Clasica San Sebastian 2012 podium l to r Gerrans, Sanchez and Meersman

Clasica San Sebastian review

Luis Leon Sanchez (Rabobank) timed his escape to perfection on the second descent of the Alto de Arkale and time-trialled the final ten kilometres to solo across the line and record his second victory in three years in the Clasica San Sebastian. His seventh win of arguably his best season and some consolation for his bad karma in the London Olympics. He dedicated the win, as always, to his deceased brother. LuisLe also picked up the points prize and was adjudged the classiest rider. Fitting given how good he looks in the large black floppy Basque beret sported by the winner.

The thundering herd, seven seconds down, were led home by Milan-San Remo winner Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEDGE) and Gianni Meersman (Lotto-Belisol) who rounded out the podium. Adrian Palomares (Andalucia) won the sprint prize, Tomasz Marczynski (Vacansoleil-DCM) won the mountains prize (presented by Miguel Indurain), Igor Anton was best placed Basque and Gorka Izagirre adjudged most combative rider (both Euskaltel-Euskadi). Most sympathetic rider was Juan Manuel Garate (Rabobank), Rabobank won the team prize and Haimar Zubeldia (RadioShack-Nissan) was given a special prize for six consecutive race appearances. [They’re making this up as they go along, right? – Ed]

Clasica San Sebastian 2012 podium l to r Gerrans, Sanchez and Meersman

Clasica San Sebastian 2012 podium (l to r) Gerrans, Sanchez and Meersman (image courtesy of Suzi Goetze)

At the post-race press conference, everyone’s favourite Kazakh Alexandre Vinokourov (Astana) announced that the Clasica had indeed been his last competitive race. He was hanging up his cleats for good this time but had wanted to ride this year to thank his family and friends for their support after his terrible 2011 Tour de France crash and to leave the professional peloton on a high. I think an Olympic gold medal’s a pretty good high!

Flurries of attacks

The sun was shining, the spectators gave everyone a rapturous reception in anticipation of a day of exciting racing and they weren’t disappointed. The riding in the first hour was pretty fast and furious  – 45.2kph – fuelled possibly by the enthusiastic support from the road-side or more probably from the desire of many to get into the day’s break. The first one after 8km containing, among others, local boys Xabier Zandio (Sky), Juan Manuel Garate (Rabobank) and Markel Irizar (RadioShack-Nissan) was pegged back, allowing David De La Fuente (Caja Rural) and Nairo Quintano (Movistar) to join them. This grouping fell foul of the peloton and was pulled back after 19km on the first climb, the Alto de Orio.

Quintano and Zandio gave it another go, to be joined by Adrian Palomares (Andalucia), Jose Sarmiento (Liquigas-Cannondale) and Javier Aramendia (Caja Rural) over the day’s second classified climb, Alto de Garate. The duo of Palomares and Aramendia pushed on alone and they quickly built a lead of almost 11:45 before Katusha took charge of the peloton and started to reel them back in.

Quintana, Sarmiento and Palomares

Quintana, Sarmiento and Palomares (image courtesy of Suzi Goetze)

Other teams lent a helping hand and by the fourth hour of racing under a scorching sun the average speed was well below 40kph. The duo were taken back on the first ascent of the Alto de Jaizkibel, thickly thronged with fanatical Basque fans. Eros Capecchi (Liquigas-Cannondale) broke free of the bunch with future teammate Quintana (Movistar). They were quickly joined by Vacansoleil’s Tomasz Marczynski, but again they couldn’t make it stick. Next to try was Tiziano Dall’Antonio (Liquigas-Cannondale). Marczynski went with him but they were denied by Astana while Movistar neutralised the next move from Rigoberto Uran (Sky) and Sergio Paulihno (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank).

Defining race moves

In truth, no breaks were properly established until Marczynski and teammate Rafa Valls (Vacansoleil-DCM), Gorka Izagirre (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Rafal Majka (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank) and Sergio Henao (Sky) escaped over the top of the Alto de Jaizkibel for the second time with under 40km remaining. Henao then attacked on his own at the summit of the Alto de Arkale but Joaquim Rodriguez and his Katusha team went on the offensive, pulling most of the leading contenders with him. What remained of the peloton caught this group on the descent and it was then that Sanchez, who’d been marking all the moves, saw his opportunity and seized it with both hands while teammate Bauke Mollema hindered the chase.

Peloton on the Jaizkibel Arkale circuit

Peloton on the Jaizkibel Arkale circuit (image courtesy of Suzi Goetze)

With Sanchez in full-on time trial mode, he maintained a stable advantage – never much more than ten seconds, but never much less either – while the chasers looked to each other. By the finish his margin of victory was sufficient to allow him to celebrate well before crossing the line to the accolades of the crowd, while behind him Gerrans won the bunch sprint for the honour of taking the second step on the podium. It was certainly a popular win.

Closing thoughts

While neither Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank) nor Chris Froome (Sky) participated in the race, it would be fair to say that their key teammates and their leading contenders for the Vuelta crown are in fine fettle. Indeed all the teams will be heading over to Pamplona this evening for the preliminaries, including Friday’s team presentation. Let battle commence.

What happened to Sammy? He was atypically low-key at the start, making it quite clear that Anton was their protected rider. Work done, he rode back into town before the final circuit. But there’s also good news in that he’s re-signed with the Basque team for a further three years.

Race result

1. Luis Leon Sanchez (Rabobank) 5:55:34

2. Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEDGE) +0:07

3. Gianni Meersman (Lotto-Belisol) same time

4. Christophe Le Mevel (Garmin-Sharo) s/t

5. Bauke Mollema (Rabobank) s/t

6. Mauro Santambrogio (BMC) s/t

7. Mads Christensen (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank) s/t

8. Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) s/t

9. Xavier Florencio (Katusha) s/t

10. Diego Ulissi (Lampre-ISD) s/t

All images courtesy of Susi Goetze who we’ll be chatting to in our VeloEye Friday Feature.

Links: Behind the barricades: images from the startPreviewOfficial website

Behind the barricades: The start of the Clasica San Sebastian

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.

Clasica San Sebastian 2012 Orica-GreenEDGE

Clasica San Sebastian 2012: Orica-GreenEDGE’s Simon Clarke’s run out of new kit!

Clasica San Sebastian 2012 Team Sky: The long and the short of it!

Clasica San Sebastian 2012 Team Sky: The long and the short of it!

Clasica San Sebastian 2012 FDJ-BigMat: Blindingly white kit

Clasica San Sebastian 2012 FDJ-BigMat: Blindingly white kit and matching socks!

Clasica San Sebastian 2012: Garmin Sharp including fellow-Brummer Dan Martin

Clasica San Sebastian 2012: Garmin-Sharp including fellow Brummie Dan Martin 2nd from right

Clasica San Sebastian 2012 Team Lampre-ISD: Il piccolo principe - Damiano Cunego - far right

Clasica San Sebastian 2012 Team Lampre-ISD: Il piccolo principe – Damiano Cunego – far right

Clasica San Sebastian 2012 Euskaltel-Euskadi: Yes, he's back it's Sheree's favourite Samu Sanchez

Clasica San Sebastian 2012 Euskaltel-Euskadi: Yes, he’s back it’s Sheree’s favourite Samu Sanchez with his hand in the air

Clasica San Sebastian 2012: what's the 2010 champion LL Cool J Sanchez showing to Laurens Caveman Ten Dam?

Clasica San Sebastian 2012: what’s 2010 champion LL Cool J Sanchez showing to Laurens Caveman Ten Dam?

Clasica San Sebastian 2012: friend of VeloVoices BMC's Amael Moinard on far right

Clasica San Sebastian 2012: friend of VeloVoices BMC’s Amael Moinard on far right

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!

Clasica San Sebastian 2012: RadioShack's Hayden Ralston signs autographs for young fans

Clasica San Sebastian 2012: RadioShack’s Hayden Roulston signs autographs for young fans

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.]

Clasica San Sebastian 2012 Inigo, Alex and Juan Mari

Clasica San Sebastian 2012 Inigo, Alex and Juan Mari

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.

Clasica San Sebastian 2012: Current and former Olympic road race champions

Clasica San Sebastian 2012: Current and former Olympic road race champions

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:

Clasica San Sebastian 2012: UCI officials calculating the size of Alex's fine for a non-approved shirt

Clasica San Sebastian 2012: UCI officials calculating the size of Alex’s fine for a non-approved shirt

Here’s the back view. Note it bears his name, London 2012 and the Kazakh eagle has been gilded!

Clasica San Sebastian 2012: Alex's blinged up shirt

Clasica San Sebastian 2012: Alex’s blinged up shirt

Almost ready for the off, take your marks …

Clasica San Sebastian 21012: a chance to catch up before the start

Clasica San Sebastian 21012: a chance to catch up before the start

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.

Clasica San Sebastian 2012: trying to get rid of those pesky silly tan lines!

Clasica San Sebastian 2012: trying to get rid of those pesky silly tan lines!

All images are courtesy of my beloved Richard Whatley but rest assured he’s not giving up the day job!

Links: PreviewOfficial website

Vuelta a España preview: Teams and sponsors (part 1)

The 67th edition of the Vuelta a España, the last of the year’s three Grand Tours, kicks off on Saturday 18th August with a team time trial in Pamplona, following the route used for the famous running of the bulls. There are 198 riders representing the 18 WorldTour teams and four wild-card Pro Continental teams set to take to the start line for 3,300km of riding, largely in Northern Spain, taking in 37 mountains.

Many fans will be familiar with the main riders in the peloton, but have you ever wondered about the mysterious sponsors whose names are plastered all over every available square inch of the riders and their equipment? If so, here’s the first of a two-part overview of the 22 teams, their title sponsors and main protagonists. While many of the peloton’s high-ranking riders have secured contracts for next season, there will also be large numbers counting on a good Vuelta performance to increase their chances of full-time employment next season.

All team line-ups are, of course, subject to change in the final few days before the race starts, but are accurate to the best of our knowledge at the time of writing. Part two follows tomorrow.

AG2R La Mondiale

Sponsor: A French life insurance and pension provider.

Overview:  AG2R go into the tour with their usual multi-pronged attack comprising Nicolas Roche and John Gadret, both probably hoping for a top ten finish. They will be supported by Christophe Riblon and former maillot jaune wearer Rinaldo Nocentini. Given that Roche is off to pastures new (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank) next season, it’ll be interesting to see whether he or Gadret gets better supported. They also have riders such as Maxime Bouet and Blel Kadri to grab valuable airtime in breakaways plus Lloyd Mondory and Sylvain Georges to mix it up in the sprints.


Sponsor: The Spanish region of the same name.

Overview:  As a wild-card selection, this team knows it’ll be expected to animate the race even though it’s not going anywhere near Andalucia. Regular Vuelta watchers will be familiar with the names of Adrian Palomares, Jesus Rosendo and Juan Jose Lobato, who tend to ply their trade on the more mountainous stages and may even make a bid for the King of the Mountains jersey in the early stages. They are unlikely to figure either in a stage win or the general classification.


Sponsor: An independent Dutch oil company and a Japanese manufacturer of bike parts and accessories.

Overview: After a disappointing Tour where all their eggs were in one basket, the team is hedging its bets in the Vuelta. They have sprinter John Degenkolb for the six flat stages, Simon Geschke for the 40km individual time trial and want-away Frenchman Alexandre Geniez for the general classification, solidly supported by the experienced Koen de Koert. Again, as a wild-card entry they’ll be looking to provide ample justification to the organisers for their selection and, with a nod to their Far Eastern sponsors, they’ve selected Ji Cheng and, possibly, Yukihiro Doi.


Sponsor: A Kazakh business consortium.

Overview: Astana will be looking to add to their promising 2012 and perhaps erase their poor performance in last year’s Vuelta where their highlight was a second place on the penultimate stage [allegedly fuelled by Sheree’s home-made banana and chocolate cakes – Ed]. To be fair Fredrik Kessiakoff had been lying fifth on GC before tummy troubles laid him low. After his joust for the King of the Mountains jersey in this year’s Tour, expect him to again challenge for the general classification. In support he’ll have Tour of Turkey runner-up Alexandr Dyachenko, Andrey Kashechkin, who was third in the 2006 Vuelta, and Amstel Gold winner Enrico Gasparotto.


Sponsor: A Swiss bicycle manufacturer.

Overview: Looking at the squad composition, I’d say BMC will be looking for stage wins and fine-tuning ahead of the World Championships in Valkenburg, to be held on essentially the Amstel Gold course. In particular, they’ll be hoping that Philippe Gilbert can rediscover his mojo. The team includes Brent Bookwalter, Alessandro Ballan and Amael Moinard, a top 20 finisher in the Vuelta. We could be wrong, but we’re saying just don’t expect too much from this team.

Caja Rural

Sponsor: A northern Spanish savings bank.

Overview: As another of the wild-card entries, Caja Rural appreciate that their role is to animate the race by getting into breaks and grabbing plenty of on-air exposure for their sponsor. However, they do have some experienced riders who’ll be looking to maybe win a stage or feature in the chase for KoM points. Look out for David de la Fuente, national Bulgarian champion Danail Petrov – third in the Tour of Turkey– ex-RadioShacker Manuel Cardoso, the Portuguese national champion and no relation to the other Cardoso on the team, Andre. [So, no cycling families story there, then – Ed.]

Cofidis – Le Credit en ligne

Sponsor: A French credit company.

Overview:The team will be mounting a stout defence of David Moncoutie‘s King of the Mountains jersey, which he’s won four times in succession. He’s hoping to win it for a record-breaking fifth time in what is highly likely to be his last year as a professional rider. Cofidis do business in Spain so expect Moncoutie’s teammates, such as job-hunting Mickael Buffaz and Luis Angel Mate, to be figuring in escapes and looking for opportunities to grab airtime for their sponsor. Leonardo Duque will be hoping to score points in the sprints.


Sponsors: A Basque telecoms provider and regional development agency.

Overview: They may have secured funding for the next three years but the team need to bag more UCI points to keep their place in the WorldTour. Euskaltel-Euskadi’s leader for the Vuelta will once again be Igor Anton who, with few time-trialling kilometres and plenty of mountain-top finishes, must surely believe that this time he’ll climb atop the podium, particularly given all the stages in his stomping grounds. He’ll be looking to replicate his 2010 form but, this time, avoid crashing out. He’ll start slightly on the back-foot after the team time trial, not one of the team’s competencies, but he’s got solid support around him including experienced hand Amets Txurruka and climbing sensation Mikel Landa. Typically we can expect to see those orange jerseys to the fore every time the road heads skywards and particularly where they’ll have their usual fanatical support.


Sponsors: The French national lottery and a chain of independent builders’ merchants.

Overview: Having missed the Tour due to health issues, Arnold Jeannesson, riding in his first Vuelta, will be looking to at least replicate his 2011 Tour position (14th) or top perhaps the recent Tour success of teammate Thibaut Pinot –  a stage win and top ten on GC. The team also includes the French national road race champion and one of their key sprinters, Nacer Bouhanni, who has a number of wins to his name this season. Plus there’s strong, experienced  support in the form of Remi Pauriol and William Bonnet.

Garmin-Sharp (formerly Garmin-Barracuda)

Sponsors: A US-based multinational manufacturer of GPS systems and a Japanese technology provider.

Overview: Christophe Le Mevel will be looking to secure his future with an improvement on his 2010 15th place but he may well have to play second fiddle to recent Tour de l’Ain winner Andrew Talansky. We can expect the team to perform well as usual in the opening team time trial. They’ve got sprinters Koldo Fernandez and Murilo Fischer while most of their other riders such as Johan Van Summeren are better suited to the Classics than the high mountains. It looks as if the team leader will have his work cut out.


Sponsor: A Russian business conglomerate.

Overview: Giro runner-up  Joaquim Rodriguez will be hoping he can make the step up on a course better suited to his capabilities: more steep inclines, less time-trialling. He’ll have his Vuelta a Burgos winning wingman Dani Moreno to support him along with double Vuelta winner Denis Menchov, Alberto Losado and Xavier Florencio. Expect to see a number of their Russians heading up the road in breakaways and then, in the dying kilometres, time-trialling away from their companions only to be recaptured by the peloton before the finish line.

Tomorrow we’ll take a look at the remaining eleven teams, from Lampre-ISD to Vacansoleil-DCM.

Link: Vuelta a Espana official website