Philippe Gilbert of Omega Pharma Lotto this afternoon ended the month of July the same way he had begun it, wearing the Belgian national champions' jersey to victory. Four weeks ago, victory in Stage 1 of the Tour de France at Mont des Alouettes had put Gilbert into the maillot jaune. Today, an attack in the final 4 kilometres of the Clasica San Sebastian saw the Belgian triumph over former winner Carlos Barredo of Rabobank, who finished second, with another Belgian, Greg Van Avermaet of BMC Racing, third.
The ten-man group that contested the closing kilometres had broken away from what had already been a select bunch around 15 kilometres from the Basque seaside city, with Omega Pharma-Lotto the only team to be represented by two riders. Gilbert's team mate, Jelle Vanendert, winner at Plateau de Beille in the Tour de France, attacked but was unable to make it stick, and 7 kilometres from the finish line Barredo, winner of this race in 2009, made his move.
Once the 29-year-old Gilbert, winner of all three Ardennes classics this year, as other races including the Strade Bianche, went on the attack, none of his rivals was able to respond. He quickly caught and passed Barredo, and on the aproach to the line had time to sit up and enjoy the cheers of the crowd.
Afterwards, the Belgian revealed that changes made to the course in recent years that see the Category 1 Jaizkibel is climbed twice favoured him over some of the stronger climbers, since it meant that the climb was tackled less aggressively than it was in the days it was only ridden once.
Gllbert is only the second Belgian winner in the 30-year history of the race since Claude Criquielion triumphed in 1983, and while the country may be afflicted by linguistic and cultural splits, its cycling fans had plenty to cheer in this year's edition with four riders in the top ten.
Clasica San Sebastian result 1 GILBERT, Philippe Omega Pharma-Lotto 5:48:52 2 BARREDO, Carlos Rabobank 12 3 VAN AVERMAET, Greg BMC Racing 14 4 RODRIGUEZ, Joaquin Katusha 14 5 DEVENYNS, Dries Quick Step 14 6 SCHLECK, Frank Leopard Trek 14 7 ZUBELDIA, Haimar RadioShack 14 8 SÁNCHEZ, Samuel Euskaltel-Euskadi 14 9 URAN, Rigoberto Sky Procycling 14 10 VANENDERT, Jelle Omega Pharma-Lotto 50 11 GERRANS, Simon Sky Procycling 2:05 12 PONZI, Simone Liquigas-Cannondale 2:05 13 BRESCHEL, Matti Rabobank 2:05 14 GAVAZZI, Francesco Lampre-ISD 2:05 15 ROJAS, José Joaquin Movistar 2:05 16 FISCHER, Murilo Garmin-Cervelo 2:05 17 COBO, Juan José Geox-TMC 2:05 18 CHAVANEL, Sylvain Quick Step 2:05 19 HESJEDAL, Ryder Garmin-Cervelo 2:05 20 FRANK, Mathias BMC Racing 2:05
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.