Remco Evenepoel returned to San Sebastian to warm up for the Glasgow World Championships, taking his third Donostia San Sebastian Klasikoa title, the race in 2019 where he won his first World Tour race. Evenepoel attacked early from the peloton with 73 km to go and won the final two-up sprint against Pello Bilbao.
Remco Evenepoel won the race both in 2019 and 2022 and with a 100% hit rate he was the big favourite in 2023. In the 2023 edition the mighty Erlaitz climb (4 km, 10.4%) was included earlier than in 2022, with Mendizorrotz (4.1 km, 7.3%) and Murgil (2.1 km, 9.8%) following after that. Evenepoel launched very near to the top of Erlaitz probably surprising most of the peloton, and perhaps his team car, with 73 km to go. Only Pello Bilbao, Aleksandr Vlasov and Alberto Bettiol made the split, with Romain Bardet and Nathan van Hooydonck waiting for the Remco group as they were in the early breakaway.
The pace on Erlaitz was not high, Evenepoel doing 6.32 ᵉW/Kg for 13:21 min (85 seconds slower than 2022 effort where Evenepoel went clear to win the race). But the fast acceleration in the final metres was enough to reduce the peloton to only a few riders.
The teams in the peloton were not able to catch the leading group. Evenepoel continued to dominate, and after Mendizorrotz only Bilbao and Vlasov were left. The World Champion did 7.06 ᵉW/Kg for 9:14 min, while Felix Gall who missed the Erlaitz move, was seven seconds slower from the peloton.
On the final Murgil climb, Evenepoel returned to his customary pacing, and 6.91 ᵉW/Kg for 6:18 min was enough to drop Vlasov but Bilbao stuck on the world champion’s wheel. There will not be any climbs at the World Championships in Glasgow of the severity in San Sebastian, but Evenepoel is clearly in good shape one week before his title defence.
Evenepoel has improved his sprint since in his early years and comfortably beat Bilbao (who surprisingly took the lead) in the final 200 metres. Evenepoel confirms his status as one of the best one-day riders in the world, even though he does not ride that many of them. He has won five consecutive World-Tour level races – 2x Liege Bastogne-Liege, 2x San Sebastian, 1x World Championships.
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