Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck) will try to defend his title Saturday at the Clasica San Sebastian, less than a week after the end of the Tour de France which he was the great host.
Victorious last year of this race carved for him, the French, in yellow for 14 days on the Tour, will find on the Basque roads the one who has won his leader's jersey two stages of arrival on the Champs Egan Bernal (Ineos).
Last year, the young Colombian had dropped heavily 20 km from the arrival of the classic, breaking his nose and injuring his jaw.
If the 227.3 km on a mountainous profile seem to be suitable for Bernal, the race is perfectly cut for the punchers, Alaphilippe in mind.
The peloton will have to wipe two passes of third category, three of second and two of first category. The last climb of Murgil - 2.5 km to 11.3% average - is conducive to an attack, only 7 km from the finish line.
New this year, the riders will climb to the summit of Erlaitz (1st category), just a few kilometers after the Jaizkibel pass, a classic of the Basque race.
To achieve the double, Julian Alaphilippe can count on his teammates at Deceuninck, including the Spanish climber Enric Mas.
The Movistar, disappointed by their performances on the Great Loop, will align two big contenders to victory: the Spanish Mikel Landa and Alejandro Valverde, world champion in title and twice victorious of the Clasica in 2008 and 2014.
Last year, Landa had also been heavily injured in the same fall as Bernal. Sixth in the Tour de France, he will be looking for his first big success this season in San Sebastian.
Last year, Dutchman Bauke Mollema (Trek Segafredo) was among the favorites in a race where the British brothers Adam and Simon Yates (Michelton-Scott) will also compete.
Belgium's Greg Van Avermaet (CCC) and compatriot Tim Wellens (Lotto-Soudal) will also be watching.
This year, the Clasica organizes for the first time a women's race of 127.1 km where will align 16 teams.
Dutchman Annemiek Van Vleuten (Mitchelton-Scott), winner of the last Giro d'Italia in July and world champion in the time trial, is a favorite.
© 2019 AFP