The Clásica San Sebastián 2023 has a winner, Remco Evenepoel finishes first in a very competitive and exciting race right until the end.
The day began in Alderdi Eder Park, with incredible views of La Concha beach and leading riders on their bikes.
Several breakaway attempts followed the start, but it wasn’t until Meaga that 5 riders managed to gain a slight lead. Franck Bonnamour (ACT, 13), Romain Bardet (DSM, 71), Julien Bernard (LTK, 152), Nathan Van Hooydonck (TJV, 167), and Mikel Iturria (EUS, 215). They rode fast, opening up a five-minute lead over the peloton. Behind, several teams without riders in the breakaway reeled in the leaders to close the gap.
Jaizkibel then began to filter out the strongest riders of the day. Franck Bonnamour (ACT, 13) lost contact with the breakaway and was neutralised by the peloton. Behind, Quinten Hermans (ADC, 21), Iván García Cortina (MOV, 122), and Lawson Craddock (JAY, 137) attacked and remained between the leaders and the peloton. The lead reduced to 2 and a half minutes at the top of Jaizkibel.
A very fast descent and straight on to the tough Erlaitz climb, the race’s only category 1 climb. The leading group broke away and the chasers were neutralised by the peloton. Romain Bardet (DSM, 71) and Nathan Van Hooydonck (TJV, 167) led the race. The Jumbo Visma rider dropped a few metres due to Bardet’s pace but managed to reconnect before the descent. Behind, Soudal-Quickstep’s men pulled in the peloton to bring Remco Evenepoel closer to the escapees.
Ben Healy (EFE, 82) tried to change the pace of the peloton and surprise in the final metres of the climb, but Soudal-Quickstep quickly caught his wheel. World champion Remco Evenepoel (SOQ, 1) attacked with 400 m to the top. 73 km remained to the finish. He was joined by Pello Bilbao (TBV, 141), Alberto Bettiol (EFE, 83), and Alexander Vlasov (BOH, 57). The group, which included 4 of the favourites, began to communicate and extended the lead over the peloton. The Remco group managed to catch up with the race leader on the descent. 40 seconds difference with the peloton.
The escapees reached the first pass along the Boulevard de Donostia with a gap of 1 minute and 17 seconds. 40 kilometres to the finish and the two Murgil climbs still to go. Movistar tried to reduce the gap to Ivan Garcia Cortina (MOV, 122) but they were going very fast at the front. The Murgil wall arrived, and Remco Evenepoel personally set the pace. Bardet and Van Hooydonck dropped off on the first ramps.
Felix Gall (ACT, 15) attacked from the peloton at the start of the first hard section and was joined by Tiesj Bennot (TJV, 161) and Mikel Landa (TBV, 142). In front were Pello Bilbao (TBV, 141), Alexander Vlasov (BOH, 57) and Remco Evenepoel (SOQ, 1) with a margin of 1 minute and 47 seconds.
After the descent to Orio, a group of around 20 riders began to chase the escapees. They didn’t manage to communicate, and the three escapees didn’t slow down. The gap increased to as much as 3 minutes. Victory would be fought amongst the 3 race leaders. Only 10 kilometres left, but with the second Murgil wall still to go.
Remco Evenepoel (SOQ, 1) upped the pace with 1 kilometre left, but it wasn’t enough to break away from Pello Bilbao (TBV, 141) who remained tight on his wheel. The climb was replete with fans cheering on the cyclists.
The two riders continued at an unbeatable pace and went straight down to the finish line to compete for victory in the sprint.
After a heart-stopping sprint, world champion Remco Evenepoel (SOQ, 1) managed to beat Pello Bilbao (TBV, 141) to win his third ‘txapela’ and equal Marino Lejarreta with the most wins at the Clásica San Sebastián.
First place: Remco Evenpoel (SOQ, 1)
Second place: Pello Bilbao (TBV, 141)
Third place: Alexander Vlasov (BOH, 57)
Winner of the mountain prize: Romain Bardet (DSM, 71)
Sprint winner: Alexander Vlasov (BOH, 57)
Best young rider: Juan Ayuso (UAD, 171)
Best Basque rider: Pello Bilbao (TBV, 141)
Best team: UAE Team Emirates
Most combative: Romain Bardet (DSM, 71)