Luis León Sánchez escapes to take his second Clásica San Sebastián
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Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Luis León Sánchez escapes to take his second Clásica San Sebastián

by Ben Atkins at 11:40 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Race Reports and Results, Clásica de San Sebastián
Rabobank’s Spanish star takes victory with a trademark late attack

luis leon sanchez Luis León Sánchez (Rabobank) took his second victory in la Clásica San Sebastián in three years, after a trademark attack over the remains of the peloton with just over eight kilometres of the hilly Basque race remaining. The Spanish rider, who took the 2010 edition of the WorldTour race, managed to open up a gap of up to 20 seconds on the flattish run to the finish, as his teammates worked hard to block the uncoordinated chase behind him.

By the time he sprinted into the final few hundred metres, Sánchez had time to sit up and enjoy the large Basque crowds, and roll over the line with both arms in the air.

"Winning in your own country is still the best there is," said Sánchez, who has recovered from an exhausting month of racing at the Tour de France and Olympic Games. He has also managed to put the Olympic time trial nightmare behind him, where his chances of a medal were dashed in the opening seconds when his chain snapped as he rolled down the start ramp.

"That was not, and is not, easy to forget," he explained, "but my first big race after that being in my own country has helped a bit, and if you win to boot, then everything's basically all right again."

The sprint from what was left of the peloton was taken by Australian champion Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEdge), ahead of Gianni Meersman (Lotto-Belisol), just seven seconds later.

"Of course it's a win for me, but it's also a really good win for the team," said Sánchez. "The team was right up there all day. When I attacked in the finale, Bauke Mollema especially put in fantastic work for me and Robert Gesink did later on too. It's something you just can't do alone. Everyone stuck to the plan, so then the attack was already partly successful."

The 234km race was characterised by the usual attacks, with Adrian Palomares (Andalucía) and Francisco Javier Aramendia (Caja Rural) able to get almost eleven minutes clear in the first half. The duo was caught on the first of two ascents of the iconic Alto Jaizkibel with just over 80km to go, which led to a flurry of counterattacks.

No breaks were able to get properly established until Tomasz Marczynski and Rafa Valls (both Vacansoleil-DCM), Gorka Izagirre (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Rafal Majka (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank) and Sergio Henao (Team Sky) escaped over the top of the climb for the second time with less than 38km to go, after Marczynski and Majka had got away on the lower slopes.

Henao went solo over the top of the Alto de Arkale with 15km remaining, but an attack from Joaquim Rodríguez (Katusha) pulled a select group across to him. This group was never able to get more than a few seconds’ lead over the remains of the peloton however, and was pulled back with just under ten kilometres to go.

This was Sánchez’ cue to make one of his trademark attacks, and with Rabobank teammate Bauke Mollema making any attempted chase, the Tour de France stage winner managed to stay to take his second big win in the space of a month.

La Clásica goes midweek but the Jaizkibel assures the big weekend action

With the Olympic Games forcing a calendar change from its usual post-Tour de France slot, and with the WorldTour calendar crowded by the Eneco Tour and the Vuelta a España, the 2012 edition of la Clásica found itself forced on to a Tuesday. With Spain on its summer holidays, the race could count on the usual big crowds however, as it took in two ascents of the Jaizkibel and Arkale inside the final 80km.

After the initial opening flurries, Palomares and Aramendia escaped shortly after the summit of the 2nd category Alto de Garate, after 29km. With the break formed, especially since it only consisted of two riders, the peloton was happy to sit up and let it go; by around the 80km mark the duo was 10’46” before the peloton decided to act.

As the Katusha and Rabobank teams - in the shape of Joan Horrach and Juanma Garate respectively - led the peloton behind the two leaders, the gap steadily came down on the race’s rolling midsection. With 90km to go it was down to just 4’30” but, as Omega Pharma-Quick Step and AG2R La Mondiale began to accelerate on the approach to the first of the race’s ascents of the Jaizkibel, the gap was slashed to just 1’30” as the climb began.

Movistar came to the head of the peloton as it tackled the climb, with Davis Lopez and Vladimir Karpets leading. The pressure put in by the two riders reduced the leaders’ advantage to just a handful of seconds but, more significantly, saw the main bunch behind them splinter. With three kilometres still to climb Palomares and Aramendia’s adventure was over as the Movistar riders continued their fierce pace.

As soon as the break was caught however, Eros Capecchi (Liquigas-Cannondale) and Nairo Quintana (Movistar) a launched their own attack and, over the top of the climb they were ten seconds ahead of a chasing Marczynski, and 20 seconds ahead of the peloton, which was now led by Astana and Team Sky.

The three riders came together, but were quickly chased down as Astana pulled the front of the peloton; their capture led to another counterattack however, with Capecchi’s Liquigas-Cannondale teammate Tiziano Dall’Antonia going solo.

With 60km to go the Italian was 31 seconds clear and his lead was still growing as he climbed the Arkale for the first time. Several riders tried to break clear in pursuit, and Hernâni Broco (Caja Rural) managed to get away; he was soon joined by Marczynski, and the duo began to try and close in on Dall’Antonia.

Marczynski left Broco behind, and managed to join up with Dall’Antonia shortly before the summit. The Polish rider led the Italian over the top with 55km to go, and Broco followed at 44 seconds; the Astana-led peloton was less than ten seconds behind the Caja Rural rider however, and he was caught shortly afterwards to leave just the two out front.

With 50km to go Marczynski and Dall’Antonia still led by 54 seconds, as they approached the foot of the Jaizkibel for the second time. Astana was on the front of the peloton in force however, and the Kazakh team had slashed it to just 29 seconds by the time the climb began.

Euskaltel-Euskadi hit the front as the peloton arrived on the climb, but Astana and Team Sky were not willing to give up the lead. Marczynski jumped away from Dall’Antonia with just a kilometre climbed, and set off alone as the bunched closed in.

The Italian rider was soon caught as Saxo Bank also moved forward and, with seven kilometres to climb, the lone Vacansoleil-DCM rider was just 15 seconds clear. As Dall’Antonio was reeled in, Sergio Paulinho (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank) jumped away, and soon caught up with Marczynski.

Paulo Tiranlongo (Astana) was continuing to lead the peloton behind the new leading duo, but the Italian was the only member of the Kazakh team at the front, and had one of Paulinho’s teammates on his wheel.

With the two riders just a handful of seconds clear, Paulinho’s teammate Majka attacked from behind him. The Portuguese rider sat up to wait for him, then paced him for a while as the Polish rider joined his compatriot up front.

The second big break forms but the favourites begin to show themselves

With three kilometres to climb the Polish duo was 20 seconds clear but, on the exposed false flat close to the top, the counterattacks began behind them, with Javier Moreno (Movistar) the first to make a move. Richie Porte (Team Sky), and several others, also had a go at escaping the peloton, but nobody was able to get clear.

The peloton was reduced to around 40 riders as the accelerations continued and, in the final kilometre of the climb, small groups managed to fight a few metres clear. The lead duo was just a handful of seconds clear over the top, and they were joined by Marczynski’s Vacansoleil-DCM teammate Valls, Henao and Izagirre. As they arrived at the foot of the descent the five-man group was 20 seconds clear with 27km to go.

Through the Meta Volante sprint, in Irun with 25.5km to go, the five leaders were still working well together, but the Movistar team had reduced the lead a little to 19 seconds. The fast, straight roads on the way to the Arkale made it difficult for the Spanish ProTeam to make any progress however and, as the climb began with 18km to go, the gap was up to 25 seconds.

As the Movistar team began to fade Alberto Losada (Katusha) took over the chase and began to steadily chip away at the break’s advantage. Up ahead Majka attacked the group but, as Valls led the rest across, the only result was to drop Marczynski. Izagirre was the next to be distanced, as the leaders entered the final kilometre of the climb; Valls followed a few moments later, then Henao struck out alone and crossed the summit solo with 15km to go.

Rodríguez attacked as the remains of the peloton approached the top, which reduced the main group to just a dozen riders; among those present were Mollema, Rigoberto Uran (Team Sky), Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), Dan Martin (Garmin-Sharp) and Diego Ulissi (Lampre-ISD). The group quickly passed the dropped breakaway riders, and joined Henao on the early slopes of the descent; the lead was just six seconds over the second, larger group on the descent however, and the gap was closed with ten kilometres to go.

As the peloton reformed Sánchez attacked; he was chased by Porte and Rodriguez, with his own teammate Mollema on their wheels. Those three were soon joined by Mauro Santambrogio (BMC Racing) and Valls, but they were pulled back by the main group behind them.

Sánchez was eight seconds ahead as he entered the final five kilometres, as the group behind him began to splinter with no cooperation between the chasers and Rabobank riders marking every move, and the lone Spaniard was gradually increasing his lead. Martin tried to escape and chase him down, but he was pulled back on a long, steady drag with just over three kilometres to go.

Under the three kilometre banner Sánchez’ advantage had dropped to just six seconds but, on the gradual descent that followed, he began to open it out again. With two to go it was up to ten seconds, as the chasers were still trying one at a time to pull him back.

As he passed under the flamme rouge with a kilometre to go, Sánchez was 12 seconds ahead and, with a tailwind on his back looked uncatchable. With 200 metres to go, he sat up, pointed at his jersey then threw both arms in the air as he took his second Clásica victory in three years.

Gerrans won a close sprint for second place, ahead of Meersman, as the peloton sped in seven seconds behind the Rabobank rider.

Result 2012 Clásica San Sebastián

1, Luis León Sánchez (Rabobank Cycling Team) 234 km in 5 hours 55 mins 34 secs
2, Simon Gerrans (Orica GreenEdge Cycling Team) at 7 secs
3, Gianni Meersman (Lotto Belisol Team)
4, Christophe Le Mevel (Garmin - Sharp)
5, Bauke Mollema (Rabobank Cycling Team)
6, Mauro Santambrogio (BMC Racing Team)
7, Mads Christensen (Team Saxo Bank - Tinkoff Bank)
8, Joaquim Rodriguez Oliver (Katusha Team)
9, Xavier Florencio Cabre (Katusha Team)
10, Diego Ulissi (Lampre - ISD)
11, Igor Anton Hernandez (Euskaltel - Euskadi)
12, Andrew Talansky (Garmin - Sharp)
13, Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing Team)
14, Haimar Zubeldia Agirre (RadioShack-Nissan)
15, Rafal Majka (Team Saxo Bank - Tinkoff Bank)
16, Nicholas Roche (AG2R La Mondiale)
17, Daniele Ratto (Liquigas-Cannondale)
18, Daniel Martin (Garmin - Sharp)
19, Rafaél Valls Ferri (Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team)
20, Sergio Luis Henao Montoya (Sky Procycling)
21, Jesús Hernández (Team Saxo Bank - Tinkoff Bank)
22, Rigoberto Uran Uran (Sky Procycling)
23, Daniel Moreno Fernandez (Katusha Team)
24, Richie Porte (Sky Procycling)
25, Cameron Meyer (Orica GreenEdge Cycling Team)
26, Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Movistar Team)
27, Robert Gesink (Rabobank Cycling Team) all same time
28, Tiago Machado (RadioShack-Nissan) at 11 secs
29, Jelle Vanendert (Lotto Belisol Team) at 25 secs
30, Cristiano Salerno (Liquigas-Cannondale) at 35 secs
31, Mikel Astarloza Chaurreau (Euskaltel - Euskadi) at 3 mins 42 secs
32, Rémi Pauriol (FDJ-Big Mat)
33, Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale)
34, Andre Fernando S. Martins Cardoso (Caja Rural)
35, Alexandr Vinokourov (Astana Pro Team)
36, Ivan Velasco Murillo (Euskaltel - Euskadi)
37, Paul Martens (Rabobank Cycling Team)
38, Cayetano José Sarmiento Tunarrosa (Liquigas-Cannondale)
39, Przemyslaw Niemiec (Lampre - ISD)
40, Gorka Izagirre (Euskaltel-Euskadi)
41, Simon Clarke (Orica GreenEdge Cycling Team)
42, Alberto Losada Alguacil (Katusha Team)
43, Angel Vicioso Arcos (Katusha Team)
44, Sergio Miguel Moreira Paulinho (Team Saxo Bank - Tinkoff Bank)
45, Zdenek Stybar (Omega Pharma-Quickstep) all same time
46, Vicente Reynes Mimo (Lotto Belisol Team) at 4 mins 52 secs
47, Romain Sicard (Euskaltel - Euskadi)
48, Hernani Broco (Caja Rural)
49, Yury Trofimov (Katusha Team)
50, Xabier Zandio Echaide (Sky Procycling)
51, Rob Ruijgh (Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team)
52, Bart De Clercq (Lotto Belisol Team)
53, Tomasz Marczynski (Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team)
54, Dario Cataldo (Omega Pharma-Quickstep)
55, Francesco Gavazzi (Astana Pro Team)
56, Laurens Ten Dam (Rabobank Cycling Team) all same time
57, Bruno Pires (Team Saxo Bank - Tinkoff Bank) at 6 mins 8 secs
58, Winner Anacona Gomez (Lampre - ISD) at 8 mins 10 secs
59, Tiziano Dall'antonia (Liquigas-Cannondale)
60, Marco Pinotti (BMC Racing Team) at 9 mins 58 secs
61, Amets Txurruka (Euskaltel - Euskadi)
62, Arthur Vichot (FDJ-Big Mat)
63, Mikel Landa Meana (Euskaltel - Euskadi)
64, Amaël Moinard (BMC Racing Team)
65, Paolo Tiralongo (Astana Pro Team) all same time
66, Javier Moreno Bazan (Movistar Team) at 11 mins 16 secs
67, Vladimir Karpets (Movistar Team) same time
68, Juan Jose Cobo Acebo (Movistar Team) at 12 mins 40 secs
69, Björn Leukemans (Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team) at 14 mins 5 secs
70, Christian Meier (Orica GreenEdge Cycling Team)
71, José Vicente Toribio (Andalucia)
72, Serge Pauwels (Omega Pharma-Quickstep)
73, Volodymir Gustov (Team Saxo Bank - Tinkoff Bank)
74, Michael Rogers (Sky Procycling)
75, Sergey Lagutin (Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team)
76, Bertjan Lindeman (Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team)
77, Alexsandr Dyachenko (Astana Pro Team) all same time
78, Adrián Palomares (Andalucia) at 17 mins 14 secs
79, Pablo Lechuga Rodriguez (Andalucia)
80, Javier Francisco Aramendia Lorente (Caja Rural)
81, Andrey Zeits (Astana Pro Team)
82, Marcos Garcia (Caja Rural)
83, Nairo Alexander Quintana Rojas (Movistar Team)
84, Jesús Rosendo (Andalucia) all same time
85, Antonio Cabello Baena (Andalucia) at 17 mins 28 secs
86, Javier Chacon (Andalucia) same time


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