By Andrew Hood
Laurent Jalabert took his Tour de France form straight into Spain and outfoxed three Italians to win the Clasica San Sebastian on Saturday. Jalabert, a winner of two stages and the best climber’s jersey in the 2001 Tour de France, edged Francesco Casagrande (Fassa Bortolo), Davide Rebellin (Liquigas) and Wladimir Belli (Fassa Bortolo) to win the first World Cup victory for his Danish CSC-Tiscali team.
“I was worried when you have three Italians, two on the same team, I thought the only way I could win is if I had the strongest legs,” said Jalabert, who won in 5 hours, 17 minutes, 54 seconds. “I didn’t have a lot of expectations for this race, but as the race progressed, I felt better.”
Jalabert made the decisive attack on the lower flanks of the Alto de Jaizkibel, the category-one climb 36 kilometers from the finish in San Sebastian. Casagrande, Belli and Rebellin followed and the quartet topped the climb with a 50-second margin on the lead chase group.
The break held the lead over the Alto de Gurutze, a category-three climb new to the course this year with 13 kms to go. Jalabert came off Belli’s wheel in the final sprint to win.
“It was a bad situation for me with the tactics into the finish, but I stayed calm. It was an instinctive victory for me,” said Jalabert, who said he wouldn’t be racing in the Tour of Spain in September.
Dutch rider Erik Dekker (Rabobank) widened his overall lead in the 10-race World Cup series after finishing ninth despite flatting at the base of the hardest climb in the 227-km (135-mile) race through Spain’s Basque Country.
“If you asked me if I flatted in the first 500 meters of the climb, I would turn around and go home, but when you are wearing the leader’s jersey, you have to fight on,” said Dekker, a winner here last year.
Dekker punctured his front tire at the base of Jaizkibel just before Jalabert and Casagrande were making the winning move.
“I was attacking at that moment I got the flat,” said Dekker, who traded wheels with teammate Maarten Den Bakker and fought hard to limit his losses. “I think today I was strong enough to have followed Jalabert. I have to be happy with the ninth place considering the circumstances of the race.”
Thousands of cheering Basque fans lined the course as a warm Iberian sun beat down on the 195 riders from 25 teams. Early in the race, Matthew White of the U.S. Postal Service team was part of a breakaway that built up a 4-minute lead at the 100-km mark. Liquigas, Mapei, ibanesto.com and Euskatel led the chase to bring them back.
Two other breaks failed as the lead group came to the base of the Jaizkibel climb. About two dozen riders followed Jalabert’s acceleration, including U.S. Postal’s Levy Leipheimer.
“Jalabert attacked at the steepest part of the climb. I tried to hang on. If I could have held on for another kilometer or two, I think I could have had a chance because I was feeling strong,” Leipheimer said, who finished 43rd, 34 seconds back in the lead group of 52 riders. “I have to be happy because with Jalabert and Casagrande, that’s pretty strong company.”
Jalabert and Casagrande set the pace and only Belli and Rebellin could stay on their wheels.
>> Armstrong skips San Sebastian, will miss Vuelta
Three-time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong did not race in Saturday’s Clasica San Sebastian and will not compete in the Vuelta a Espana in September, said U.S. Postal Service director Johan Bruyneel. “Lance stayed a little longer in the United States. He had more commitments than he thought. He was riding his bike every day, but the training didn’t go as well as he thought,” Bruyneel said. “He cannot come here just to start. It’s better than he comes back to Europe and train for 12 days to get ready for Burgos.”
Bruyneel confirmed that Armstrong will also skip the Vuelta. Instead, Armstrong will compete in the Tour of Burgos, Aug. 20-24 in northern Spain, the Zurich World Cup race on Aug. 28 and the San Francisco race in early September.
Armstrong will not be competing in the world championships in October, Bruyneel said.
Armstrong also loses his World Cup points he earned by finishing second in the Amstel Gold race in April. The UCI requires that racers compete in at least six of the 10 World Cup events for points to count for the final standings. Clasica winner Laurent Jalabert’s points won’t count either because this was the first World Cup race for the French rider this year.
Clasica San Sebastian, Spain, Aug. 11;
1. Laurent Jalabert (F), CSC-Tiscali, 5:17:54 (42.844 kph); 2. Francesco Casagrande (I), Fassa Bortolo, same time; 3. Davide Rebellin (I), Liquigas, s.t.; 4. Wladimir Belli (I), Fassa Bortolo, s.t.; 5. Serge Baguet (B), Lotto, at 0:26; 6. Stefano Garzelli (I), Mapei, at 0:34; 7. Piotr Wadecki (P), Domo, s.t.; 8. Andrea Ferrigato (I), Alessio, s.t.; 9. Erik Dekker (Nl), Rabobank, s.t.; 10. Javier Pascual Llorente (Sp), Kelme, s.t.; ;
19. Bobby Julich, Credit Agricole, s.t.; 43. Levy Leipheimer, U.S. Postal Service, s.t.; 73. George Hincapie, U.S. Postal Service, at 6:49; 128. Justin Spinelli, Saeco, at 13:29;;
195 starters, 6 finished beyond the time limit; 39 abandoned, including Chann McRae, Mercury, David Zabriskie, U.S. Postal Service;;
World Cup standings through six events:;
1. Erik Dekker (Nl), Rabobank, 219 points; 2. Davide Rebellin (I), Liquigas, 144; 3. Gianluca Bortolami (I), Tacconi Sport, 131; 4. Oscar Carmenzind (Swi), Lampre-Daikin,126; 5. Johan Museeuw (B), Domo, 116; 6. Romans Vainstains (Lat), Domo, 116; 7. Francesco Casagrande (I), Fassa Bortolo, 113; 8. Servais Knaven (Nl), Domo, 101; 9. Erik Zabel (G), Telekom, 100; 10. Serge Baguet (B), Lotto, 90.