Spaniard Alejandro Valverde, riding for Caisse d’Epargne, won the San Sebastian classic race in Spain’s northern Basque region on Saturday in a pre-Olympic tune-up.
Valverde is one of the favourites for the men’s road race honours at the Beijing Games which finishes near the Great Wall on August 9, when he will be hoping to live up to his childhood nickname of ‘El Imbatido’ (the unbeaten one).
At the Games, Valverde will challenge Italy’s formidable reigning champion Paolo Bettini for gold and Saturday was an indication he is on form as he came through in a sprint finish to outlast Alexandr Kolobnev (CSC-Saxo Bank) and Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner) after the 239km contest.
Bettini (QuickStep) had to make do with fourth on the day as Valverde won out following a 40 rider-strong breakaway at the 55km mark which the Spaniard initially had to toil manfully to keep pace with.
With 47 riders battling it out in the final 100km, including Tour de France winner Carlos Sastre, the tough got going as they bore down on the Jaizkibel climb 20km out and the ensuing grind up the Arkale climb.
Frenchman David Moncoutie then tried what ultimately petered out as a premature attack as he could only finish tenth and Valverde went on to savour a victory which had escaped his grasp in coming third 12 months earlier in a race won by Leonardo Bertagnolli, absent this time out.
For complete results and photos, visit Cyclingnews.com.
© BikeRadar & AFP 2008