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Frenchman escapes from select lead group on last categorized climbs and manages to hold off his chasers on the flat run-in to the line while big favourite Alejandro Valverde has to settle for 2nd ahead of Roman Kreuziger

Photo: Sirotti






27.07.2013 @ 17:16 Posted by Adam Aisen

Tony Gallopin (Radioshack) proved that he is a big classics rider in the making by taking the biggest win of his career in the major Spanish one-day race, the Clasica San Sebastian. Having made the decisive selection on the famous Jaizkibel climb, he exploited the hesitation of the lead group on the day's final climb, the Alto de Arkale, to escape on his own before going on to take a solo win ahead of Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and Roman Kreuziger (Saxo-Tinkoff).


Tony Gallopin has long been seen as one of the next big classics riders but until today, the standout performances in the biggest races have eluded him. On the back of a disappointing Tour de France, his legs came around for the big revenge match in the Clasica San Sebastian and that allowed him to finally confirm his potential by taking the biggest win of his career.


The Frenchman had made it into the select group over the top of the race's main climb, the Alto de Jaizkibel, when Movistar had splintered the race to pieces on the steep slopes. The Spanish team had, however, also isolated their leader Alejandro Valverde in the process and as the fastest rider in the group, the Spaniard faced a difficult task of controlling the many attacks.


Gallopin showed tactical savvy when he benefited from a moment of hesitation to launch a furious attack on the day's final climb, the Alto de Arkale, with 15km to go. He managed to hold off the chase group all the way to the line while Valverde had to settle for second, having beaten Roman Kreuziger in a 4-rider sprint.


With the win, Radioshack continues their run of success in the biggest one-day races as the Luxemburgish team has already won the Tour of Flanders, the Paris-Roubaix and the E3 with Fabian Cancellara. The result did nothing to change the top of the WorldTour rankings which are still led by Chris Froome (Sky).


4 riders in the early escape

The 232km Clasica San Sebastian is Spain's biggest one-day race and known as a big revenge match for the Tour's best climbers. The main feature of the race is the Jaizkibel climb which is tackled twice inside the final 80km of the race, the last passage coming with 37km still to race.


With a long, hilly day awaiting the riders, there was no big fight to get into the day's main breakaway. Early in the race, Javier Aramendia (Caja Rural), Luca Wackermann (Lampre-Merida), Olivier Kaisen (Lotto-Belisol) and Matthias Krizek (Cannondale) escaped and they were allowed to build up a massive 11-minute gap while Movistar just rolled a steady pace on the front of the peloton.


A serious chase

As they approached the first time up the Jaizkibel climb, the chase kicked off in earnest and the gap now started to come down quickly. As soon as the front group hit the ascent, Aramendia fell off the pace while Kaisen paced Krized and Wackermann all the way  up the climb.


Behind, there was even more action as Nicolas Roche (Saxo-Tinkoff) launched a small attack which was countered by Alexandre Geniez (FDJ). He drew along a small group containing the likes of Roman Kreuziger (Saxo-Tinkoff), Dario Cataldo (Sky), Amets Txurruka (Caja Rural) and Tim Wellens (Lotto-Belisol) but it all came to nothing. Instead, Egor Silin (Astana) launched an attack and was chased by Fabricio Ferrari (Caja Rural).


A flurry of attacks

Those two riders were caught by a small group containing Kreuziger, Julien Berard (Ag2r), Jesus Hernandez (Saxo-Tinkoff), Jack Bobridge (Belkin), Daryl Impey (Orica-GreenEdge), Dries Devenyns (Omega Pharma-Quick Step), Andre Cardoso (Caja Rural), Cataldo, Geniez, Gorka Verdugo (Euskatel) and Pavel Brutt (Katusha) but as they crested the summit 3.10 behind the front trio, they were back in the peloton.


The descent was raced at a furious pace and several groups separated themselves from the peloton. Movistar and BMC did a good job to bring it back together as they hit the flat stretch at the bottom where Bobridge, Sylvain Chavanel (Omega Pharma-Quick Step), Francesco Gavazzi (Astana) and Jesus Herrada (Movistar) managed to get clear.


Kaisen falls off the pace

Mikel Astarloza (Euskaltel), Brutt, another Omega Pharma-Quick Step rider and one from Orica-GreenEdge made it across but when they hit the next climb, Chavanel left his companions behind. Brutt did a hard chase to bridge across while Kaisen fell off the pace in the front group as soon as they started the Arkale climb.


Brutt and Chavanel overtook Kaisen who fell back into the peloton which had also absorbed Aramendia. Yannick Eijssen (BMC), Jerome Pineau (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) and Jesus Herrada bridged to Brutt and Chavanel while a little later Matti Breschel (Saxo-Tinkoff) and Juan Antonio Flecha (Vacansoleil) also made it across.


Movistar show their intentions

Movistar had no intentions of accepting that situation and the Spanish team set a furious pace in the peloton, Jonathan Castroviejo really putting down the hammer. At the bottom of the Jaizkibel, it was Jose Herrada who took over and he managed to draw his two teammates Nairo Quintana and Valverde across to the chase group which had now also caught Krizek and Wackermann.


Herrada finished his job and left it to Quintana to set the pace and only Eijssen, Flecha, Brutt and Chavanel managed to keep up the pace. Kreuziger, Jan Bakelants (Radioshack), Gallopin, Moreno Moser (Cannondale) and Devenyns all made it across while a little later Arnold Jeannesson (FDJ), Mikel Landa (Euskaltel), Roche and Rinaldo Nocentini (Ag2r) had success in a similar mission.


Belkin lead the chase

Behind, a chase group had formed in which the Belkin duo of Bauke Mollema and Robert Gesink did most of the work. A little further behind, a third group was desperately led by Philippe Gilbert (BMC) who tried to get back in contention.


Quintana finished his job and fell back to the chasers while Kreuziger attacked to crest the summit as the lone leader. He was chased by Valverde, Roche and Gallopin who made it across on the descent while Landa, Eijssen, Jeannesson and Moser also bridged on the flat stretch that led to the Arkale climb.


More riders bridge across

Chavanel and Astarloza had attacked on the descent and those two riders joined the leaders with 19km to go while Pieter Serry (Omega Pharma-Quick Step), Jungels and Mikel Nieve (Euskaltel) also gained contact with the front group. By now, the chasers had given up and so it was clear that the winner would be one of the 13 riders in the escape.


On the Arkale climb, the leaders stopped cooperating and so Gallopin exploited the opportunity to attack. He built up a big gap before Landa and Roche set off in pursuit. Valverde, Kreuziger and Nieve made it across to those two riders to form a 5-rider chase group.


A thrilling pursuit

From then on, it evolved into a pursuit between Gallopin and his chasers and impressively, the Frenchman kept a stable 25-second gap for most of the time. Kreuziger made a dig on the uncategorized Alto Miracruz that forced Landa to lose contact but his hard pace was not enough to get back to the lone Frenchman. Gallopin soloed across the line to take his first big classics win.


Behind, Roche led out Kreuziger for the sprint but the Czech had no chance in a head-to-head battle with Valverde. The Spaniard took 2nd while Kreuziger continued his recent run of success with a spot on the podium. Nieve was 4th, Roche 5th while Landa followed a little later in 6th. Moser led across the next group to take 7th on the day where France finally got confirmation that they have a future big classics rider in their ranks.



1. Tony Gallopin 5.39.02

2. Alejandro Valverde +0.28

3. Roman Kreuziger

4. Mikel Nieve

5. Nicolas Roche +0.29

6. Mikel Landa +0.36

7. Moreno Moser +0.51

8. Pieter Serry

9. Bauke Mollema

10. Sylvain Chavanel



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