PREVIEW | Clasica San Sebastián 2023 - Remco Evenepoel's battle to defend title; Ayuso and Gall among best competitors

Preview. On the 29th of July the World Tour peloton will get back on the road, leaving behind the Tour de France and going into Spain with a big variety of classics and stage-races. One will be the Clásica San Sebastián which will see the climbers and puncheurs come to the front in a battle for serious points.

The route will total a long 230 kilometers on the road with over 4000 meters of climbing which will leave the climbers and puncheurs as the main favourites. The race sees a lot of climbs early on, although it never goes into the high mountains, instead going through some hilly roads, and the final 10 kilometers will decide the outcome with four key climbs.

Estimated start and finish times for Clásica San Sebastián: 11:05-16:50CET

PREVIEW | Clasica San Sebastián 2023 - Remco Evenepoel's battle to defend title; Ayuso and Gall among best competitors
San Sebastián - San Sebastián, 230.8 kilometers

The first is the Jaizkibel, 7.4 kilometers long at 5.8% and summits with 94 kilometers to go, with a rather technical descent afterwards. It is farther from the finish this year with the addition of a new climb, but it remains the race's most iconic ascent.

PREVIEW | Clasica San Sebastián 2023 - Remco Evenepoel's battle to defend title; Ayuso and Gall among best competitors
Jaizkibel: 7.4Km; 5.8%; 94Km to go

It's followed by the Erlaitz ascent with it’s summit at 73Km to go, it averages over 10% for 4 kilometers, differences can be made, attacks can be dealt and serious damage can be created for the race’s outcome. With it's constant and tough gradients it may be the location where the climbers are the most comfortable and where the race can explode. A plateau section follows before descending into San Sebastián for the first time.

PREVIEW | Clasica San Sebastián 2023 - Remco Evenepoel's battle to defend title; Ayuso and Gall among best competitors
Erlaitz: 4Km; 10.4%; 73Km to go

The new addition to this year's route is the ascent to Mendizorrotz. It isn't the hardest or longest climb of the race but it is hard. 4.1 kilometers at 7.3%, but it's first half averages over 10%. It summits with 36 kilometers to go and could be the launching pad for the winning attack.

PREVIEW | Clasica San Sebastián 2023 - Remco Evenepoel's battle to defend title; Ayuso and Gall among best competitors
Mendizorrotz: 4.1Km; 7.3%; 36Km to go

Over the last few years the crucial point has become the Alto de Murgil. the riders look to save their legs for the final 900 meters of the climb where the gradients are vicious, up to 18% - officially it is 2.0Km at 9.9%, and summits with 8 kilometers to go. From there on it's a mere descent and fast run-in back into the city center for the riders to cross the line.

PREVIEW | Clasica San Sebastián 2023 - Remco Evenepoel's battle to defend title; Ayuso and Gall among best competitors
Alto de Murgil: 2Km; 9.9%; 8Km to go

The Weather

The Favourites

Remco Evenepoel - The two-time winner and defending champion in San Sebastián. In 2019 he won through a surprise attack, last year he attacked directly on the hardest climb itself and rode to a comfortable win. If he has the same legs, I think he can do the same move honestly, because on such steep ascents having a team won't really matter and solo he's stronger than any group that can chase him down. Form is a question, but he often reaches very good level without racing and with both Worlds and Vuelta at the door he will surely already be firing many cylinders. Julian Alaphilippe and Andrea Bagioli will be part of a strong support team.

Juan Ayuso - The Spaniard crashed at the Prueba Villafranca at the finish line almost whilst riding for victory. However his injuries seemed small, if I were to bet I'd say Ayuso can - as is the case with most riders in the younger generations - recover very quickly and show great form immediately. If so, he certainly has a course where he can take the win. UAE also have Marc Hirschi and Alessandro Covi as outsiders, however not fans of the addition of more climbs in this year's course.

Pello Bilbao - Bahrain - Victorious, you could almost say it's a home team right. Right? Well it's led by Pello Bilbao and Mikel Landa who have already spent happy days in the Basque Country at the Tour, but they followed separate paths as Bilbao rode to a sixth in the overall classification and Landa couldn't find his best form. However Landa did look great in the opening weekend. Both will enjoy these hard climbs and will be racing on home roads. Add Santiago Buitrago to the mix and it's a team capable of fighting for the win.

Felix Gall - A strong climber beforehand, however perhaps the breakthrough of the Tour de France. Felix Gall finished second in the KOM classification without even paying attention, finishing eighth in the overall classification, but his final week was incredibly impressive. He won the queen stage through the Col de la Loze and in the final mountain stage was the rider closes to Vingegaard and Pogacar. If he climbs the same way here he's unironically a match for Evenepoel on the climbs, and packs a nice sprint too. It'll be more technical terrain however likely not as well suited. AG2R have Ben O'Connor present too, now with a fresh start after a Tour that didn't go as planned.

Cofidis - The team brings stage winner there Ion Izagirre who races at home and also Guillaume Martin who is fresh off a strong Top10 at the Grand Boucle. Both have the legs on their best day to fight for a strong result.

Carlos Rodríguez - Fifth at the Tour de France, Rodríguez is another rider that can carry his form over. A strong contender for the podium, he leads INEOS Grenadiers, he was already fifth on these roads last year so it is certain that he knows what to expect and how to fight for a strong result.

Israel - Premier Tech - A lineup that has lost some of it's big guns since the provisional startlist, but the Israeli team takes Jakob Fuglsang, Dylan Teuns and Stevie Williams as outsiders for a classic where on paper, all three can handle the climbs quite well and may perform.

Ben Healy & Neilson Powless - EF come with an interesting duo in the lead, Powless has won the race in 2021, but after a sharp start to the Tour he couldn't find his best legs towards the end. He'll be one to watch, Ben Healy is another, perhaps not enjoying the extra climbing but his climbing is solid enough to survive these ascents, and he can be called a classics specialist at this point.

Other riders will be in contention surely. Other riders have been present at the Tour may carry good form such as Mathieu Burgaudeau, Alexey Lutsenko, Tiesj Benoot and Rui Costa to mention - Romain Bardet an outsider bet. Other riders focusing on this latter part of the season include Max Schachmann, Aleksandr Vlasov, Michael Matthews, Alex Aranburu, Felix Engelhardt, Andreas Leknessund and Roger Adrià.

Prediction Clásica San Sebastián 2023:

*** Remco Evenepoel, Juan Ayuso
** Felix Gall, Pello Bilbao
* Marc Hirschi, Santiago Buitrago, Ben O'Connor, Carlos Rodríguez, Ben Healy, Tiesj Benoot

Pick: Remco Evenepoel

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