The Selection Process: San Sebastián 2021

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In an Olympic year, the most awkwardly placed race on the pro calendar gets a little more awkward. This isn’t necessarily a problem; San Sebastián is well-equipped to attract a smorgasbord of riders with fresh legs, tired legs, and quite possibly oh-dear-what-happened-to-my-legs.  

But do you really want to have thousands of Tour miles in the legs? It’s certainly not a problem. The San Sebastian podium has been stuffed with Tour de France stars over the last five seasons.

San Sebastian Podium
2019No TourTDFTDF
2018TDFTDFNo Tour
2015TDFNo TourTDF

But does this mean you need to have Tour miles in the legs? Not really. Remco Evenepoel won in 2019 after a jaunt round Italy at a 2.1 category race.

But what about the Olympics? In 2016, the Rio road race was a week after San Sebastián, the reverse situation to Tokyo. However, in 2012, the Olympics was two weeks before and Luis Leon Sanchez won San Sebastián after a brilliant end to the Tour and a fourteenth place in London.   

Does this mounting evidence suggest you have to be a Tour and Olympics rider in order to win tomorrow? No again! The best riders will go to the best events, thus increasing the chance that a Tour/Olympic rider will claim the Klasikoa through sheer sample size!

Most of the favourites have gone hard over the last month. The exception to this rule is Egan Bernal, who should be as fresh as the overpriced Colombian coffee from your local hipster café. He’s currently priced at 13/2, which seems absurdly short in a race that could well come down to a sprint.

And the winner is… Julian Alaphilippe @ 10/3.

Do you hear that? It’s the sound of the boring prediction klaxon. Julian Alaphilippe is fiercely explosive and can float over these nasty little Basque spikes. He skipped the Olympics which suggests a focus on this race. He’s already won here, and you can pitch his skillset against any other rider on the startlist and conclude his dominance. Sadly – and I’ll whisper this very quietly – the startlist is a shade weaker than in previous additions and Alaphilippe is the standout superstar. Klasikoa specialist Bauke Mollema is second in the market but will surely be weathered by his trip to Mount Fuji and the Mikuni pass.

Oh go on then… Gianni Moscon @ 20/1

I mention Gianni Moscon so often in my prediction posts that you would be forgiven for wondering if I’ve forgotten about his racial slurs and general shitty attitude to other humans. Don’t worry, I haven’t. The Italian is talented though and I see still him as a rider capable of winning at the top level on profiles such as San Sebastián. Besides, it makes a change from backing his compatriot Diego Ulissi.

Look out for… Juan Ayuso @ 33/1, Oscar Rodriguez @ 125/1 & Gonzalo Serrano @ Unpriced!

Three riders I’ll be cheering with the lowest of expectations are Spaniards Juan Ayuso, Oscar Rodriguez and Gonzalo Serrano. They didn’t ride the Tour and they weren’t selected for the Olympics. They are attacking the race from a Spanish angle, with outings at Castilla y Leon and/or Prueba Villafranca. Let’s start with the steady 26-year olds; Rodriguez and Serrano. Both have the right toolkits for this race, although their tools are less shiny and established than the race favourites. What interests me is their elevated roles in their respected teams. Former Caja Rural puncheur Serrano is arguably the leader for Movistar, which is an amazing sentence to type given their strength over the last twenty years. Rodriguez is perhaps the second option for Astana but will still find himself with more protection than usual.

Lastly there’s UAEs newly-signed 18-year-old Ayuso. Let me start by saying that 33/1 is an unbackable price for a rider who wasn’t born when Laurent Jalabert won the race in 2002. His price is a ridiculous reaction to his brilliant 2nd place at Villafranca and whiff of superstar potential. I’m looking forward to seeing him race but please don’t bet on him.

Let’s go Gonzalo!

1 comments on “The Selection Process: San Sebastián 2021”

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