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
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
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.
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:
Sebastian - Can Astarloa End the Curse of the Rainbow?
Sebastian 2004 – The Italian Job
Sebastián Preview: More
Sebastian Live Coverage
Photos of a gorgeous Spanish day at the Clasica,
courtesy Illes Balears-Banesto.
Click for larger images.