Donostia/San Sebastian > Donostia/San Sebastian 230km
Welcome to the Remco show! Two appearances and two wins for him in this wonderful race, can he complete the hattrick? With the world championship just one week away, this race has a slightly different feel to it, but you can guarantee that those hoping to win the rainbow jersey are at the top of their game. As usual, we have the same questions surrounding those who have just finished the Tour de France, what will they have left in their legs? The organisers have decided to go back to what the race looked like in 2019, they don’t want another solo win from 44km to go.
A cracking day for a bike race, temperatures will be around 25 degrees.
The mythical Jaizkibel, this is when we start to see riders getting dropped.
The Erlaitz climb is very difficult, this is where Remco attacked last year, but now it comes with over 70km to go. They’ve Remco proofed it!
This is the first time up Murgil Tontorra, at the top of the hill the riders turn left, and the road continues to rise.
This is the second time up, this time the riders turn right and start heading to the finish. It’s a brutal climb, incredibly steep and the fans are right on you screaming and shouting encouragement.
Last year was a stunning display by Evenepoel, he won after going solo with 44km to go. All teams lining up at the race will have spent time wondering how to stop him, that includes the organisers. It’s now too far out for an attack on the Erlaitz to stick, the main attacks should come later in the race. In 2019, Evenepoel was dropped the first time up Murgil Tontorra, but re-joined the front before the second ascent, attacking on the flat before the climb. Teams need to be careful with their domestiques, team leaders don’t want to chase attacks before the final climb, that’s how Remco took the win that year.
Soudal – Quick Step arrive with a good team, they’ll hope to have enough men left to control the final 40km. Bagioli just won the final stage in Tour de Wallonie, he should be there, as should Alaphilippe and Knox. The role of Alaphilippe will be interesting, he might be allowed to attack from distance and force other teams into chasing. He might not have had the best Tour de France, but he’s a rider who normally goes very well after doing that race. The main challenge is likely to come from EF, UAE, and Bahrain, how will they approach the finale of the race? EF are likely to attack from distance, everyone else will probably wait until later in the day. If you’re going to beat Evenepoel, teams need to be bold and try to put Soudal – Quick Step under pressure, but that won’t be easy.
I hope the race is still together for the final ascent of Murgil Tontorra, the climb deserves a big fight between the best riders in the race, fingers crossed we get one.
Remco Evenepoel – to win this race, you used to have to ride the Tour de France, but Remco changed all that. He’ll arrive here full of confidence; he knows he can win this race in a variety of ways. With a strong team to support, and Remco always wanting to put on a show, he starts as the overwhelming favourite. Glasgow is just one week away, and Belgium have a very strong team, he’ll be wanting to remind everyone that he should be team leader.
Julian Alaphilippe – he’s one of five previous winners doing the race, he took a brilliant win back in 2018. He wasn’t at his best during the Tour de France, but he still managed to get in six breakaways, his best result was 10th in Issoire. With that race in his legs, I expect him to be closer to his very best, he’s got a habit of peaking for the worlds.
Juan Ayuso – crashed hard on Tuesday, resulting in some bruising to his knee, which was much better than first feared. It’s not ideal preparation for this race, hopefully he’s 100% and can go toe to toe with Evenepoel. Ayuso is an incredible talent, he has the ability to push Evenepoel all the way, fingers crossed we get a big fight.
Marc Hirschi – took the win on Tuesday after both Ayuso and Lazkano crashed. He might not be at this best in grand tours these days, but Hirschi is still a very good one day racer. UAE will hope they can use Hirschi and Ayuso to put Evenepoel under pressure.
Ben Healy – 2nd behind Hirschi on Tuesday, which was a good way to start this block of his season. Healy has been one of the best riders in 2023, his performances in the Ardennes was stunning, and he followed that up with a stage win in the Giro. He’s got a good chance in this race, he won’t think twice about attacking before everyone else, looking to get ahead of the race. The problem is that everyone knows how good he is, the days of getting a bit of freedom are over.
Neilson Powless – won here in 2021, but I do fear he ended the Tour on his knees. Can he recover in time?
Pello Bilbao – 6th and a stage win in the Tour was a brilliant return for the Basque rider. He would love to do well on home roads, but it all depends on his recovery. He’s not raced here since 2019, that year he was 19thafter completing the Tour de France.
Felix Gall – what a brilliant Tour de France he had, but will he have anything left? I doubt it.
Tiesj Benoot – loves this race, 3rd place last year was a brilliant result. Tiesj normally leaves the Tour with great legs, it helps not being involved in the GC fight. Beating those already mentioned won’t be easy, but I fancy his chances of taking another good result.
Everything is pointing to a third win for Remco Evenepoel.