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!

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