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Clásica San Sebastián: A Movable Feast

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Bahia de la Concha, Donostia
Stacey Schultz

The Clásica San Sebástian, aka Klasikoa Donostia, is happening Saturday, and it’s a good thing because I just don’t know what else it would take to get me up at dawn again to watch another bike race right now. There aren’t a lot of exceptions to the twin rules of “I need rest” and “the riders need rest” following the Tour. Nothing short of a charismatic setting, beautiful scenery and virtual guarantee of a fun race will do. The Klasikoa checks all the boxes.

How do I know this? One, I watch a lot of cycling. And 2, Mrs. PdC just returned from a week by the shores of the Bahia de la Concha, and has much wisdom to impart as we approach this venerable race. So I am asking for her help in filling in any of the blanks.

The Basics

The course is a lot like last year, with just an early ride up the Meaga, and presumably a few loose km here and there, as it’s up to 229 km from 220. But yeah, the profile is basically the same.

San Sebastian 2018 profile

So will we see the same sort of race as we have the last few years? Let’s ask my wife.

“It’s definitely a rugged area. My favorite discovery were the flysch formations at Zumaia, ancient sedimentary layers turned on their side to look like those horrible wide-wale corduroy pants we wore back in the 80s.”

Stacey Schultz

Good stuff. So what will the conditions be like on Sunday? Will San Sebastián be buzzing with excitement for the race?

“Not sure, but by far the best meal I had was at Sirimiri Gastroleku, a pintxos restaurant (Basque tapas) on Calle Mayor overlooking the bay. They served a smoked salmon dish in a glass jar where the smoke came billowing out once you opened the lid. It was probably better than the chicken enchiladas I left for you in the freezer for while I was away.”

The salmon pintxos at Sirimiri
Stacey Schultz

The Startlist

OK, but every year we see the race break up toward the end, involving Bauke Mollema and a bunch of other climber types who have some racing instincts for a classic finish. Do you expect the same sort of strategy to unfold this time?

“Well, my recommendation would be to visit the cider houses on the way to the final climb of the day, the Arkale. We went to the Petritegi cider house, which had one room full of giant cider kegs that you could tap directly into your mug, as well as a Gipuzkoan farmhouse-style dining room with a great local menu. Mostly though it’s a giant party full of people drinking lots and lots of hard cider. One guy tried to take his pants off over his head.”

Basque Cider House
Stacey Schultz

I feel like we are getting off track. Do you have a winner you’d like to project?

“Sure, Bauke Mollema of Trek is the Patient Zero of the Clásica, so I think he’ll win this time.”

OK, there you have it.

*****

Mollema comes in as the closest thing we have to a defending winner. Last year Michal Kwiatkowski took a small bunch sprint for the victory, but he’s home recuperating from... whatever. Nobody wants to talk about that anymore. Of course, Team Sky will be strong, from Egan Bernal to Jonathan Castroviejo to Sergio Henao, but they’ll have lots of company. Miguel Angel Lopez leads Astana along with former winner LuLu Sanchez. Alejandro Valverde (another ex-winner) and Mikel Landa team up to form the home squad and a threatening one at that, as Landa was in the lead group last year under similar circumstances. Rigoberto Uran is scheduled to lead EF Education First while UAE touts Dan Martin and Diego Ulissi as their dual threats. So many names, so little idea who is on the way up (guys who skipped the Tour) and who is on the way down.

My Pick to Win

Valverde is always the safe bet. So Tim Wellens it is.