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Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) soloed to victory in the Clásica San Sebastián on Saturday.
The Spaniard made his move on the final climb of the 219km WorldTour race through the Basque Country, helping forge a five-man lead group on the subsequent descent, then dropping it with 4km to go and holding his advantage to the line.
Fourteen seconds later Bauke Mollema (Belkin) finished second with Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) third.
“It’s my 10th win of the year, and it puts me in the lead of the [WorldTour]. I am happy,” said Valverde.
“I made the race, I went as hard as I could, and I could win. The [final] descent was just as important as the climb, and I was solid in both.”
The man off the front early on was Amets Txurruka (Caja Rural), who built a six-minute lead at one point only to see it dip to just over two minutes with 70km to go. Ten kilometers further along the Movistar-led peloton pulled him back in, and David Lopez Garcia (Sky) tried his luck.
He was joined by Giovanni Visconti (Movistar), Alessandro De Marchi (Cannondale) and Matteo Montaguti (Ag2r La Mondiale), and shortly thereafter Laurens Ten Dam (Belkin), Jan Bakelants (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) and Alberto Losada (Katusha) bridged up as well.
With 34km remaining and the Alto de Arkale on the horizon the escapees had less than half a minute over the chase, led by Orica-GreenEdge and Trek Factory Racing. They were swept up on the climb and a new group went free, only to see the peloton reform on the descent.
Andriy Grivko (Astana) went next, taking 16 seconds on the bunch with 24km to race. As his margin doubled, Movistar once again came forward to drive the chase going into the final climb, the Bordako Tontorra, with an assist from Katusha.
Grivko’s moment in the sun ended with 14km remaining, as the race hit the finishing circuit.
Ag2r set the pace going into the Tontorra only to see Alexander Kolobnev (Katusha) take off, quickly opening a huge gap. Adam Yates (Orica-GreenEdge) began a chase, followed by Mikel Nieve (Sky), Mollema (Belkin) and De Marchi.
Nieve reached Kolobnev on the narrow, crowd-lined ascent. Then Rodriguez shot past and into the lead, Valverde followed, and the two went over the top together.
With 6km to race Rodriguez and Valverde had the slightest of leads over Mollema, Nieve and Yates. The latter was first to make the connection, and then it was a five-man group off the front.
Valverde leapt away with 4km to go as behind, Yates crashed out of the chase.
“Purito told me we were going too fast and I regulated the speed on the descent so as not to lose my rhythm,” said Valverde. “Now we’ll enjoy the victory.”
Two kilometers from the line he had a handful of seconds over the three-man pursuit. At the red kite Valverde had 12 seconds and showed no signs of fading in the final kilometer, though he kept glancing backward to gauge the distance between himself and the chase.
Valverde had plenty of time to zip up and celebrate at the line. Rodriguez led out the chase for second, but Mollema pipped him for the runner-up spot.