The Clásica Sab Sebastian takes place tomorrow. The Basque race is a spikey affair that doesn’t really fit in with any other race on the cycling calendar. It takes place in Gipuzkoa at the very top of Spain and can be quite beautiful if the weather holds. It’s a quirky but popular one day race – a young Lance Armstrong’s favourite post-Tour jaunt – and this year will host a farewell to Haimar Zubeldia.
It’s finely balanced between an Ardennes revival and a chance for the serious climbers to have some fun following the Tour de France. There’s so many big names to consider but here’s a few that have caught my eye.
I’m very much from the school of thought that the Tour de France riders go well at San Sebastian. The gap between leaving Paris and touching down in the Basque country is kind but not so long that form will go out of the window. The strong climbers will look to go solo whilst the faster finishers may be content with a small group forming on one of the final two climbs. Bauke Mollema proved you don’t necessarily need a fast kick to win San Sebastian but my preference would still go to riders who may have a chance in a group finish.
The Winner – Greg Van Avermaet @ 11/2
I was disappointed to see Greg Van Avermaet at such a short price considering the last few editions have been contested by genuine climbers. I was hoping to pick up the star of the spring season at a far greater price than the one offered by Bet365 upon opening the market. Nevertheless, Van Avermaet is supremely talented and has gone well at San Sebastian before. I don’t think I could cope with a situation where I load my picks up with Tour de France heavyweight climbers only for GVA to swoop in and outsprint them all.
The Contender – Warren Barguil @ 16/1
As soon as Warren Barguil pulled on his final polka dot jersey on a Paris podium I took to the internet to search early prices for San Sebastian. He was flying in the final week and made major steps towards convincing me he would have a big future. He placed 10th in the Tour de France but I’m still not convinced of his GC potential. His aggressive style and competitive sprint are far more suited for stage/classic wins and I don’t expect his form to have disintegrated just yet. The way he rode the Tour ticks many boxes for a big San Sebastian result.
I can’t believe I’m talking up Barguil instead of his teammate and my favourite rider Tom Dumoulin… but you can’t ignore the difference in recent form!
The Outsider – Alexis Vuillermoz @ 66/1
Sticking with this year’s Tour de France stars, AG2R’s 13th place finisher and loyal super domestique Alexis Vuillermoz might just fancy a crack at some individual glory. A 17th place finish just behind the second group in 2015 constitutes a solid grounding in San Sebastian racing and I was boosted by the AG2R team selection; only Bakelants should receive protected status alongside Vuillermoz. He is aggressive enough to make a winning attack and won’t be fussed by the climbing. He comes at an attractive price.
What Else To Look Out For – Diego & Superman
If it’s a hilly one day race I’m going to be betting on Diego Ulissi. More good results in a variety of races have only strengthened my belief that he will one day take a major victory (although I’ll admit the wait is beginning to drag).
Miguel Angel ‘Superman’ Lopez is building form for the Vuelta but there’s no reason why he won’t have a crack tomorrow. He could form part of a two-man threat with Pello Bilbao. Both riders can be found at decent prices.