For the second time in three years, Spainâ€™s LuĂs LeĂłn SĂˇnchez (Rabobank) has triumphed in the ClĂˇsica San SebastiĂˇn, pounding away from the front group of around 30 riders with nine kilometres left to race. And just like in his Tour de France stage win at Foix in July, once the two-times Spanish national time trial champion managed to put some daylight between himself and the rest of the pack, the 28-year-old Rabobank rider proved impossible to pull back.
SĂˇnchez second ClĂˇsica victory came thanks to his perfectly timed move, madeÂ just as the front group was reforming.
â€ś[Joaquim] Rodriguez [Katusha] had made an attack immediately beforehand that had been brought back, things slowed for a moment and I realised it was my best opportunity,â€ť the 28-year-old said afterwards.
â€śIt was one of those attacks where you just give it everything and hope itâ€™s enough. It was a lot less risky, in any case, than waiting for a bunch sprint.â€ť
SĂˇnchez said that he had wanted to put the Olympics, where he had ridden a disappointing road-race and time trial, behind him as best he could. â€śThis wonâ€™t take away all the bad memories, but I wonâ€™t feel quite as bad now,â€ť he said with a wry smile.
Second across the finishing line, seven seconds back and leading in the pack of chasers, was Australian Simon Gerrans. The Orica-GreenEdge riderâ€™s runnerâ€™s up spot earned the 2012 Milan-San Remo winner 60 points in the UCI WorldTour individual classification, in which he moves up from ninth to sixth overall - the most significant change in the ranking.
The top five remain exactly as they were after the Eneco Tour, the previous WorldTour round, although thanks to his eighth place in the ClĂˇsica San SebastiĂˇn bunch sprint behind SĂˇnchez,Â Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha), second in the ranking, has gained ten points on overall leader Bradley Wiggins (Sky Procycling). Although Wiggins still has a considerable advantage - of 187 points - RodrĂguez strong ride indicates that in the upcoming Vuelta the veteran Spaniard has every chance of reducing the gap between himself and the Briton even further.
UCI WorldTour: Simon Gerrans goes from 9th to 6th in the individual ranking
The nations classification shows no changes whatsoverÂ in overall positions in the top 19, but - significantly, particularly with the Vuelta a EspaĂ±a just around the corner -Â Spain, the leaders, have more than doubled their overall advantage on second-placed Italy, from 46 points to 101. Equally interesting is that Australia, lying fifth, have made up a lot of ground onÂ fourth-placed Belgium, reducing what was a 183 point difference to virtually two thirds of that - 123 points.
Post the ClĂˇsica Sky Procycling remain on top of the overall classification in the teams ranking, with their 330 point margin on Liquigas-Cannondale unaltered. However, the big movers are Rabobank, who jump up four places from twelfth to eighth - all this after gaining two spots, from fourteenth to twelfth, thanks to Lars Boomâ€™ victory in the Eneco Tour just two days before. The only other upwards swing for a team is for Lotto-Belisol, up from eleventh to tenth after Gianni Meersman clinched third at San SebastiĂˇn for the Belgian outfit.
Next on the UCI WorldTour agenda is the third and final Grand Tour of 2012 - La Vuelta a EspaĂ±a, starting on August 18th - and the Vattenfall Cyclassics one-day race on August 19th.
In terms of the UCI WorldTourâ€™s individual ranking, the most important issue at stake in La Vuelta a EspaĂ±a is that it represents the last big chance for Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) to make inroads on the massive leadÂ Bradley Wiggins (Sky Procycling) has overall in the rankings. The runner-up in the Giro dâ€™Italia this May, as well as the winner of the points classfication, RodrĂguezâ€™ strong showing in the ClĂˇsica would strongly suggest that he is ready to do battle in his home race, in which he has already finished fourth.
Other top ten WorldTour names in La Vuelta a EspaĂ±a include Christopher Froome (Sky ProCycling), second overall last year in the Spanish Grand Tour, Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Lotto Belisol) and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar Team). But it is RodrĂguez performanceÂ in the three-week stage race which could - potentially- have the greatest effect on the UCI WorldTour rankings: watch this space.