Saturday’s Milan – San Remo is a beast of a ride
This Saturday’s Milan – San Remo is a beast, 291 kilometres long, it’s one of the longest professional races on the calendar
A relatively flat parcours sees the riders cover a lot of flat ground until the mid-race climb of the Turchino and the final sequence of climbs involving the Cipressa and the Poggio.
The real racing typically starts, with the Cipressa which often thins out the bunch and the Poggio can see either the race winning attack or ensure that only the strongest riders are there for the final sprint on the Via Roma.
Last year, Bahrain-Merida Italian professional Vincenzo Nibali put in a ferocious attack on the upper slopes of the Poggio and used his world class descending skills, to hold off a chasing peloton into SanRemo.
With around 8km to go and a peloton containing most of the favorites and Sprinters, Nibali put in a huge attack, which no one responded to. In their confusion Nibali powered ahead opening up a bigger lead of 14 seconds as he crested the final climb of the Poggio with around 6 kms to go.
Behind Michael Matthews and World Champion Peter Sagan were leading the chase, but ahead, using his world class descending skills, Nibali held onto his lead as he descending down the frighteningly terrifying technical descent into SanRemo.
The chase got more organised in the last couple of kilometres and it was touch and go if Nibali could hang onto his 9 second lead in the final 1.5 kms. Behind FDj and Quick-Step Floors took over the chase, but it wasn't enough.
Nibali has time to raise his hands in the air and celebrate to take a huge win on his home soil, met by his wife and daughter on the finish line.
The main contender this year is Peter Sagan who has yet to win, he’s managed 6 top-10 results and finished 2nd twice. With a noticeably more svelte look for 2019, he may be able to expend less effort on the Poggio and break his duck here. He's also been training at altitude, “I was already twice in Sanremo where I thought I’m going to win for sure. You see how it’s special, this race.”
However, Sagan’s fitness may not be at its best, he began the Tirreno-Adriatico stage race last week after being sick with a bug that had give him diarrhea for six days.
Many are tipping Julian Alaphilippe victory at Milan-San Remo on Saturday, based on his form, and aptitude.
Philippe Gilbert is still looking to add San Remo to his trophy case, therby winning all five Monuments.
Arnaud Démare (Groupama-FDJ) and John Degenkolb (Trek-Segafredo) will pin their hopes on a bunch sprint on the Via Roma.
Bahrain-Merida team's gameplan will be built around Sonny Colbrelli, but Vincenzo Nibali, given the opportunity knows he will need to attack on the Poggio to emulate his 2018 win.
Alejandro Valverde is impossible to ignore, even if he’s only finished a high of 15th place in his long long career.
The classics man Greg Van Avermaet is taking part for the 12th time. Even in his best form this isn’t a race he’s an out and out contender for.
Alexey Lutsenko is in fine form, after taking 3 stages on his way to winning the Tour of Oman, he managed 4th in Omloop, 7th in Strade Bianche and then 13th overall in Paris-Nice with another stage win. He's never raced San Remo, but with good team tactics could be one to watch.
Remember the puncheurs won't want to take the sprinters to the line, so we can expect huge attacks as we hit the Cipressa!