March 18, 2023
Milano-Sanremo 2023 – Abbiategrasso – Sanremo : 294 km
Since its first edition in 1907, Milano-Sanremo has marked the turning of winter into spring and the start of the much-anticipated Spring Classics season.
March 18, 2023
Milano-Sanremo 2023 – Abbiategrasso – Sanremo : 294 km
Since its first edition in 1907, Milano-Sanremo has marked the turning of winter into spring and the start of the much-anticipated Spring Classics season. This symbolic transition from winter to spring has earned the race its popular Italian nickname La Classicissima di primavera, or The Spring Classic. As well as marking a transition between seasons, Milano-Sanremo also marks the first Monument of the year and the longest of the lot at a staggering 298km. Unlike the other Monuments on the cycling calendar, this race favours the sprinters and since the turn of the millennium has seen 12 editions end in a mass bunch sprint. To maintain its reputation as one of the most prestigious classics and uphold its rich, 116-year history, Milano-Sanremo’s chief organisers have elected to send the riders on an almost identical, 298km-long route year after year. The race starts in the historic centre of Milan before heading south to the idyllic Ligurian Coast. It’s along this coastline that the race really begins to heat up, especially as the final two climbs – the Cipressa and the Poggio – draw ever closer. These two iconic climbs aren’t too much of a challenge in isolation, but when strung together and placed at the end of an almost 300km-long race they become two of the toughest climbs that the riders will have to face during the Spring Classics season. It’s on these climbs where we often see a select group of riders spring away, desperate to try and prevent a bunch sprint. Once these inevitable attacks launch, it’s up to the sprinters teams to try and reel them back in before the pan-flat finish on the iconic finishing straight on the Via Roma.
Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Deceuninck) has taken a dramatic solo victory in Milan-San Remo, finishing ahead of Filippo Ganna (Ineos Grenadiers) and Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma).
After Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) accelerated hard on the Poggio, Van der Poel blasted away over the summit for the second Monument victory of his career.
Van Aert tried hard to bridge the gap, but Van der Poel continued to power away ahead for his first win of the season.
The Dutchman claimed the victory 62 years after his grandfather Raymond Poulidor won the same race.
“I think everybody knew that this was a race that I really wanted to win. Also the team really wanted to win this one. I am really happy that I succeeded today, especially how I won it. I think it’s one to remember,” Van der Poel said at the finish.
“I felt already good on the Cipressa, and on Poggio as well. When I looked back, there was nobody else following, and I felt I had an attack in the legs. So I tried to time it perfectly and I managed to find a small gap. I am really happy.
“For sure, it was one of the big goals for the season. A monument is always special.”
How it unfolded
The riders faced an extra-early wake-up to travel to Abbiategrasso for the start of the 2023 Milan-San Remo but were happy to see blue skies and feel the spring air on their legs as they signed on.
The official start outside of Abbiategrasso wes delayed for two minutes as the race organisers ensured Tadej Pogačar was back in the peloton after an early crash. He apparently rolled onto the roadside grass and was not hurt, even accepting to pose for a selfie with an enthusiastic Italian fan.
When the race started, the attacks to get into the early break came quick and fast. Mirco Maestri (Eolo-Kometa) and Alessandro Tonelli (Green Project-Bardiani-CSF-Faizané) were the first to get away and theory were soon joined by Samuele Zoccarato (Green Project-Bardiani CSF-Faizané); Alexandre Balmer and Jan Maas (Jayco AIUIa); Samuele Rivi (Eolo-Kometa); Alois Charrin (Tudor Pro Cycling); Negasi Haylu Abreha (Q36.5) and Aleksandr Riabushenko (Astana Qazaqstan).
Some of the big-team domestiques were unsure to let them go and briefly chased but after 25 km on the Lombardy plain, the nine-rider break of the day was away.
However the peloton refused to let the gap grow too much, aware that the tailwind on the coast would help the break and hinder their chase. Jos van Emden (Jumbo-Visma), Silvan Dillier (Alpecin-Deceuninck), Jacopo Mosca (Trek-Segafredo) and Alessandro Covi (UAE Team Emirates) swapped turn on the front, lining out the peloton and making sure the gap to the break never grew above three minutes.
All the team leaders stayed protected and relaxed on the wheels, for the long ride to the coast and then to San Remo.
The pace in the peloton rose on the upper slopes of the Passo Turchino, with UAE Team Emirates careful to protect Pogačar near the front. A touch of wheels sparking a crash near the summit. Julian Alaphilippe was involved and needed a bike change.
He went over the summit off the back as Trek-Segafredo lead the peloton on the descent, but had fun on the fast descent, diving between the team cars to rejoin the peloton.
Temperatures touched 15 Celsius as the riders hit the Mediterranean coast with 130 km to race. The nine attackers pushed on as many in the peloton took a natural break and loaded up with more food and bidons.
With 90km to race, after the photograph spot along the coastline, the expected tailwind began to blow and increased in intensity. The tension in the peloton also rose. Van Emden continued to work hard on the front, pegging the break to just 1:30.
With 60km to go, Milan-San Remo began its gradual metamorphosis from sleeping beauty to a white knuckle ride. Ineos Grenadiers, EF Education-EasyPost, Jayco AIUIa and Lotto-Dstny all began to position themselves up front, sparking a rise in speed. The Capi climbs were coming and it was almost time to race hard.
With 51 km to go, Van Emden eased on the Capo Mele climb. The break was at 1 minute and under control. His job was done.
After so long on flat roads and in big gears, the Capi climbs hurt the break, the gradient and gravity biting into their tired legs. The Capo Cervo The peloton was spread across the road at speed, teams lined out vertically, protecting their leaders from the gusts of wind blowing from their left. The rode over the coastal climb if it didn’t exist, letting the break hangout front but on a short reign of 1:00.
Yet the racing began to hurt. On the Capo Berta, the hardest of the three, the break fell apart, with Abreha the first to be dropped. Others fell out of the back of the peloton, including Mark Cavendish (Astana Qazaqstan) and a number of domestiques who had worked hard.
Just as on the Turchino, Trek-Segafredo lead the peloton on the descent of the Capo Berta. There were only five riders left in the break but the gap was only 30 seconds.
The peloton was squeezed into the narrow road that cuts through Imperia with 35 km to go. Positioning here is always vital as the speed rises and the Cipressa comes quickly.
With under 32km to go as chasers completed the descent of Berta climb, several riders crashed hard. Sam Bennett and his Bora-Hansgrohe teammate Cesare Benedetti went down, as well as Team DSM riders Matt Dinham and Pavel Bittner. Michal Kwiatkowski (Ineos Grenadiers) was caught behind the crash and had to work to get back to teammates.
Ten kilometres later, the leaders were still together over the top of the Cipressa and Ineos Grenadiers powered to the front of the chase bunch in a ferocious fight for position.