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San Sebastian - Can Astarloa End the Curse of the Rainbow?
By Podofdonny
Date: 8/4/2004
San Sebastian - Can Astarloa End the Curse of the Rainbow?

Igor Astarloa, the champion of the world, will be hoping for a home win for the Basque cycling fans in the Klasika San Sebastián, the 7th Round of the World Cup that will start on the 7th of August at eleven thirty in the morning over 227 kilometers. The World Champion , a one day specialist was third on Sunday in the Hew Cyclassics in Hamburg, Astarloa will be hoping to go one better than his second place in 2002, just behind the much missed Laurent Jalabert. Donostia (as the race is also known) is also the last great race before the Olympic Road Race, so a victory here would give Astarloa a big boost of confidence for the “Gold Medal” race on Saturday August 14th.

Igor Astarloa. Courtesy Lampre.

Astarloa, who won the points jersey and a stage in the recent Brixia Tour, is now happier and maybe convinced that he is not suffering from “the curse of the Rainbow jersey” that old cycling superstition that riders in the Rainbow inevitably have a season of bad luck while riding in the famous Rainbow Colours.

“That victory certainly gave me confidence. Wearing the Rainbow jersey means that you are closely watched and you have a large responsibility too. It has been a strange season so far, with the changes of team from Cofidis to Lampre. It is very hard to live up to the expectations of wearing the Rainbow jersey, but I am finally feeling a little more relaxed about it.”

He came close to victory on Sunday in Hamburg, and had great support from his team mates (Casagrande, who in past seasons has been a great animator on the climb of the Jaizkibel, should also race on Saturday with the Lampre Team) and the Rainbow jersey is feeling confident, and was happy with his race in Hamburg: “I felt good. In the sprint, I think that I started at the right moment. I had to surprise them because I knew I was up against fast guys. Sometimes you can wait too long, at the end of the day I was happy with my result.”

“Of course I believe that I can win the 'Donostia.' I feel a strong as when I finished second to Jalabert in 2002, maybe better.” The San Sebastián race, with its hilly parcours, presents a different racing profile from Hamburg, but Astarloa thinks it will be the usual suspects at the end of the race: “Although there was no 7 kilometre climb of the Jaizkibel in Hamburg, we will still see the usual suspects. Bettini, Rebellin and maybe even Ullrich, I didn’t see much of him in Germany but he may well find the Jaizkibel to his liking.”

Astarloa, who unusually for a Spanish rider has mainly raced with Italian teams (indeed it was Marco Pantani’s team Mercatone Uno who gave him the chance to turn pro) has found good support from his Lampre teammates. “It is unfair but I would signal out Bossoni for his work in Hamburg.” And why not, Bossini has won a race every year since 2000 and is one of the unsung heroes of the peloton.

Paolo Bossoni. Courtesy Lampre.

Astarloa had planned a season with two goals, Liege Bastogne Liege and the August World Cup Races, and the Olympics. His decision to leave Cofidis when the team voluntarily withdrew from the calendar as “dopage” investigations continued obviously affected his plans.

Astarloa may have ridden himself away from the “Curse of the Rainbow” jersey when he left Cofidis. Possibly David Millar is a better example of the curse this year. Then again, Tom Simpson, who won the World Championships in 1965 at San Sebastian, could well be the ultimate example. Maybe cycling is not about superstition but weight. At 61 kilos and 1.65 metres Astarloa is the 21st Century ideal weight and power ratio for a one day racer, so a Basque may well again hold his hands aloft and wear the famous hat.

Indurain won in 1990, the superb Marino Lejarreta on three occasions (1981, 1982 and 1987) and Iñaki Gastón in 1986. Igor Astarloa, is looking good for the San Sebastian….

The Race

Saint Sebastian. Courtesy

The Clasica San Sebastian is the only Spanish Race in the World Cup Series. After last weekend's race through the City of Hamburg, San Sebastian is all about hills, panoramic views and the Jaizkibel.

Raced over 227 kilometres, the riders face a succession of climbs, starting with the third cat Alto de Oria after 19 kilometres.

At 29 kilometres the second cat Alto de Garate; the riders then head through the climb and tunnel of the Alto de Azkarate after 59 kilometres, and then tackle the Alto de Udana after 100 kilometres.

Then follow 100 kilometres of rolling countryside with glimpses of the ocean in the distance before the riders tackle the key point of the race, the Alto de Jaizkibel (after 195 kilometres), which is usually the deciding climb. However, those who make the usually small selection must also have the legs to stay away from the peloton and tackle the last obstacle of the day, the Alto de Gurutze, a third cat climb just 14 kilometres from the finish. The race is ideally suited to punchy climbers who have the legs to tackle the Jaizkibel, and the racing know-how to stay in a small group and dominate at the end. Laurent Jalabert, who has won the race twice, fits the profile of a San Sebastian type rider perfectly. A true all rounder with a wicked sprint at the end of the day.

The Scenery

Distances: 20 km to the French border (Hendaia/Hendaye in Lapurdi province), 75 km to Pamplona, 100 km to Bilbao, 465 km to Madrid, 780 km to Paris.

Names: It is called officially Donostia-San Sebastián, in Basque is called Donostia, and in Spanish San Sebastián. Although many people called it just Donosti, even using Spanish.

The Basques are the oldest ethnic group in Europe. Their language (Euskara or Euskera) is a pre-Latin language. The Basque Country, called Euskal Herria or Euskadi in Basque language,or País Vasco in Spanish, that belongs to Spain, refers uniquely to three provinces (Gipuzkoa or Guipúzcoa, Bizkaia or Vizcaya and Araba or Álava), but there is also fourth province: Nafarroa or Navarra, that specially in the north, has a very strong Basque feeling. There is also another Basque Country, that formed in the French area, formed by three provinces: Lapurdi, the most important one (Biarritz and Baiona are the most important towns), Behenafarroa and Zuberoa.

The Daily Peloton Song of the Race

Sebastian by Steve Harley.

Race Palmares

I 1981 Marino Lejarreta
II 1982 Marino Lejarrera
III 1983 Claude Criquelion
IV 1984 Niki Rutiman
V 1985 Adri Van Der Poel
VI 1986 Iñaki Gastón
VII 1987 Marino Lejarreta
VIII 1988 Gert Jan Theunisse
IX 1989 Gerarde Zadrobilek
X 1990 Miguel Indurain
XI 1991 Gianni Bugno
XII 1992 Raul Alcalá
XIII 1993 Claudio Chiapucci
XIV 1994 Armand De las Cuevas
XV 1995 Lance Armstrong
XVI 1996 Udo Bolts
XVII 1997 Davide Rebellin
XVIII 1998 Francesco Casagrande
XIX 1999 Francesco Casagrande
XX 2000 Erik Dekker
XXI 2001 Laurent Jalabert
XXI  2002 Laurent Jalabert
XXII 2003 Paolo Bettini

They also have a film festival... Courtesy Green Cine Daily.

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