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Sunday, July 30, 2023

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Clasica San Sebastian team reports

We posted the report from third-place Aleksandr Vlasov's Team Bora-hansgrohe with the results.

Here's the report from winner Remco Evenepoel's Team Soudal Quick-Step:

Remco Evenepoel kicked off his second half of the season in style, triumphing at the Clasica San Sebastian for the third time in three starts – a success that came just one week before Glasgow, where he’ll try to defend his rainbow jersey. It was Soudal Quick-Step’s fifth victory in Donostia, a performance not reached by any other team in the event’s 42-year history.

The World Champion made his move incredibly early, with a stunning 73 kilometers to go, on the Erlaitz climb. After his teammates applied pressure on the peloton while keeping the escapees’ gap in check, Remco accelerated and took with him just a handful of riders, together with whom he bridged across to the survivors of the breakaway. On Mendizorrotz, the penultimate ascent of the day, the Belgian increased the tempo and slimmed down the group to just three men.

Having only Pello Bilbao (Bahrain Victorious) and Aleksandr Vlasov (Bora-hansgrohe) for company, Evenepoel continued to take some really long pulls at the front, and the group started the frightening Murgil-Tontorra (2.1km, 10.1%) with a three-minute lead. One kilometer from the top, the 23-year-old upped the pace again and dropped Vlasov, making sure he would arrive on the famous Boulevard just with Bilbao.

Ignoring the stunning beauty of a packed but serene La Concha as he passed by it, Remco focused on his sprint, getting out of the Basque’s wheel with 200 meters to go and launching a tremendous acceleration which netted him his ninth victory since becoming World Champion last season in Australia and his third in Donostia, a feat not seen since the days of Marino Lejarreta, back in the ‘80s.

Remco Evenepoel in the peloton with some chow. Sirotti photo

“My team did a great job to keep everything under control and make the race hard, so with around 70 kilometers remaining I decided to go, even though that wasn’t the original plan. As I got a gap, I wanted to see if I could take some guys with me. I wanted an open race, and we got one, with a strong group in the front, where we worked well together. With each kilometer, we added to our gap and became more confident in our chances.”

“As you could see, a selection was made, and in the end, it was just Pello and myself arriving together on the Boulevard. I was confident in my sprint, I knew that I improved it especially after a hard race, and felt that I had the power needed to make the difference. Winning San Sebastian it’s just beautiful, I love this race and I’m happy I could tie the great Marino Lejaretta for the number of victories here. It’s a solid success that boosts my morale ahead of next week’s World Championships”, said Remco after his 46th pro win.

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Here's the report from second-place Pello Bilbao's Team Bahrain Victorious:

Pello Bilbao took second place at the Klasikoa San Sebastian on Saturday, in a tight sprint to the line with Belgian, Remco Evenpoel (Soudal-Quickstep). What a month it has been for Pello; finishing 6th at the Tour de France less than a week ago (including a stage win), and now just a single bike length behind the reigning Vuelta & World champion at ‘Donostia’.

Pello Bilbao finishes with Remco Evenepoel. Sirotti photo

On the final climb Bilbao and Evenpoel left their last rival, Aleksandr Vlasov (Bora), behind. After the descent of the Murgil Tontorra and 3kms of flat, the two were side by side with just a few metres remaining. Our Basque rider was in front, but Evenpoel came from behind to break Basque hearts.

73 kms from the finish, on the Erlaitz, the eventual top three went away with Alberto Bettiol (EF). Working well together they soon quashed any hopes the peloton had of winning the Txapela, despite a strong chasing group. When Remco increased the pace on the steepest and most daunting sections of Murgil, Vlasov couldn’t hold on, but Bahrain’s Bilbao would not be shaken off.

And so, with Basque fans goning wild for their local hero as the one day race came to a climax, Pello tried to follow when his rival jumped, but after 3 weeks of racing in France in his legs, he couldn’t quite take the top step of the podium. That notwithstanding, there is no doubt he is in the form of his life.


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Afterwards Bilbao reflected:
“The race was done from far. We know that Remco likes to move early, and we were prepared there for the steep climb in Erlaitz. After we made a small group, we collaborated in a good way. Remco was also giving everything. I tried to change the rhythm in the last steep climb, I went alone, but Remco had a bit more energy in the legs. He was fresher than me. I could feel this when he changed the pace in the last few kilometres. It was not possible to beat him in a sprint but anyway, I am proud of the work done in the last weeks, and it’s been a super intense and great experience.”

After the race, lead Sports director Neil Stephens commented:
“We are really happy with the result today. Right from the start, we knew it would be a hard day. We decided to go to work reasonably early with Jonathan Milan. Pello was great. He moved with the best riders at the time. Even Mikel Landa was there at the point. He was just about to go into that final move but from there on, he just played the protective role in the back, making sure that no dangerous moves went over where Pello was. Tactically Pello did a outstanding job. He reduced the lead group so that just two riders fought at the finish. Pello sprinted against probably one of the strongest bike riders in the world. 2nd place for us is a fantastic effort. We know we have given everything we have got. We walk away from here with no doubts, and we couldn’t have done anything more. I am super happy that Pello was able to run 2nd at Klásicoa San Sebastian, a World Tour race in his home country, the Basque Country. The team is super proud.”


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