Our coverage of the 2019 spring classics continues with Saturday’s Milan – San Remo in Italy.
The First “Monument”
On Saturday, the first of the five “Monuments,” takes place in the Northwest of Italy: Milan – San Remo—also known as La Primavera (“The Spring”).
The five monuments are the classic races which are considered to be the most prestigious one-day races in road cycling. The other four monuments are the Tour of Flanders (Flanders, Belgium), Paris-Roubaix (France), Liège-Bastogne-Liège (Wallonia, Belgium) and the Giro di Lombardia (Italy).
After the Tour of Flanders 2018 and Paris-Roubaix 2018, Milan – San Remo 2019 will be the third monument in which Wout Van Aert (Jumbo – Visma) will be participating.
— Team Jumbo-Visma cycling (@JumboVismaRoad) March 18, 2019
With a distance between 290 and 230 km, Milan-San Remo is the longest professional one-day race in modern cycling. Cycling legend Eddy Merckx is the rider with the most victories—he won seven times (1966, 1967, 1969, 1971, 1972, 1975, 1976).
From 1999 to 2005, there also was a race for women, the Primavera Rosa. Russian rider Zoulfia Zabirova is the only woman who won the Primavera Rosa twice in 2003 and 2004.
No American ever managed to win La Primavera, but two Americans did manage to finish second: in 1986 Greg LeMond lost the sprint for the win against Irish rider Sean Kelly and in 2002 Fred Rodriguez finished second in the bunch sprint after Italian rider Mario Cipollini.
A Sprinters’ Classic
This year’s route is 291km long.
Milan-San Remo is often considered to be a sprinters’ classic. The course is mainly flat, so the victory is often decided in a sprint of a big group of riders.
Nevertheless, the sprint party sometimes gets ruined by the Poggio di Sanremo, a 3.7 km-long climb with an average grade of 3.7 percent. The top of the Poggio is only 5.5 km away from the finish line on the Via Roma, which sometimes allows strong riders to escape early and avoid the group sprint.
— Milano Sanremo (@Milano_Sanremo) March 17, 2018
The escape scenario has been illustrated in the past two years.
In 2017, Peter Sagan (Bora – Hansgrohe) attacked on the Poggio. Polish rider Michal Kwiatkowski (Team Sky) and French rider Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck – Quick-Step) managed to get back onto the wheel of the three-time world champion. In a sprint between the three of them, Kwiatkowski surprisingly beat Sagan and became the first Polish rider to win the Primavera.
In 2018, it was Italian rider Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain – Merida) who attacked on the Poggio. He made it to the finish line before the peloton managed to close the gap, giving him the win at the Italian Monument.
— Milano Sanremo (@Milano_Sanremo) March 17, 2018
Five Favorites to Watch
The provisional start list from the race is available here.
French rider Alaphilippe is currently the best rider in the peloton. He won already six races this year: he won the second and third stages in the Tour of San Juan, the fifth stage in the Tour of Colombia, the second and sixth stage in Tirreno – Adriatico and the Strade Bianche in Italy two weekends ago.
Alaphillippe already finished third once in the 2017 edition of Milan-San Remo, in which he was beaten in the sprint by his fellow escapers Kwiatkowski and Sagan.
— Deceuninck-QuickStep (@deceuninck_qst) March 19, 2019
Polish champion Kwiatkowski already proved to be in very good shape in Paris-Nice, in which he finished third. The former world champion won Milan – San Remo already once in 2017 after surprisingly beating Peter Sagan in the sprint.
— Milano Sanremo (@Milano_Sanremo) March 16, 2018
Italian champion Elia Viviani (Deceuninck – Quick-Step) is one of the fastest sprinters in the current peloton. He won this year already four races in the sprint: the first stage in the Tour Down Under, the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race, the fifth stage in the UAE Tour and the third stage in Tirreno – Adriatico.
When it comes to a bunch sprint on the Via Roma, he is definitely one of the riders to keep an eye on.
Another rider where we should keep an eye on when it comes to a bunch sprint on the Via Roma is Australian rider Caleb Ewan (Lotto – Soudal).
Just like Viviani, he is one of the fastest sprinters in the current peloton. He won this year already three races in the sprint: the second and third stage in the Bay Cycling Classic, the People’s Choice Classic and the fourth stage in the UAE Tour.
In last year’s Milan-San Remo he finished second after winning the sprint of the peloton out of which claws Vincenzo Nibali managed to keep himself away from.
Three-time world champion Peter Sagan already finished second twice in Milan – San Remo. This year he only won once so far with the third stage of the Tour Down Under. Sagan is definitely not the fastest sprinter of the peloton but might be the best sprinter of a small group which survives the Poggio next Saturday.
The peloton rolls out of Milan at 9:45 a.m. (4:45 a.m. EDT) on Saturday morning. According to the time table, the front of the race is scheduled to reach the Poggio around 4:45 p.m. (11:45 a.m. EDT).
Featured image: Franco Nikonino, used under a Creative Commons license.