them Evenepoel and Bilbao dropped Vlasov to begin the descent about 20 seconds ahead of the Bora-Hansgrohe man, and the pair worked together all the way to the line.
- Evenepoel showed the sort of form and tactics he’ll need in order to successfully defend his World Championship title in Glasgow next weekend. With such a technical city-centre circuit in the latter part of the Worlds parcours, there’s a good chance that an early attacker will be rewarded with eventual victory, perhaps even tempting a small group clear before the race hits the finishing laps. It looks like San Sebastián was a successful dress rehearsal for the defending champion.
- Typically, riders who do well at World Championships are coming off the Vuelta España. But with “Super Worlds” over a month earlier than its usual post-Vuelta spot, the Tour de France is taking that role, and riders who were active at the Tour were also at the front today, including stage 10 winner Bilbao – the only rider to follow Evenepoel on the Murgil – and former San Sebastián winner Neilson Powless, who held the KOM jersey for much of the first two weeks.
Stat of the day
With his San Sebastián win, Evenepoel has not lost a one-day WorldTour or World Championship road race in a year. That’s right: since his 2022 San Sebastián victory, Evenepoel has won Road Worlds, Liege-Bastogne-Liege, the Belgian national road title, and now San Sebastián again.
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