One of my favourite races of the year returns this weekend for its 37th edition. The Klasikoa marks the shift in the season from post-Tour blues to pre-Vuelta hype! An exciting Spanish one-day race that offers those a chance at glory for Ardennes style riders along with GC talents looking to prove a point after La Grand Boucle.
In 2016 we saw the latter, with Mollema taking a great solo victory.
He crested the final climb of the day along with Gallopin, Valverde and Rodriguez but the Trek rider decided to seize his opportunity and attack; not looking back until the finishing straight.
Given the two Spaniards discontent for each other, Gallopin was stuck with the world’s hardest negotiating job trying to get the trio to work together. In the end, he did the majority of the work but it was too late. He managed to sprint for 2nd, a slight consolation but it was a case of what could have been for the Frenchman, with Valverde following wheels into third.
Will we see something similar this year?
Let’s take a look at what’s in store for the riders.
The organisers have stuck with a very similar route to what we had last year, although there seems to be a lot more climbing earlier in the day compared to 2016.
However, I don’t expect the racing to get exciting until the first passage of the Jaizkibel at 127km, just over halfway through the race. Saying that, it probably won’t be until the second passage at roughly 60km to go that we will see the race liven up as this is a potential for a race winning move if the group contains the right riders and teams.
More than likely though, it will come down to the final climb of the Murgil and the descent/run to the line that follows.
Now, I wouldn’t call the climb Tontorra and I’m sure there was a similar issue last year where the organisers labelled the climb Murgil Tontorra when it should be called Murgil Bidea. That’s just me nitpicking though!
The climb itself is short but very sharp. However, its severity does depend on the source you are looking at. On the profile above it is a 1.9km long climb at 10.2% average. That’s close to the 1.7km at 10.3% that Strava suggests it is.
The profile of which you can view here.
Yet, the organisers on their website claim it is 2.5km at a 9% average. The road does rise a little bit before the climb starts properly but to say it is that length is probably a bit generous. So I think there might be a mistake on their website!
Last year Devenyns managed the Bidea climb in 5’42 according to the Strava segment above. Watching the footage from the race, he seems to crest the summit ~18 seconds after the front 4 so that gives you an idea of the time of the ascent for the front group; 5’24.
Borderline between tipping the scales towards the pure climbers and away from those Ardennes specialists, it should produce an exciting finish.
The race doesn’t end at the summit though and we are often treated to a tactical battle on the false-flat/descent/flat run in to the line.
With no Valverde and Rodriguez here this year, we might actually see a group co-operate if they get away off the front!
A big cause of debate is how much does completing a Grand Tour help a riders legs and form. We often hear of riders saying that they feel the benefits of it the following year, but there are also short-term benefits too.
If the race isn’t too hard, then riders can carry their form over to some races the following months and we often see riders use the Vuelta as preparation for the World Championships for example.
The same can be said for the Tour and some of the races that follow at the end of July/start of August.
In fact, the last 10 editions of San Sebastian have been won by a rider who has came from the Tour.
The table above highlights the top 3 at the last 10 editions of Klasikoa with their GC positions at the Tour in brackets. NR means that the rider did not compete at the Tour.
Looking at the table in more depth, it seems that riding the Tour is key for a good result in San Sebastian with only 6/30 of the podium places occupied by those who didn’t race La Grand Boucle. That trend seems to be even more prevalent as of late as only Meersman and Gilbert have podiumed in the last 5 years without having completed the Tour.
The average GC position of the winner for the last 10 years is 26.8 and with Romain Hardy’s Fortuneo team not competing here, we’ll round-up and go with Dani Navarro for the win…
Joking aside, it does seem that those coming from the Tour have an advantage but these “rules” can be broken!
Let’s have a look at who’ll be in the mix come the end of the race.
One of the first four riders to crest the climb and eventual race winner, he returns back this year to defend his title. Having taken his first ever Tour win a few weeks ago he will be buoyed with confidence. Being able to take it “easy” during some of the stages should mean that he is fresher here than he was last year, where he seemed to be dead on his feet by the end of the race. Maybe that will have the opposite effect than what was expected?
Second place last year, the Frenchman has a very impressive record at this race and it seems to suit him very well. I thought the climb might have been on his limit last year but it is proof that the race suits those who can put out a lot of watts for a short period of time! After his crash in the opening TT he was really attacking in the second half of the Tour, getting into the breakaway every few days. He’s a good candidate for another top 5 result. Team-mate Benoot could also be in the mix.
So close to a win in the final TT of the Tour, Kwiatkowski was arguably the best domestique of the whole race. The length and quality of turns he did on the front of the race was incredible. Interestingly though, he lost the majority of his time during the TT on the short climb. So I’m beginning to wonder if he was lost some of his explosivity in exchange for more endurance. Will he be able to follow the best tomorrow?
If Kwiatkowski isn’t there, then you would expect Landa to be there or thereabouts. He was incredible for the majority of the Tour but he did seem to tire at the end. Is doing the Giro and Tour finally taking a toll on his legs? I wouldn’t be surprised to see him ride everyone off his wheel tomorrow, or blow up early. I’m leaning towards the latter happening.
The Colombian rode the Tour of his life to finish second overall, notching up a stage win along the way. He is clearly in scintillating form but how much has that race taken out of him? This season he seemed to be transforming into more of a one-day racer and he goes well on courses like this; he really should have won Lombardia at the end of last year. He has shown in the past few weeks he has the power to follow the best on the climbs and the speed to finish it off, can he do it again tomorrow?
The rider who was the focal point of one of my favourite photos from the whole Tour arrives here as Sunweb’s leader, or does he? Dumoulin might have a say in that! Nonetheless, Barguil was incredible over the past three weeks; two stage wins, the KOM jersey and a top 10 on GC. In that final week of the race, he was putting out climbing numbers only the top guys on the overall standings could match. If he has kept that form up, then he should be in the front group on the final climb. Like Uran, he also packs a handy sprint from a small group. This looks like his best opportunity in a while to take a one-day race win!
Bookmaker’s favourite, he is another rider with a good history at this race. He famously crashed into a motorbike while attacking away from everyone in 2015, while last year he couldn’t follow the best on the climb. Fairly disappointing at the Tour, I think we might see a repeat of last year’s performance from him. The same can be said for another rider of a similar build, Gilbert. I think it’s too early after his illness at the Tour for him to go well.
Hoping to repeat his brother’s success, the White Jersey winner will come into the race with some pressure on his shoulders. His team tried to set the race up for him last season but he couldn’t follow the pace on the climb, probably because he didn’t have the Tour in his legs! This year he has, but he did look a little bit jaded towards the end of the race. Is he going to do a Mollema though?
There are a handful of possible outsiders who could go well such as Roglic or even Lammertink (Maurits).
As for those who weren’t at the Tour, they’ll find it hard to compete. Nonetheless, I think we could see Lopez, Dumoulin and possibly Fraile be in or around the top 10.
Tour legs will shine through so I’ll go for one of the form riders of the race, it is just a case of who…
I have two in mind, either Barguil or Uran.
Given his better sprint, I’ll go for Uran to take the win, he is flying just now and a result here will top off a great July for him!
I wouldn’t normally go EW on the two of them at their current odds but given that both could sprint for second or third behind a solo winner then I think it is worth it.
1pt EW on them both;
Uran @ 16/1 with Boyles (paying 4 places) would take 14/1 elsewhere
Barguil @ 20/1 with Ladbrokes/Coral
Thanks as always for reading, who do you think will win tomorrow? Will we see a small sprint to the line or will a solo rider take the day? Anyway,
They were My Two Spokes Worth.