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Dragging Form to Donostia

Cycling: 38th Clasica de San Sebastian 2018
Alaphilippe sports his txapela.
Photo by Amaia Zabalo/Getty Images

This may come as a bit of a shock but: The Tour de France is a very demanding event. Goodness knows we’ve all heard enough about peaking curves but they are important. Form is like a Bic pen I reckon. You’ll lose it eventually, you’ll always reckon you could get more out of it and everyone else seems to have a much better supply than you do. Anyway, after the Tour de France all the pens are running very low or lost completely and Donostia Klasikoa is an exercise in seeing who can make the pen last to write the best story.

The route should be pretty recognisable to you, containing as it does Jaizkibel and the Murgil Tontorra. However, there has been a substantial redesign of the course with the climb with which Jaizkibel is usually paired - Arkale - out this year as (unusually for the Klasikoa) no climb is repeated, even with the race doubling back on itself about half a dozen times.

While I do maintain that longer moves have become more feasible in recent years, this race still lends itself very obviously to being won by an attack on the last climb. Every year that the Tontorra has been the final climb, it has seen the winning group or rider go clear and I see no reason for that to change. In all likelihood, a non-threatening break will be kept on a very, very tight leash and recaptured somewhere around the penultimate climb. We’ll see some ineffective attacks there before a sprint to the bottom of the final ascent.

What then? Well, then it’s a bit of a lottery. Some of the riders who were on great form in the Tour de France are here, most notably Egan Bernal and Julian Alaphilippe. However, they have had a week of cooling off after emptying themselves on the mountains of France so anybody confidently predicting them to still be in magnificent form is, I think, being reckless. Alaphilippe has been rather evergreen this season but I doubt he can keep going forever. Bernal will have trouble raising himself mentally. Maybe Deceuninck and Ineos will allow their young talents a go at some leadership responsibilities in this race: Remco Evenepoel rides for the former and the pair of Eddie Dunbar and Ivan Sosa for the latter.

Alejandro Valverde is always a name you have to consider for this race but you might think that he hasn’t quite been his old self. Rather he is being his new, old, self. However a look at his results shows something interesting: what has suffered with Valverde is his ability to convert form to wins. He has an awful lot of top-three finishes throughout the season even if he hasn’t been racking up the wins. A quiet ninth in the Tour de France is also more than respectable, with his best-of-the-rest result on Val Thorens showing he is maintaining his ability to outkick a reduced pack. I’m not certain he can attack the field and get away as he did in 2014, however.

This race looks like a really good one for Rudy Molard. He has a habit of clipping off the front of a reduced group, being underestimated and winning anyway. If he is in the front group at the top of the final climb he is a great shout for victory, but the difficulty will come in getting into that position.

Adam Yates has won here before and both brothers ride this year. Simon is, once again, Right Yates and might have the legs to win a race that suits his skillset. Dan Martin and Tadej Pogacar ride for UAE. Pogacar is the more likely pick. I like his chances as an outsider.

Now my pick, however and I’ve gone for another (150/1) outsider. Patrick Konrad leads Bora and will win this from a reduced sprint.