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Clasica San Sebastian – The Magnificent 7
By Podofdonny
Date: 8/7/2004
Clasica San Sebastian – The Magnificent 7

We billed the race as a possible “Spaghetti Western” between the Italian one-day heavyweights, but local riders did enough to turn the race into the “Magnificent 7” on what was a true day of cycling passion and excitement in red hot Spain.

It was the Cat 1 Jaizkibel which, as usual, proved the decisive moment in the course. At the start of the climb the early breakaway riders were just reeled in time for Paolo Bettini (who had World Cup leader Davide Rebellin seemingly welded to his rear wheel) to make the first move. In the sweltering heat, the following peloton shattered like a breaking iceberg as only the quick and heat-resistant riders could follow “The Cricket's” wheel. Miguel A M Perdiguero (Saunier Duval), Davide Rebellin and Georg Totschnig (Gerolsteiner), Marcos Serrano (Liberty), Alberto Martinez (Relax) and Ivan Basso (CSC) all managed to keep contact with the Quickstep rider. The Austrian Georg Totschnig, who has had a great season so far, then went to work for his Gerolsteiner Captain Davide Rebellin by setting an awesome tempo as the road went upwards.

For a while on the steep slopes of the Jaizkibel it seemed that Ullrich and Astarloa in the chasing second group may have fought back on. But a mechanical problem for Ullrich (possibly his saddle) and the sheer pace of Totschnig meant that the leaders crossed the summit with nearly a minutes advantage. Nothing would stop the Magnificent 7 from settling the race between themselves.

Alberto Martinez, clearly aware that he was in the company of riders a lot quicker in the sprint, had a dig just before the final climb of the day, but the other six riders missed his company and soon pulled him back just in time for the short steep Gurutze climb. Again the “Cricket,” Paolo Bettini, shirt open, looking hugely determined, put in an attack. Once again Rebellin sent his hit man Totschnig after him to bring the race back together. Basso had the misfortune to puncture, and had to put in a huge effort to rejoin the leaders, which must have ultimately affected his chances in the final showdown.

Under the Flamme Rouge and the Magnificent 7 were reduced to five as both Totschnig and Basso paid for earlier efforts as the pace became frantic. Miguel Perdiguero made the early jump. In fact it seemed way too early. But the winner of 7 races so far this season, including the overall of the Volta Ciclista a Catalunya, maintained his effort. With Bettini and Rebellin hot on his wheels, Spanish hearts must have stopped when he seemed to raise his hands in triumph just a little too soon. But the man from Madrid had timed everything to perfection and became the first local winner since “El Rey,” the great Miguel Indurain, won the race 14 years ago in 1990.

Perdi wins in the Basque Country. Photo courtesy Saunier Duval-Prodir.

Perdiguero looked shell shocked. “I can’t believe it, I wasn’t even feeling confident about the race when we started. But the length of the race and the heat were to my advantage.”

Bettini, all gracious smiles and Italian charm, is far more sophisticated after the battle -“I was looking for Rebellin on the left, when Perdiguero attacked from the right I missed that vital moment. You can’t always win. That would be too beautiful!”

But for all Bettini’s smiles, he knows that Rebellin’s third place makes the Gerolsteiner rider odds on for the world cup.

As for the other riders mentioned in our preview “Spaghetti Western” – Mystery Man Valverde remains just that. His team had been riding well when a puncture at the foot of the Jaizkibel put paid to his chances. Superman would not have caught Totschnig charging up the climb.

The Outlaw – Pippo Simeoni inevitably had an attempt to bridge the gap to the Magnificent 7. He and many others failed; the chasing peloton never really got organised. But there was a lot of good work done by Quickstep to slow the chasers down. Does he wear a black or white hat? Regardless, he rode a good race, finishing in the second group, 1.35 down.

Meanwhile the Curse of the Rainbow Jersey still holds – Astarloa got caught in the second group and finished 1.39 down in 12th spot.

Saunier Duval have been one of the most competitive teams throughout the season. They, like CSC or Brioches, are always prepared to make a race of it. One felt for Jekker when he was pipped by Ullrich in the Tour de Suisse. Perdiguero’s victory is a credit to a fine team of racing cyclists.

Top Ten

1. Miguel A M Perdiguero (Spain), Saunier Duval, 5:18.35
2. Paolo Bettini (Italy) Quickstep
3. Davide Rebellin (Italy) Gerolsteiner
4. Marcos Serrano (Spain) Liberty
5. Alberto Martinez (Spain) Relax , all same time
6. Ivan Basso (Italy) CSC, 6 seconds behind
7. Georg Totschnig (Austria) Gerolsteiner, same time
8. Rik Verbrugghe (Belgium) Lotto, 1.19
9. Constantino Zaballa (Spain) Saunier Duval, 1.35
10. Markus Zberg (Switzerland) Gerolsteiner, 1.39

World Cup Standings

1. Rebellin 282 points
2. Bettini 238
3. Oscar Freire (Spain) Rabobank 182
4. Stuart O'Grady (Australia) Cofidis 150
5. Michael Boogerd (Netherlands) Rabobank 146
6. Erik Dekker (Netherlands) Rabobank 137
7. Steffen Wesemann (Germany) T-Mobile 131
8. Perdiguero 120
9. Erik Zabel (Germany) T-Mobile 108
10. Magnus Backstedt (Sweden) Alessio-Bianchi 100

Our other Clasica San Sebastian articles:

San Sebastian - Can Astarloa End the Curse of the Rainbow?
Clasica San Sebastian 2004 – The Italian Job
Clásica San Sebastián Preview: More
Clasica San Sebastian Live Coverage

Photos of a gorgeous Spanish day at the Clasica,
courtesy Illes Balears-Banesto.
Click for larger images.

Related Articles
San Sebastian - Can Astarloa End the Curse of the Rainbow?
Clasica San Sebastian 2004 – The Italian Job
Clasica San Sebastian Live Coverage

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