After a three month hiatus, the one day classics recommence with the Clasica San Sebastian in Spain on Saturday, August 4th. The 225km race is in its 27th edition this year, and typically attracts a number of tired Tour de France riders going up against the fresher one day specialists.
Last year the race finished in a 52 rider bunch sprint, with Xavier Florencio (Bouygues Telecom) scoring a surprise victory over Stefano Garzelli and Andrey Kashechkin. A mass sprint is uncommon in this race, as the Alto de Jaizkibel at 32km to go usually splits the field into small groups. But if the pace isn't high enough on the climb, then chasers can rejoin the front riders. Last year, Carlos Sastre, Iban Mayo and Denis Menchov managed to get away over the top, but were caught with 5km to go.
The start list for this year has Florencio as number one, and he'll be supported by six of his Bouygues Telecom teammates, nearly all of whom rode the Tour de France. Bouygues would be delighted with a second consecutive victory, but their chances are slim.
ProTour leader Danilo Di Luca is captain of the Liquigas squad, and will be hungry for more points to keep his position at the top of the ProTour table. Team CSC has Carlos Sastre, fourth overall in the Tour, joined by the Schleck brothers Fränk and Andy, along with Bobby Julich and Iñigo Cuesta.
Saunier Duval did manage to win this race twice in a row in 2004 and 2005, but neither of those winners are racing for the yellow and black team this time. Instead, they will look to the younger talents Riccardo Riccò and José Angel Gomez Marchante. Caisse d'Epargne's Alejandro Valverde could pull something off, provided the Tour hasn't taken too much out of him,
Besides Florencio, the only other past winner competing on Saturday is Davide Rebellin, winner in 1997. He will captain the Gerolsteiner squad, with the Zberg brothers Beat and Markus providing their experienced support. Home team Euskaltel-Euskadi have pulled out all the stops with Tour stars Haimar Zubeldia and Mikel Astarloza joining their classics specialist Samuel Sánchez.
From the French perspective, watch for Sandy Casar (Française des Jeux) and Sylvain Chavanel (Cofidis), while Qinghai Lake stage winner Allan Davis (Discovery Channel) and Damiano Cunego (Lampre) could also get up there in a medium sized bunch sprint.
© BikeRadar 2007