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Tony Gallopin wins 2013 Clasica Ciclista San Sebastian

Gallopin's attack over the Alto de Arkale, coupled with some hesitation in the chase, brings the young Frenchman his biggest win yet

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SAN SEBASTIAN, Spain (VN) — Tony Gallopin (RadioShack-Leopard) attacked out of a group of favorites with 15km to go and soloed home for victory in Saturday’s Clásica San Sebastián.

The 25-year-old Frenchman attacked over the top of the Cat. 2 Alto de Arkale late in the 232km race across Spain’s Basque Country to fend off Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and Roman Kreuziger (Saxo-Tinkoff), who crossed the line in frustration 28 seconds back.

Gallopin took advantage of some hesitation in a five-man chase group to claim the biggest win of his young career.

“I finished the Tour a little tired. It was a difficult season for me, with some illness, but today, I was super, super good, and then I ended up on the front of this beautiful race, I am so happy,” Gallopin said.

Gallopin joined a group of 10 up and over the Cat. 1 Jaizkibel climb late in what’s Spain’s most important one-day race.

Fresh off finishing the Tour de France, Gallopin shot clear up the day’s final hurdle, the short but steep Arkale climb.

Five riders coalesced in his wake. Kreuziger had Saxo teammate Nicholas Roche while Euskaltel had Mikel Nieve and Mikel Landa. Gallopin had carved out a 30-second lead on a wet, technical descent off the Arkale descent, and drove it all the way to the line.

Some hesitation in the chase doomed the five-man group to fight for leftovers as Gallopin, nephew of RadioShack sport director Allain Gallopin, celebrated the most important win of his career.

Jaizkibel splits the bunch

The 33rd Clásica opened under cool, cloudy skies, with many of the top Tour de France finishers among the 156-rider field lining up less than a week after hitting the Champs-Élysées.

Plenty of riders were keen to take advantage of their form, including Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEdge), who won a stage and wore the yellow jersey at the Tour.

“We have a strong team here, and if things go our way, we can make a play for the win,” Gerrans told VeloNews at the start. “We had a great Tour. Now I will go to the Vuelta and see what happens there.”

An early, four-man move pulled clear in the opening kilometers in the rollout from San Sebastián, with Matthias Krizek (Cannondale), Javier Aramendia (Caja Rural), Oliver Kaisen (Lotto-Belisol), and Luca Wackerman (Lampre) pulling clear.

Following a familiar script here at the Clásica, the main pack let the group gain a large gap, just over 11 minutes at its widest, before it slowly started to reel them in.

The peloton started to up the chase on the first of two passages up the Jaizkibel, reducing the gap to six minutes. By the time the peloton looped around for a second passage, their time was done.

Nairo Quintana (Movistar) turned the screws, exploding the main group at the base of the 12km Jaizkibel climb, a move designed to set up Valverde.

Following Valverde’s wheel were Kreuziger and Saxo teammate Nicholas Roche.

Kreuziger attacked near the top, and a group of 10 formed coming off the long descent. Also in the group were Gallopin, Sylvain Chavanel (Omega Pharma-Quick Step), Yannick Eijssen (BMC), Moreno Moser (Cannondale), Landa and Astarloza, and Arnold Jeannesson (FDJ).

Arkale springs the move

The final hurdle came with the Cat. 2 Alto de Arkale, with about 15km to go.

Gallopin took his chance, carving out a 13-second gap to the chasing Landa and Roche. Remnants of the front group and a chasing group came through in fragments as rain started to pelt the strung-out bunch in the decisive closing moves.

Valverde and Kreuziger didn’t want the race to slip away, and began to chase in earnest. The rain-slicked roads helped Gallopin hold his gap down the narrow, technical descent.

Five chasers formed in his wake, with Roche, Kreuziger, Valverde, Landa and Nieve, who bridged across, working together with 10km to go.

Gallopin held a 30-second gap with 8km to go, putting pressure on the chasers to close down the gap.

And he kept pouring it on as the five chasers left it too late, leaving him with what proved to be an insurmountable 25-second gap with 4km to go.

“I was disappointed after the Tour, because I wanted to go for a stage win,” Gallopin said. “This is the first time here and I won, in front of Alejandro and Kreuziger, I am very happy.”