update: gavia's preview at Steephill.TV is excellent!
I love this race.
For me it's the perfect purgative. Don't get me wrong. I love the Tour. I love the Giro. But three straight months of overwrought story lines is quite enough, thank you, and all I want now is a simple clean one day bike race. San Seb here fills my need. What you say, Txirla?
I say it's the best hilly Classic of all! Besides being in my beautiful Basque country, the race is unique because it's so hard to predict who will win! You have two types of riders here and you can't predict what their form might be. The riders fresh off the Tour might or might not be holding their form while the non-Tour riders here are just getting started their autumn campaign and you don't know how well they've trained. So you can list some favorites but unlike my two shells this race is not an open and shut case!
Right, Txirla. You never know who's gonna race well, or even who is gonna race, as the start lists are still incomplete. At least Kim Kirchen is not listed as riding for Katusha anymore! (Cycling fever start list here.) And then there's the matter of riders not actually racing. Last year just 46 riders out of 150-odd riders finished the race. The rest gave up en masse way before the winner finished. But one thing might be said with some certainty: last year the race added a new last climb to the race, the Alto de Arkale, just 15 km from the finish. That climb, along with the famous Alto de Jaizkibel 25 km further back, combined quite well to winnow the final selection to just 12 riders last year, hilly classic riders all. We'll probably see that size selection again...
Bah! Sprinters! (Txirla squirts out a nasty loogie.) Those parasites, always sucking the wheels of their betters! Yeah Arkale was added just to shuck 'em and it did its job. Great race last year! Great finish! Looking at that start list I see only three sprinters listed: Pippo Pozzato, Duque of Cofidis and OSCARITO! of Rabobank. If I had to choose two sprinters those would be one's. Don't think either of 'em will do much tomorrow though. Freire is showing his age ain't he? Duque will try but as soon as the Serious riders get busy he'll get dropped faster than you can say Cavendish. Pippo? I give him a slight chance; he's had a nice year. 2% maybe.
What's that she-bear? Who do I like? Climbers who can shift into a higher gear at the end. Al Valverde of course, last year's winner. Like last year, Caisse' d'Epargne is bringing a good team to support him too: J-Rod, Lulu (his last race of the year?) Baby Uran, Ivan Gutierrez, etc. Last year's second place finisher, Al Kolobnev, should also have a lot to say on who wins too. Unlike his now more famous teammates, the Schlecks, Kolobnev has a sprint in him.
Then there's Dam Cunego. If he can make it to the final selection, which he didn't last year, he also has a nice sprint in him. He's got to do better than last year, right? Other guys? I like the Katusha pair of Ivanov and Pozzato, particularly the former. Pippo I give a slight chance to make the climbs and if he does he'll be in good position. Then there's Jani Brajkovic of Astana. His 2nd at Lombardia last year and his normal strong finish to the season make him a dark horse here. The question here is the shape he's in.
Finally we got Samu. Almost guaranteed to make the final selection, he lacks a finishing sprint. But who knows? Maybe he can decimate the field on the descent of Arkale and hold it to the finish? A Euskie winner. I'd like that.
Yeah a local winner would be nice. It's interesting to note that in the 28 years of the race, only nine winners were Spanish. Seven winners were Italian so this is definitely a wide-open race in that regard. Any final pre-race thoughts, Txirla?
My only wish...you know how the race ends right by the beach, right?
Well...for once I would like them to extend the pavement into the water so the winner would race right into the ocean so I could wrap my shells around him!
Txirla! Are you a girl or a boy clam?
She-bear! A clam doesn't tell secrets! A nd don't let that bully majope near me with her smear tests!