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Race Preview: San Sebastian Classic

The peloton heads to the Basque country for the eleventh round of the UCI Women’s World Tour.

 

The Route

The 2nd edition of the women’s San Sebastian Classic will see the peloton tackle a difficult 139km over mountainous terrain. Starting in San Sebastian, on the Bay of Biscay, the bunch will travel westwards towards Orio and the scenic Pagoetako Parke Naturala. After just 17km, the first of four categorised climbs, Aia, begins. At a steady 3.6% the 8.9km ascent is likely to see some early attacks as teams look to animate the race.

From there the peloton will head back towards the coastline tackling 50km of hilly terrain and three unclassified climbs enroute to the second mountain of the day – Jaizkibel (7.9% / 5.6%). With the opening kilometer averaging 9%, the second category climb is a tough one. It is likely to be a key moment in the race and will certainly see the race favourites rise to the fore on the slopes up to Alkiza.

Cresting the summit at 89.9km a fast descent leads the riders into Irun shortly before the day’s third classified climb 105km in. Gurutze (2.7km / 5.2%) will no doubt be ‘a leg sapper’ after such a challenging day in the saddle so expect to see the leading group whittled down even further. 

20km later the bunch will face the short but punishingly steep Murgil Tontorra. The second category climb may only be 2.1km in length but with an average gradient of 10.1% and the final 500m at 20% it will provide an absolutely brutal finale.  A fast and technical descent ensues before a flat 4km run in to the finish line in San Sebastian.

Riders to Watch

Winner of the inaugural San Sebastian Classic – Lucy Kennedy – will be back to defend her title in the colours of Team BikeExchange. The 33 year old climber from Brisbane, Australia, soloed to an impressive victory in 2019 and will be looking to repeat that feat this weekend. 

Compatriot, Brodie Chapman (FDJ), will also be challenging for the win. The 2019 winner of the Tour of Gila is well suited to the Basque terrain and if she can rekindle the form and climbing prowess she displayed in New Mexico 2 years ago she’ll prove tough to beat. Teammate, Evita Muzic, will be another strong card for FDJ to play. The 22 year, French national champion rode well at the recent Giro and bedecked in the tricolour bands she’ll be motivated to perform well.

Trek Segafredo’s Tayler Wiles took a memorable world tour win on stage 3 of the Emakumeen Bira in 2019 and she’ll be hoping for another victory on Basque soil this Saturday. The 32 year old from Utah will lead a strong line up which includes the likes of Audrey Cordon-Ragot and Ellen van Dijk, all of whom are likely to race aggressively. 

German team – Ceratizit-WNT Pro Cycling – also come to San Sebastian with a strong squad as they look to take their first WWT win of the season. Their climber, Erica Magnaldi, will thrive in the tough Basque mountains and will likely spearhead their bid for victory. The Italian came 5th on the summit finish at Prato Nevoso in the second stage of the recent Giro and has been riding well all year. The final climb should suit her well, so expect to see Magnaldi challenging for the win. 

Fellow Italian, Sofia Bertizzolo (Liv-Racing), is also another rider to keep an eye on. The former UCI WWT Youth winner, hasn’t quite rekindled that brilliant form of 2018 but with 10th at La Course just under a month ago she is clearly finding those legs once again.

In what looks set to be a fairly open race other riders to watch include Eider Merino (A.R. Monex Women’s Pro Cycling Team), Sabrina Stultiens (Liv-Racing) and Alé BTC Ljubljana’s Tatiana Guderzo.

 

Summary

When: 31st July, 9.15am (CET)

Where: San Sebastian, Spain

What: 139km mountainous road race

 

Who to watch:

Lucy Kennedy  ****

Brodie Chapman  ***

Evita Muzic ***

Erica Magnaldi  ***

Top Outsider: Eider Merino

TV Coverage: GCN+

 

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