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Clasica alters route to show off San Sebastian

There’s no rest for the weary. Less than a week after the conclusion of the Tour de France, the UCI WorldTour clicks back into gear with Saturday’s Clásica San Sebastián in Spain’s Basque Country.

Spain’s most important one-day race is getting a facelift this summer. The emblematic Alto de Jaizkibel, a narrow ridgeline that towers above the Bay of Biscay, remains with two passages, but organizers have introduced an urban finishing circuit to show off the host city of San Sebastián.

Perhaps one of the most sublime of Spain’s coastal cities and known for its glamorous beaches, hearty cuisine, and rowdy nightlife, local organizers felt the traditional finishing straight down La Boulevard missed a golden opportunity to highlight the city’s gorgeous setting and backdrop.

This year, instead of coming off the Jaizkibel and up and over the Arkale climb before the finishing straight onto La Boulevard, the route will conclude with a 15-kilometer urban circuit to take in the city’s highlights. That will put San Sebastián right in the middle of the final 20 minutes of television broadcast, offering a sort of rolling postcard for the popular tourist destination.

“That will mean more television exposure right above San Sebastián,” said José Luis Arrieta, president of the local organizing committee. “We can offer the image of the city on a day of high competition to nations around the globe.”

The new finishing circuit will roll pass the Playa de la Concha and climb a short, but very steep hill up Igeldo, with ramps as steep as 22 percent. It will loop back around on narrow roads to the traditional finish line on the Boulevard finishing straight. The total distance will be 219km, about 13km less than last year.

Among those supporting the idea is Haimar Zubeldia (Trek Factory Racing), who lives in the area.

“It’s going to be spectacular, and will sell the image of the city to the world,” Zubeldia said. “It should make the race more interesting. The climb at Igeldo isn’t so hard, but after 200km, it will cause some pain. It should keep tension in the race right to the end.”

The race is drawing a top field, including three-time green jersey winner Peter Sagan (Cannondale), former winner Philippe Gilbert (BMC Racing), defending champion Tony Gallopin (Lotto-Belisol), Nicolas Roche and Michael Rogers (Tinkoff-Saxo), Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), and Joaquin Rodríguez (Katusha).

Hot off racing the Tour, Tejay van Garderen and Peter Stetina will also be lining up for BMC. Other Americans include Ian Boswell and Danny Pate (Sky), and Lawson Craddock and Chad Haga (Giant-Shimano).