The first of the five 2019 Monuments took place in Italy on Saturday at Milan – San Remo.

La Primavera, as it is called, as come to be known as a “sprinters’ classic.” However, last year Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain – Merida) escaped on the Poggio and rode solo to the finish, avoiding a sprint.

Would the race end in a sprint again, or would another rider step up on the Poggio to take a solo victory? And would Peter Sagan (Bora – Hansgrohe) finally win La Primavera?

There were a lot of questions in the spring Italian air when riders hit the line in Milan on Saturday morning to decide the race’s outcome.

The Breakaway

Ten riders went into the breakaway of the day. Between them four riders of the American Novo Nordisk team: Joonas Henttala, Andrea Peron, Charles Planet and Umberto Poli. All four of them are diabetes patients, since the Novo Nordisk team only takes riders with diabetes into the team to raise awareness about the disease.

The Novo Nordisk coup was accompanied by six others: Fausto Masnada (Androni Giocatolli – Sidermec), Mirco Maestri (Bardiani – CSF), Alessandro Tonelli (Bardiani – CSF), Guy Sagiv (Israel Cycling Academy), Luca Raggio (Nero Sottolli – Selle Italia – KTM) and Sebastian Schönberger (Nero Sottolli – Selle Italia – KTM).

On the climb of the Cipressa, Masnada was the last survivor of the breakaway to be caught by the peloton.

A Falcon in the Descent of the Cipressa

Sprinter Niccolò Bonifazio (Direct Energi) threw himself as a real falcon on the decent of the Cipressa.

Nobody tried to follow the Italian daredevil, which once he reached the end of the decent, put him for the impossible task to keep a chasing peloton behind him on his own. He got caught before the climb of the Poggio, where the favorites for the win were about to play their cards.

The Poggio di Sanremo

It was Deceuninck – Quick-Step riders Philippe Gilbert and Zdenek Stybar who created a high pace at the start of the climb of the Poggio.

Once Stybar looked behind him and the pace dropped, EF Education First Pro Cycling Team rider Alberto Bettiol went for it. He created himself a gap, but Strade Bianche winner Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) soon went after him. The Frenchman closed the gap and immediately left Bettiol behind.

Slovakian national champion Sagan, Polish national champion Michal Kwiatkowski (Team Sky), World Champion Alejandro Valverde (Movistar Team), European Champion Matteo Trentin (Mitchelton-Scott) and Belgian riders Oliver Naesen (AG2R La Mondiale) and Wout Van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) were able to close the gap with Alaphilippe before the top of the Poggio.

In the descent, 1 rider was coming closer and closer to the 7 leaders and finally made connection with 3.5 km to go. It was the 2017 Giro d’Italia winner Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb).

Right at the end of the descent 3 more riders made the connection: last year’s winner Nibali (Bahrain Merida), Slovenian national champion Matej Mohoric (Bahrain Merida) and Australian rider Simon Clarke (EF Education First Pro Cycling Team).

Just over 2 kilometers of flat road were left for a small group to determine who was going to take the win in the 110th edition of La Primavera.

The Last 2 Kilometers

It was the European Champion Trentin who attacked with 2 km left. Trentin having a gap, Sagan tried to keep the pace high to keep Trentin in striking distance.

As the meters ticked down, Van Aert did the work to bring the gap back down. Eleven leaders entered the last kilometer.

Mohoric launched an early attack, but Alaphilippe responded quickly. The pace dropped and they all started looking at each other.

A sprint was going to determine the winner of the 2019 Milan – San Remo. Was this the chance for Sagan to finally win the Primavera?

Mohoric was the one to start the sprint. Alaphilippe grabbed his wheel, while Naesen grabbed the wheel of Alaphilippe and Kwiatkowski grabbed the wheel of Naesen. In that order they passed Mohoric.

With Alaphillippe now leading, Naesen and Kwiatkowsi tried to pass the Frenchman but didn’t succeed.

After winning the Strade Bianche, Alaphilippe now also won the Primavera.

After losing a three-man sprint against Kwiatkowski and Sagan in 2017, Alaphilippe now bested both of them two years later.

Kwiatkowski now finished third and Sagan fourth. It was Belgian rider Naesen who took second.

Van Aert turned in another impressive result with a sixth-place finish out of the group. Michael Matthews (Team Sunweb) finished eight seconds back, which was a strong performance for the Australian after suffering a concussion and jawbone fracture at Paris – Nice, which was less than two weeks before.

The 41-man peloton finished 27 seconds back from the leaders. The 2014 Primavera winner Alexander Kristoff (UAE Team Emirates) won the sprint out of the peloton. Lawson Craddock (EF Education First) finished as the first American rider in 44th. Larry Warbasse (AG2R La Mondiale) was the other American finisher in 70th.

Full results are available here.


After the race, Alaphillipe was asked what it feels like to win his first Monument by Het Nieuwsblad. “I can’t describe that,” he said. “I will need time to take in what I realized. My teammates were all in tears, it’s thanks to them that I won here today.” (translated by author)

Oliver Naesen, on the question if he couldn’t have done better in the sprint. “My head knew what I had to do, but I really couldn’t pass him (Alaphilippe) anymore. The legs didn’t want to anymore.” (source: Het Nieuwsblad)

Wout Van Aert, to Het Nieuwsblad. “I rode a good race, but, nevertheless, I’m disappointed. Now I really understand how frustrating this race can be.”

Via his team, Van Aert said the following.

”I thought that Trentin’s attack was the decisive one, but it came a little too early. Sixth is not bad, but the podium was very close. I felt great all day. On the Cipressa and the Poggio it went smoothly and I crossed the top among the first. This is a great debut in such a race and it has whetted my appetite. I will definitely come back here to aim for more. It is also a confirmation that we worked well during the training camp in Spain last week. This certainly gives confidence for the upcoming classics in Belgium. My form is good.”