Tour de France winner Egan Bernal will go wheel to wheel again with Julian Alaphilippe on Saturday as the two stand-out performers from this year’s race meet in the one-day San Sebastian Classic. The 22-year-old Colombian overhauled Alaphilippe, who had held the yellow jersey for 14 stages, in the Alps and held on to win his first Grand Tour.
“We’re excited to be returning to @dklasikoa on Saturday with a strong lineup for the tough one day race,” tweeted Bernal’s team Ineos.
Bernal will not have happy memories of San Sebastian after crashing last year 20 kilometres (12.4 miles) from the finish, suffering serious facial trauma and a blow to the head which sidelined him for two months.
Whether the 22-year-old will fight for victory remains to be seen. He has raced in several small events every day since winning the Tour in Paris on Sunday, including a win at the Criterium de Acht van Chaam in the Netherlands on Wednesday.
According to reports, Bernal is expected to travel home to Colombia for a hero’s welcome next Tuesday or Wednesday.
In the 227.3 km race in the undulating Basque country, Bernal will face stiff opposition, notably in the shape of defending champion Alaphilippe.
There are seven categorized climbs — including two category ones — which will suit a puncheur like Alaphilippe as he seeks to pull off a Basque double.
The last ascent of Murgil, a 2.5 km climb at an average of 11.3 percent, comes seven kilometres from the finish and is perfectly placed for an attack.
New this year is the climb that takes the riders to the top of category one Erlaitz shortly after they take on Jaizkibel, a classic feature of the course.
Movistar were disappointed by their performance on the Tour even though Mikel Landa battled hard to finish sixth overall.
Landa also suffered in the crash that took out Bernal last year.
He is in the line-up along with another big-hitter Alejandro Valverde, who won this race in 2008 and 2014.
There will also be a challenge from Mitchelton-Scott’s Adam Yates, who won in San Sebastian in 2015, and his twin brother Simon.
Dan Martin, Greg Van Avermaet and Bauke Mollema, who missed out to Alaphilippe in last year’s sprint finish, will also be looking to make up for underwhelming Tours.
One man who will be missing is Team Bahrain Merida rider Dylan Teuns who needed 15 stitches in a head wound caused by an accident when driving his tractor.
The 27-year-old Belgian, who won stage six on the Tour de France last month, bashed his forehead on the steering wheel of the vehicle while gardening at his home in Halen.
This year marks the first occasion that the organizers have also staged a women’s race with time-trial world champion Annemiek Van Vleuten starting as favorite to win the 127.1 kilometer race.