The Clasica San Sebastian is usually held the Saturday after the finish of the Tour de France, generally the last weekend in July. It’s always well attended, particularly by local Basque fans, and engenders a fantastic atmosphere in the beautiful and historic San Sebastian, at the start of the Spanish holidays. Moved to mid-August to avoid the London 2012 Olympics, with the summer vacations well under way, San Sebastian is in full party mode with its famous music festival and global fireworks competition. The fans will be hoping for pyrotechnics on the road today and praying for a Basque winner or, at the very least, a Spanish one.
The procession of the riders via the sign-on to the team presentation was eagerly awaited by the rapidly swelling crowds and, in particular, the young souvenir and autograph hunters who were surely in competition to see who could claim the most trophies. The young poppet below collected one from every member of RadioShack – a result!
As to be anticipated, there was a rugby scrum around the recently crowned Olympic Champion, Astana’s Alexandre Vinokourov, who when questioned by the Spanish commentator Juan Mari responded in a mixture of Italian and French. It didn’t matter. The crowd understood that he was delighted to be riding once more in San Sebastian as it afforded him an opportunity to flash his new Olympic jersey(s). Here’s the one with the Olympic rings. [Pretty sure that's not IOC approved. Oh well, eh? - Ed.]
The second most popular guy – although he was resolutely trying to keep a low profile – was former Olympic champion Samu Sanchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi), now shorn of most of his bling although helpfully still wearing his gold and white helmet and shoes, plus his bike’s still sporting gold brake cables. Before the start he was having a chat with his Olympic successor about his recent hand injury acquired on stage eight of the Tour de France. You may recall he was cruelly felled by a teammate who’d been taken out by a picnic table. The heaving partisan crowd will be hoping he’s fully recovered.
Samu’s bling has migrated to the current holder, resplendent with a very special gold Specialized and not one but two shirts – here’s the second one – neither of which seemed to find favour with the UCI officials. View from the front:
Here’s the back view. Note it bears his name, London 2012 and the Kazakh eagle has been gilded!
Almost ready for the off, take your marks …
All too soon and the boys are on their way, racing 234km over an undulating parcours with barely a flat stretch [I understand you're speaking from bitter experience - Ed] until they’re racing back along the seafront to the finish.
All images are courtesy of my beloved Richard Whatley but rest assured he’s not giving up the day job!