“There have always been strange races,” Damiano Cunego told Gazzetta dello Sport. “After the Jaizkibel, there have been riders who’ve gotten back on and then counter-attacked and it’s all over.”
Truer words were never spoken. The action in the Clasica San Sebastian was wild and chaotic and Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) was the rider who mastered the race.
After countless attacks and counter attacks, Gilbert made his winning move with 3.5 kilometers left, chasing down Carlos Barredo (Rabobank) and crossing the line 11 seconds in front, another victory in an astonishing season for the Belgian.
Barredo managed to hang on for second place while Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) won the sprint for third. A nice little post-Tour bonus for the red and black of BMC.
Frank Schleck had been in good position but hesitated when Barredo took off, knowing it was pointless to pull Gilbert forward. Samuel Sanchez (Euskatel-Eusaki) and Haimar Zubeldia (Radio Shack) joined forces in a failed attempt to reach Gilbert. At least they made the effort and the Basque fans went nuts watching them fly past.
Nearly every favorite had a shot at the win, as a large group came over the Jaizkibel and Arkale. Besides Gilbert, there was Vanendert, Devenyns, Sanchez, Joaquim Rodriguez, Carlos Barredo, Van Avermaet, Zubeldia, Rigoberto Uran and Frank Schleck. They’re counting the missed opportunities and against Gilbert there’s aren’t many.
Gilbert’s ability to read a race is almost scary. He’s supremely confident, intuitive and aggressive and seems to own that one gear nobody else can buy.
For some riders it might have seemed like — to quote Cunego — a strange race. Hardly strange that the winner was Philippe Gilbert. Hard to think he won’t win every single race on the UCI calendar some time very soon.