Belgium’s Philippe Gilbert won the San Sebastian Classic with a devastating late lone attack on Saturday that underlined Gilbert’s status as this year’s king of the one-day Classics.
As the sunshine glittered off the red, black and gold of his Belgium national champion’s jersey, the Omega Pharma-Lotto rider even had time to salute the crowds before he claimed his 14th win of the season.
Second, 12 seconds back was Spain’s Carlos Barredo, the winner of the race in 2009, with Greg Van Avermaet of Belgium in third.
Already the winner of all three Ardennes Classics this spring as well as the opening stage of the Tour de France last month, Gilbert said recent changes in the Clasica’s route had favored him.
“For the last two years the race has gone over the [decisive climb of the] Jaizkebel twice, not once, so we don’t go over it so hard,” the 29-year-old Gilbert told reporters. “That double climb changes the way the race is ridden and the steadier pace is much better for a rider like me.”
“In any case, I rode the Tour de France full on and then did five criteriums this week, but I’m still feeling good and that’s what counts,” he added. “It’s been a great season so far, with all these wins, and I hope it will continue.”
Gilbert first showed his strength in Spain when he chased down a dangerous attack by Spain’s Samuel Sanchez, winner of this year’s Tour de France’s King of the Mountains competition, on the upper slopes of the Jaizkebel.
Then Gilbert led the charge again when another Belgian, double Tour of Flanders champion Stijn Devolder, attempted a late solo breakaway.
Finally after Gilbert’s teammate Jelle Vanendert aborted a move by Spain’s Barredo in the suburbs of San Sebastian, Gilbert shot off on the unclassified minor climb of the Alto de MiraCruz.
Although Sanchez and Spain’s Haimar Zubeldia attempted to chase him down, it was impossible for them to make contact with the Belgian.
“There’s no dishonor in finishing second when a rider like Gilbert comes first,” Barredo, the runner-up, told reporters afterward. “Gilbert was the strongest and a deserving winner.”