The future is now: 19-year-old Evenepoel solos to win Clásica San Sebastián

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First-year professional Remco Evenepoel won the Clásica San Sebastián Saturday with a solo escape on the final of seven climbs to take his first WorldTour victory at just 19 years old.

The Belgian, who won both the road and time trial world titles in Innsbruck last September, becomes the youngest-ever winner of a WorldTour race at 19 years and 190 days of age, and added to his Tour of Belgium win in June and last week’s stage win at the Adriatica Ionica Race.

“I really did not feel good today for most of the race,” said Evenepoel. “I did not mean to go so early, but I knew I could take [Skujins] on the climb. This is incredible. I really cannot believe this. It’s unbelievable. It was a dream to win this race once in my career, and now I’ve done it already in my first year as a pro. It’s incredible. I really didn’t expect this.”

The Deceuninck-Quick Step rider had been dropped from the front group on the penultimate climb, the Mendizorrotz, with about 25km remaining, chased back on the descent, and then loaded up his jerseys with bottles from the team car on his way back to the reduced front group.

He then followed an attack by Toms Skujins (Trek-Segafredo) with 20km to go, opening a maximum lead of 49 seconds, and dropped the Latvian national champion on the seep slopes of the Murgil Tontorra, the final climb, with 8km remaining to solo to the line 38 seconds ahead of the chasing pack.

“On the narrow roads before the penultimate climb I lost a few positions and that’s why I was distanced, but in the downhill I went extremely fast and managed to come back,” Evenepoel said. “Then I decided to attack so I could be in front on the last climb and help Enric [Mas]. But we went full gas and found out that we had a significant advantage at the start of the hill, so I kept going, while Enric did a marvelous job countering the moves.”

Belgian Greg van Avermaet (CCC) won the bunch sprint for second, while 20-year-old Swiss rider Marc Hirschi (Sunweb) finished third, to make two riders on the podium under 21 years old.

Evenepoel’s teammate Julian Alaphilippe, the 2018 winner of San Sebastián who held the yellow jersey at the Tour de France for 14 stages, was forced to abandon the Basque Country race 90km into the 227km race citing fatigue. Tour champion Egan Bernal also abandoned the race, with around 55km to go.

“I came here for the experience and all of the sudden, with less than 20 kilometers to go, I was there fighting for victory,” Evenepoel said. “In the last three or four kilometers I had tears in my eyes and it was all very emotional, because I realized that this was going to be one big and important moment of my career. I still can’t believe it, it’s something incredible and I will need a few days for everything to sink in.”

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