The Moment The Race Was Won: Milan-Sanremo

Saturday, 18 March 2017

Only Milan-Sanremo can provide such a thrilling finish. The race seemed locked down until the Poggio when Peter Sagan accelerated. Sonny Colbrelli and John Degenkolb tried to chase but as you can see in the photo above, they could only watch as the world champion rode away from them, just as Michał Kwiatkowski and Julian Alaphilippe launch their move to get across.

Milan-Sanremo

A break of 10 went right from the start and quickly took a lead of four minutes which they’d hold for several hours. The peloton, led by FDJ, refused to let them get any further ahead which must have felt hard for the fugitives, never could they dream of a win à la Gomez. The best they could hope for was to make it on TV once the coverage finally started. That wasn’t certain either as thegap halved on the Passo Turchino as riders in the bunch jostled to get into position for the descent but grew again on the coast as the TV began. The move was notable for Mirko Maestri who was in the same move a year ago; for Umberto Poli as the youngest rider in the race out to make the point that a diabetic race with the best for 300km; and for Toms Skujiņš and Will Clarke of Cannondale-Drapac, World Tour riders on a team trying some long shots as they search for a World Tour win since Davide Formolo’s stage win in the 2015 Giro.

From then on the coastal processional was uneventful, there weren’t even the usual maxicaduta mass crashes as the tension ratchets up. The weather helped, it was benign with a slight tailwind on the coast blowing itself out the closer they got o Sanremo. Alexis Gougeard went en chasse patate over the capes as the breakaway’s lead was brought close to a minute. Behind several teams were lined up in formation, each setting the pace and protecting their leaders, this wasn’t spectacular racing but look closely and the bunch tensions were high as riders used every bit of space across the road to stay in position.

The day’s breakaway was finally caught on the Cipressa climb with Ivan Rovny holding out for longest to help justify Gazprom’s wildcard invitation. Team Sunweb set the pace at first with Søren Kragh Andersen and higher up Tim Wellens tried an attack but couldn’t get much more than 50 metres, especially as he had Androni’s Mattia Cattaneo doing cattenacio on his wheel.

Tony Gallopin took over from Wellens with an attack once the race finished the Cipressa descent but he and a handful of companions had strigiform necks as they all kept looking back to see what the peloton was doing, a sign they knew they weren’t going clear of a bunch led by what was left of Bora-Hansgrohe.

The race sped onto the Poggio and Tom Dumoulin got to work, presumably to set a pace firm enough to deter attacks and to put some sprinters in the red. It made for a fast climb, there was no hesitation as Dumoulin kept toiling with a crowd of Sky riders on his wheel. Finally Dumoulin could toil no more and pulled over.

Peter Sagan attacked. Only this wasn’t a huge “come follow me” declaration of war because at first he surged clear while seated in the saddle, accelerating but the act of not lifting his rear off the saddle meant his move wasn’t telegraphed for the briefest of moments giving him a slight advantage in timing and a small gap. Only then did he rise up and stomp on the pedals. Behind Sonny Colbrelli and John Degenkolb followed but as sprinters it wasn’t their role to chase and perhaps they just couldn’t either. Michał Kwiatkowski and Julian Alaphilippe knew this was their chance and if anyone had the explosive power to catch Sagan it was them. Greg Van Avermaet looked to be close but either couldn’t or wouldn’t.

They quickly formed a trio, at least in number rather than effort as Sagan drove the pace over the top of the climb. This was a crucial moment because the Slovak was towing the move clear, giving them a valuable advantage as crested the top of the climb less than six minutes after beginning it. Sagan kept the lead through all of the bends and it was only near the end of the descent that Kwiatkowski and Alaphilippe could help take turns and by now they led with 17 seconds as they finished the descent and rode into Sanremo.

Sagan kept working hard while Alaphilippe moved back, perhaps knowing he could legitimately play the ace card of Fernando Gaviria – “if we’re caught my team mate Gaviria wins so you’d better work” and perhaps Kwiatkowski knew Elia Vivani was behind too, not as strong a card but a better hand than Sagan who had no team mates in the group behind. As they reached the final kilometre Sagan was still leading and flicking his elbow in the forlorn hope someone else would lead out the sprint but had to keep going. He launched his sprint with 200m to go and opened up a small gap but it wasn’t enough to shake Kwiatkowski out of his slipstream and slowly the Pole began to close the gap and with a bike throw he passed Sagan to win by less than half a wheel in the photo finish.

The Verdict
An intoxicating finish but even before the podium bottles of Prosecco have yet to lose their fizz let’s admit the race felt flatter than usual until two thirds of the way up the Poggio. Yes it’s always a slow burner but this was a contained race as early break was kept on a tight leash, even Tim Wellens couldn’t go clear on the Cipressa and the approach to the Poggio lacked the usual tactical uncertainty as a move drifts away while the teams watch each other and all but five riders finished when it’s common for 50 to quit along the way. Not that we can demand fireworks, just to remark that the race was so controlled that only Sagan could unlock the race. His move thwarted the sprinters for the first time since 2013 and only Kwiatkowski and Alaphilippe could follow. As the trio reached the finishing straight regardless of the order they’d finish in a satisfying podium awaited.

Sagan told RAI behind the podium that “results don’t count for anything, the most important thing is to put on a show” and there was a prize for showman he’d win, for generosity too as he worked more than his two rivals. Only there isn’t an once more Sanremo eludes him, this is his fifth top-10 but perhaps his best result? It’s harsh to be critical of Sagan today but if he could replay the finish with some hindsight too he’d note he had time on his side, or at least a few seconds to play with, and could maybe have bluffed one of the others into launching their sprint but this still feels tentative because Alaphilippe had Gaviria as insurance and Kwiatkowski’s not the kind of rider to crack either.

Kwiatkowski becomes the first Polish winner of Milan-Sanremo, the first to win a Monument too and what better place than the “city of flowers” for Kwiatkowski to bloom? Alaphilippe looks as insouciant as ever, to think he was only a late entry into the race for Quick Step after his successful Paris-Nice while his team mate Fernando Gaviria was second behind Alexander Kristoff in the bunch sprint to show us what could happen in years to come.

Photo credits: RCS / LaPresse – D’Alberto / Ferrari

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+

{ 112 comments… read them below or add one }

Réallon March 18, 2017 at 9:00 pm

Thanks as always for the thorough and speedy analysis. I think Kristoff won the sprint ahead of Gaviria (not that this really detracts for your point…).

Reply

The Inner Ring March 18, 2017 at 9:18 pm

Quite right, fixed it now.

Reply

Anonymous March 18, 2017 at 9:15 pm

Kristoff was 4th

Reply

The Inner Ring March 18, 2017 at 9:19 pm

Fixed by the time you posted. If it’s ok your comment will get deleted soon.

Reply

Adam March 18, 2017 at 9:19 pm

I thought the last 20km were totally gripping. Was on the edge of my seat. When Sagan jumped free on the Poggio with kwiato on tow I was sure the sky man would win. One of those exciting finishes I can recall although did fall asleep until 50k to go.

Reply

BC March 19, 2017 at 2:34 pm

Sagan might not have the win rate of Merckx, but he has ability and a wonderful exciting attacking attitude to his racing. Wonderful and exciting to watch. Second place, but takes almost all the plaudits for taking the event by the scruff of the neck and saving it from a large group sprint.

Reply

gabriele March 18, 2017 at 9:28 pm

The official result sheet says Kristoff won the bunch sprint, so that’s it, I guess, but I had listened that Gaviria won that, too, a fotofinish thing perhaps – the point you make stands.

I quite share Petacchi, Martinello et al.’s opinion about Kwiatko letting that little gap open on purpose, to prompt a far out sprint from Sagan, even before the 200 mts. to go mark. You can notice him slowing down also because for a second Alaphilippe’s finds himself on K.’s side, just half a bike back or so (the feared “mezzaruota” you’re taught to avoid since the very first cycling’s lessons); Sagan checks over his shoulder and in the next take he’s already sprinting hard. I don’t know if RAI’s technical commenters are right again (they usually are) – was that so, chapeau to Kwiatko, great tactics and a cold mind when things are red-hot.
It makes up for the (legitimate) wheelsucker attitude 😉

Sagan asked the Manie back ^__^

Reply

The Inner Ring March 18, 2017 at 9:31 pm

RAI seems right as Kwiatkowski himself said the same in an interview, he let the gap grow on purpose. Risky given Sagan’s explosive power but it worked well.

Reply

AK March 18, 2017 at 10:19 pm

I noticed that too. Very smart move. Sagan got a tiny gap, took the bait, went too soon and burned up.
Brilliant last five minutes, made up for the boring rest.

Reply

Larry T March 19, 2017 at 1:16 am

My wife, an ex track sprinter pointed out Kwiatko’s move as we watched the finale via Eurosport sans commentary. One might suggest Sagan should have messed around a bit more to get off of the front on the run-in, but if he’d done that (win or lose) I suspect there would be howls from all over? He made the race for sure, but didn’t get the win. While I’m certain he’d be more happy with another Monument win, he seemed pretty happy to have put on a good show -and I say grazie mille for that!

Reply

Travis March 19, 2017 at 2:55 am

I’ve been pondering what Sagan can do about all his second places. Obviously nothing wrong with it but I feel we’re always saying he was the strongest rider on the day but didn’t win. I know they say he races on instinct. But it seems to me his conversion rate should be higher. He is that good. Maybe he needs to spend a little time on the track learning some savvy and honing these instincts? Maybe he just needs to learn a little game theory? Sometimes to win you need to be willing to risk losing, he isn’t and as a result he actually ends up coming second a lot.

Reply

gabriele March 19, 2017 at 3:12 am

A little simpler than that: in cycling, when you’re the strongest one and everyone knows and they know you know they know, well, that plays strongly against you 😉
It’s a strongly self-balancing sport, especially in one-day races.
All the world says the same – “he could have won more” – both about waiting riders like Valverde (or Bartoli) and more attacking ones like Bettini (or Sagan). Gilbert was long deemed to belong to the latter category, too.
Few riders are seen as having some sort of killer instinct, and that’s usually because they aren’t the strongest guys in the race… so they’ve got the chance to show their tactical nous ^__^

Reply

CA March 19, 2017 at 5:13 am

Sagan has one of the highest win rates in the history of cycling. It’s insane that he wins as often as he does throughout the season.

Reply

J Evans March 19, 2017 at 2:00 pm

But only one Monument, thus far.
I think with smarter sprinting, rather than going too long and relying solely on his strength, he might have won this race and the 2013 edition.

Irungo txuletak March 19, 2017 at 10:32 am

It is not only about 2nd places, I guess. It is about how they are landed, and what people will remind.
Raymond Poulidor or Joop Zoetelmelk?

Reply

Paul March 20, 2017 at 12:27 pm

+ 1 for that

Reply

Struan March 19, 2017 at 1:23 pm

“Mezzaruota” ?

Reply

Eskerrik Asko March 19, 2017 at 5:45 pm

“Half wheel”. Not as in “Do not push the pace by insisting on being slightly ahead of the rider next to you at the front of the other file on a moderately paced group ride” but as in “Do not overlap wheels with the rider in front of you lest you want to hit the asphalt hard when he moves a bit to the side you’re on.” Pros may react faster or be able to save it but the consequences if they don’t are often worse.

PS My Inner Ring Word of the Day, i.e. the one I had to look up today was “strigiform”. Pertaining to owls, apparently, and obviouly a reference to their ability to rotate their heads. A vocabulary lover’s synonym for “rubbernecking”!

PPS The last 20 or so km more than made up for the preceeding 280 km (which anyway I didn’t see because I was out there riding myself). In my admittedly short vicariously self-lived and only witnessed on TV history of the sport the most fantastic race – and not only because of “How” but also “Who”!

Reply

Struan March 19, 2017 at 9:24 pm

Many thanks.

Reply

Maeradefigar March 21, 2017 at 10:40 am

I’m ornithologist, I love the “strigiform neck” reference you’ve made, joining my two hobbies 😀

Reply

djconnel March 20, 2017 at 3:37 am

Thanks for this: I also noticed the gap and it seemed intentional, with Sagan taking the bait. But then after 300 meters Sagan got within 10 cm of the win, so that’s losing only 0.03% too much on Kwiatkowski.

They had 18 seconds and lost 13 seconds so they had only 4 seconds (realistically) to play with in cat-and-mouse. Could Sagan have done more to force Kwiatkowski and Alaphillippe to work? It’s quite possible they wouldn’t have, since they had strong sprinters supporting them. So Sagan had to take the initiative. And if he’d delayed on his sprint, Kwiatkowski would have closed that gap, which was tantalizingly large. So there’s still no proof that would have won him the race. He came very, very close: Kwiatkowski almost gave up too much. Sagan rode a spectacular race and had he played it conservatively and stayed in the pack it seems his chances for win would have been even longer, with so many strong sprinters present.

Reply

Tricky Dicky March 18, 2017 at 9:29 pm

Cracking finish to a race, but I agree it felt a littler flatter than usual. I do think the Manie climb should go back in to spice things up a bit earlier on.

No criticism of Kwiat: he closed the gap to Sagan (was perhaps THAT the moment when the race was won?) and he came through a few times despite Sagan being clearly the strongest. If Sagan had waited just 2-3 seconds longer before opening up his sprint, he would have made it. Kwiat played it smart and should be congratulated rather than criticised (as he is in some quarters). A great podium of attacking riders: perhaps the best three all-rounders out there right now (assuming Valverde has finally used up his elixir of youth!).

Caleb Ewan top 10: that was a big surprise for me that he could hold on when a few more experienced sprinters couldn’t.

Reply

gabriele March 18, 2017 at 9:50 pm

Fine top ten by Ewan, a true talent, no doubt, but this edition was frankly *easy*. Most serious sprinters, experienced or not, made it to the huge main group (which, OTOH, means that the competition was fierce).

Cav didn’t make it, ok, but besides his magical 2009, this never was his race: unlike Cipollini or Petacchi, he struggled to make the top-50 more often than not and – spectacular win apart – he barely made a top five the couple of other times he more or less was in the mix.
The only other “experienced sprinters” who didn’t make the first group I can come up with are Roelandts or Modolo, but we’re speaking of guys who barely made a top five once in their 7-8 Sanremo up to present day.
Others, like Boonen or Bennet, had been working as gregari which was why they sat up.

Speaking of Aussies I’ve been slightly disappointed by Bling, especially after he had a lot of talent from his team trying to make things hard, going full throttle on the Cipressa and Poggio – yet, I guess the sprint ended up being too crowded of fastest men for him, that is, again, “too easy”.

Reply

Travis March 19, 2017 at 2:48 am

Bling clearly isn’t on great form yet. I saw some photos of him the other day and he looked heavy. Hopefully he’s just filling out a bit and it’s nothing to worry about because he looked kind of like Matt Goss.

Reply

Luke March 19, 2017 at 5:33 am

Bling’s 7th in the Paris Nice TT last week speaks of strong form. That included a tough final climb and he even crashed on that climb, still finishing only 47 secs down from the win.

It looked like a fairly busy sprint from the second bunch in Sanremo. The shame (in my thinking) was that it looked like Matthews was sitting too far back in the bunch on the Poggio to try and make the move with Sagan when he went.

Reply

Dan March 18, 2017 at 9:39 pm

I had Kwiatkowski down as a definite third place as soon as that move went clear and he deserves a huge amount of credit for measuring his effort in the sprint so well – not something I remember seeing from him before. After his solo win at Strade Bianche two weeks ago, he seems to have rediscovered his mojo. His form looks good, but he’s also won both races with very smart decisions.

Also impressive was how on earth Sagan stayed upright just past the finish line. It looked like he’d hit a drain cover or pothole just after he threw his bike, bumped into Kwiatkowski and wobbled but just about stayed on.

Reply

RonDe March 19, 2017 at 11:56 am

Kwiato has won tight sprints before (Amstel Gold springs to mind) so why a “definite” third? I had them even with 500 to go.

Reply

JC March 18, 2017 at 10:19 pm

For me the fact that there was still a peloton of around 30 or so in the lead with 5km to go was more interesting than many one day races where a small group go clear with 30km or so to go. There were a number of possible outcomes until the final stages.

I am not impressed with the comments that have appeared in the media from Peter Sagan, he did not win. There was simply a better rider on the day. All the guff about “putting on a show” is irrelevant, the winner is the first person across the line and that wasnt him. Luck does play a part but so does strength, ability and tactics. Well done Michal Kwiatkowski

Reply

mpm March 20, 2017 at 12:13 am

I think “putting on a show” is relevant. Both money he earns and his position in peleton shows it does. Everybody is watching his wheel, and he still can go clear, even at point when he is most expected to attack, and when noone else could. He is building the “Sagan vs Peleton” legend not by number of wins, but by playing with them, taking risks, and making things more interesting. Such style of racing might not be wisest if all you want is to win, but it works great if you want to be “super star”. And again, his main source of income are not price money, but rather contract with sponsor. “Putting on a show” is very much in his style, he is fighting, and he is happy, even when he comes in second, which is improvement on his Thinkov days when winning was on first place.

Or you could simply say that trio going clear on Poggio was the winning move, and he was the author of it. That is enough to be talked about.

That sad I’m super stoked that Kwitkowski won, he showed at StradeBianchi that he is back to his old form, and I was putting my money on him before the race. This course suits well his way of riding, and he could win it again. I would say well done, than you, and can we have some more.

Some added bonus if fact that this was not the first time he beat Sagan, they know each other well, even from before “elite racing”. One might even say they have a history.

Reply

AK March 18, 2017 at 10:24 pm

I don’t know if it was deliberate or due to the photo supply being limited, but I completely agree with picking that moment. Sagan taking off on the Poggio is what won Kwiatkowski the race. If K had gone by himself he wouldn’t have made it. And I don’t think anyone else could have given them this much of a lead at the bottom of the Poggio.

Reply

The Inner Ring March 19, 2017 at 9:33 am

Let’s call it a deliberate choice among a fixed supply of photos, it does capture the moment when Colbrelli and Degenkolb can’t and Kwiatkowski and Alaphilippe are on their way. The pair get across but Sagan’s continued work help them all stay away.

Reply

TDog March 18, 2017 at 10:31 pm

Chapeau to Umberto Poli. Type 1 diabetes is a challenging condition for the everyman let alone a professional cyclist in the longest race on the calendar. As a parent of a type 1 diabetic, I am a big fan of Team Novo Nordisk. Yes, Novo Nordisk is a purveyor of diabetes maintenance products. However, if Novo Nordisk was solely focused on shareholder returns, its marketing dollars would probably be better spent elsewhere given the nature of the buying decision for such products. Regardless of motivation (ROI, branding, altruism), I applaud Novo Nordisk and its rider’s commitment to achieving excellence in the pro peloton.

I think there is probably an interesting INRG article to penned about the squad.

Reply

The Inner Ring March 19, 2017 at 9:36 am

It’s a good story but probably covered by a lot of others, the “look you can be an elite athlete with diabetes” story probably deserves to be said again and again (to reach a mass audience) but there’s lots of cycling-specific coverage of this already so I’m not sure I can add much more with this niche blog.

Reply

Bill Ward March 18, 2017 at 10:49 pm

The ox pulls the cart to market.. I often felt that about Cancellera too. Not having to learn real guile as you are stronger than everyone else but it hurts you when it’s not a drag race. Sagz ignited the race and he’s probably right that winning that particular edition won’t be recalled by many. I’ve never understood it as a monument. Are people obsessed by it in the way that Ronde and Roubaix capture the imagination? Those two are in a league of their own..

Reply

Chris March 18, 2017 at 11:03 pm

It’s a different race, with a unique attraction. Just as Flanders & Roubaix have their own uniqueness too. That’s what makes them all great races. Perhaps the unpredictability here, balances nicely with the “strongest rider” wins mentality of say, Flanders.

The World Tour would be boring if every race was the same.

Reply

RonDe March 19, 2017 at 11:39 am

I think Bill has a fair point. This race seems to go out of its way to engineer boring outcomes. Under the preview article on this site I wrote something along the lines of “you only need to tune in for the Poggio” on Friday night. And I was dead right as it turned out. A tight sprint finish does not negate 285kms of boredom.

Reply

Chris March 19, 2017 at 1:52 pm

Agreed. I don’t recall any other monument where everyone is still having a laugh and a chat with 40km to go.

Reply

gabriele March 20, 2017 at 11:22 am

Note that I quite share your point and I’d defend some sort of innovation in Sanremo’s route.

Yet, the Sanremo thing is precisely this sort of climax, the acceleration in time perception itself. Things happen faster and faster, and the needed or decisive time gaps become smaller and smaller.

However, things are *always* becoming exciting and tense (even if nothing relevant might happen) some kms before the Cipressa, which means that the last 40′ or so tend to be at least entertaining, even in a mainly dull edition like this year’s – where the last 10′ were totally gripping, anyway.
And that’s why I’d suggest to watch the race from the Capi onward, to start guessing what’s going on (as inrng explained very well in his preview), while the previous part might be skipped without major worries, indeed.

Some other Monuments happen to share the same lack of interest along an even greater part of the race, and, yes, sometimes the peloton is suddenly having a *very* relaxed attitude before the finale. For instance, it happens quite typically, in the *first* part of the long mainly downward section which usually precedes the Redoute… that is, some 40 kms to the finish line (la Redoute itself, averaging 35 kms from the line in recent years, is less and less lively).
In the Liège won by Andy Schleck the peloton was sharing a nice stroll even after the Roche aux Fauçons (averaging a ridiculously low speed in the descent while “chasing”, so to say, the leader) 😉

The Lombardia, too, has being putting on a great show more often than not in the last 15 years, and yet from 2011 to 2014 you didn’t need really to hold your breath from the – 45 km mark to the last 15 km or so. And, no, the peloton wasn’t precisely going like hell, either.

The pavé races, OTOH, don’t allow much room for any sort of relaxed attitude…

I’d share and stress the point about any Monument having its peculiar uniqueness, anyway. You’ve got the semiclassics to taste more of the same.

J Evans March 18, 2017 at 11:47 pm

Sagan, like Contador, win or lose, they make the race.
Just when you’re thinking ‘Who’s going to attack?’ he does.
I think he maybe started his sprint a bit too soon and ran out of legs.
It’s harsh to criticise, but again he seems to have the best legs, but doesn’t win. There was a gap behind them and I thought he could have tried refusing to come through himself and maybe force Kwiatkowski to lead it out – he always ends up leading it out.
Having said all that, he’s one of two riders who I still end up thinking most highly of in a race even when they don’t win it.
Matt Stephens on the commentary name-dropping ‘The Inner Ring’ and using your stats. One of many good aspects of the commentary.

Reply

Irungo txuletak March 19, 2017 at 10:27 am

Agreed, for sure we can criticize Sagan, he should have waited here, he should have sat there,… But at the end of the day, he is a rider that makes his races, a bit like Kontador in stage races, that’s true. Frankly, what’s the best: 2nd to Kwiato after a successfull attack on the Poggio (really a rarity in these days) or 2nd to Gaviria or Kristoff in a bunch sprint?

Reply

RonDe March 19, 2017 at 11:36 am

Sagan, like Contador, is to be praised for taking the race to his opponents. I think they would both be worse off if they did the opposite though so its more a case of having no choice I think. If Sagan stays in the bunch and doesn’t attack does he even finish 2nd? I don’t think so.

Reply

haps March 19, 2017 at 11:40 am

Kontador con K 🙂

Reply

Eskerrik Asko March 19, 2017 at 5:45 pm

I believe it’s a sort of honorary K, not a derogatory one.

Reply

Peca March 19, 2017 at 6:26 pm

Special K

haps March 19, 2017 at 7:37 pm

off course!

Anonymous March 19, 2017 at 12:23 am

A cracking finish, not least because a friend, who rides rather than watches, popped round with twenty k to go for a necessary coffee. He got it, even if my shrieking offspring didn’t. Well done Mike Flowers.

Reply

David March 19, 2017 at 2:53 am

Since he won worlds I’ve been saying that MK is probably the most cerebral of all the “winning” rides in the peloton.

Reply

BenW March 20, 2017 at 1:33 pm

It was an excellent top two as far as I’m concerned, I was happy with both Sagan and Kwiato placing where they did as they’re two of my favourite riders.

Reply

Richard S March 19, 2017 at 8:21 am

I certainly didn’t find the final 25km any less exciting/interesting than usual. And I’d certainly take 1 proper race winning attack over 3 failed attempts by make weights followed by a bunch sprint. I agree with Sagan too that winning isn’t everything. If he’d anonymously won the bunch kick after doing nothing all day, a la Freire or Kristoff, he wouldn’t have created the same spectacle or aura for himself as he did today. That attack was fantastic to watch and impressive that a rider of Degenkolbs power couldn’t get on his wheel. He’ll win more than he loses this spring. Kudos to Kwiatkowski, as well as having the raw ability to get to Sagan on the Poggio he’s a really canny rider who seems to find ways to win when put in good positions as opposed to the majority who buckle. Also Degenkolb, it was good to see him try and get to Sagan even if he failed. He’s obviously primarily a sprinter but I like that he is prepared to role the dice when he recognises a good move. It worked for him at Paris-Roubaix and I’m sure it’ll work for him again.

Reply

Othersteve March 19, 2017 at 6:22 pm

+ 1 , Let’s not discount that they collectively had ridden further in 5 hours then most of us do in a weekend.
Then to light it up over the last 15K.

Reply

mpm March 20, 2017 at 12:21 am

Wasn’t it 7 hours? Or 7:08:39 to be exact?

Reply

Al__S March 19, 2017 at 9:22 am

I appreciate that it’s not fashionable to praise Sky (hey, I feel a bit grubby doing so 😛 ) but they seemed to play a very smart game. On the coast after the Cipressa they were highly visible, all eight of them, but to the back of the pack. The cameras ddn’t catch the move, but suddenly, up the Poggio, they were (except for Dumoulin) on the front, running a version of the mountain train but led by Stannard and Rowe, trying to find the sweet spot between destroying other sprinters and keeping Viviani attached. That pace was clearly slightly lower than Dumoulin wanted- he was visibly annoyed when a gap appeared- but because they had come though together it meant Kwiatkowski was there (he was possibly due a turn on the front?) in the right place when Sagan went.

(yes he’s done a fair bit of “smart” riding in the past, but wasn’t the “wheelsucker” reputation rather shattered at Strade Bianche?)

Reply

Jonny S March 19, 2017 at 10:54 am

Thanks for all you do on this website. It speaks volumes that commentators are name checking your pieces. You’re an important part of the furniture.

Reply

Salsiccia March 20, 2017 at 10:26 am

+1. Great analysis.

Reply

SamA March 20, 2017 at 3:07 pm

Couldn’t agree more. Also want to say how good the commentary (Eurosport UK) was with Rob Hatch and Matt Stephens. Please let this be the last we see (or rather hear) of Carlton Kirby and his endless uninformed annoyances.

Reply

RonDe March 19, 2017 at 11:16 am

When those three went clear on the Poggio I was happy whoever of the three won since they are all talented honest riders and two of them are world champions of the sport. That Kwiato won is a reminder that its not just about strength in the legs. Its about nous as well. Kwiato engineered the outcome he wanted and needed. Chapeau.

Reply

AnotherDavid March 19, 2017 at 11:24 am

Nice report, haven’t watched the race yet but this report will help me understand what went on, and when.

Reply

haps March 19, 2017 at 11:45 am

Unfortunatly not able to watch the the race live, as we were doing a brevet with friends and not making it back in time.
I really appreciate the review and comments! Thanx!
I found it hard to grasp that someone criticises a winner of a 300km race.
I am sure Sky will hope for some more positive attention.
Sagan is a living cycling legend lets just enjoy watching him even when he “fails”
Happy Sunday!

Reply

Joe Saroni March 19, 2017 at 3:52 pm

Now that we are firmly in the Sagan era, what we saw yesterday will be the blue print for MSR for the foreseeable future. Sagan with his ability to jump of the front, and being one of the best descenders in the group, MSR is a race built for his characteristics. But victories in MSR are elusive. Many great classics riders don’t have a victory in the classicissima on their Palmarès.

Reply

Rusty Chain March 19, 2017 at 3:58 pm

Kwiatkowski a wheel sucker ? Don’t think so even if he did sit in the right amount in this race. He is actually very similar to Sagan in his willingness to attack from distance. It is a very interesting dynamic between these two riders. I understand they raced against each other as juniors and seems that along with rivalry there is a great deal of comraderie. I’m sure Kwiato will repay the favor by pulling more next time these two are clear and I can’t wait for that moment. These two are my favorite riders and couldn’t be happier with outcome irrespective of the order.

Reply

gabriele March 20, 2017 at 11:40 am

I wrote “wheelsucker” (with a smiley) because that’s what you look like when you (barely) can win taking advantage of the way superior effort produced by a stronger rider – whose strength is precisely what puts him at a disadvantage.
But that’s what makes cycling great, IMHO! 🙂
In fact, I also expressed my appreciation for the great tactics by K.
The “wheelsucker” was kind of a wink referring ironically to the long-going criticism about Valverde, Gerrans et al. And, sure, that’s not at all how Kwiatkowski usually rides, quite the contrary I’d say. He’s just intelligent and flexible enough to master several racing attitudes.
I also said that it was “legitimate”, and for sure it is, because that’s how races work: looking at the very reduced winning margin (which was obtained, among other things, by inducing Sagan to go from too far), you’ve got the impression that, had Kwiatkowski raced any differently, with any added effort, he’d have just lost.
Perfect race for him, impossible to change any pedal stroke.
All the same, you feel that without Sagan (or hadn’t Sagan decided to race as he did for whatever reason, say, “I don’t want people to start believing I’ll always tow them to the line”), Kwiatkowski wouldn’t have had any chance.
K. was great because he caught the precious occasion in the nick of time (he made his own luck in the sprint), but Sagan is the one who actually *created* that occasion.

Reply

OJT March 20, 2017 at 9:52 pm

+3. K is certainly tactically flexible, if he’d tried harder he’d have lost the race and Sagan definitely made the occasion. Would Alaphilippe have come third in a bunch sprint? All three riders benefited from his move.

Reply

Granny Ring March 19, 2017 at 11:20 pm

Kwiatkowski rode a great race – he is clearly a smart and likeable racer and it shows in the interview afterwards.

Sky seem to be having a pretty blinding season so far – maybe as the pressure has moved away from racing to the PR.

Reply

noel March 20, 2017 at 1:24 pm

the surprising thing for me was how on the first half of the Poggio everyone was happy to sit back – with the exception of Dumoulin – and be towed up by Van Poppel, who looked totally comfortable. Why weren’t teams like Katusha/FDJ/Cofidis/Bahrain/UAE etc trying to get rid of the genuine quicks like Gaviria/Ewen/Viviani etc to leave a smaller bunch for the likes of Kristoff and Demare to feed on?
Luca Paulini wouldn’t have been having that!

Reply

The Inner Ring March 20, 2017 at 1:36 pm

Dumoulin was going very fast, the climbing time for the Poggio was <6 minutes so I doubt anyone could get past, nor up the pace much more.

Reply

noel March 20, 2017 at 1:55 pm

maybe Danny Van P is better than I thought!

Reply

gabriele March 20, 2017 at 4:02 pm

I wouldn’t say he was Danny Van Poppel (who’s a good rider, by the way, whatever his Sanremo on Saturday – unless Sky undoes him).
He came in a quarter of hour later or so, last of his team, which would be quite strange if he was in the first group on the Poggio 😉
I’d say that the four Sky riders who survived Dumoulin’s pace were Kwiatkowski, Viviani, Moscon and Wisniowski.
No surprise if the latter, who was the first one tracking Dumoulin, hadn’t been identified…
He’s still young, indeed, but he isn’t a neopro anymore (same age as Démare or Tim Wellens) and, after a good juvenile career, he was never especially brilliant in the pro ranks during his Quickstep years.
Let’s see if he finally stepped up or if yesterday was sort of a special *Polish* day – his performance was noteworthy, no doubt, even he was *very far* from being “totally comfortable”, given that he managed to lose more than one and half a minute in the following 7′ ^__^
To check that against some reference, the likes of Stannard, Rowe and Puccio just blow up when Dumoulin went on the front (that is, more or less since the Poggio was on): they came in 4′ later, at the end of the third block, well behind other riders who had worked hard as gregari like Boonen, Felline, Bennett, Bole or Dumoulin himself…

Reply

noel March 20, 2017 at 7:06 pm

ahh that’s interesting thanks Gabriele. More than just someone to speak Polish to Kwiat on the rest days then…
actually does the time the alsorans came in mean much at all, as I’m guessing if you aren’t in the front group you just sit up and cruise in waving to the crowd – or maybe not?

gabriele March 20, 2017 at 9:34 pm

@noel
The time to the line is so short that the delay becomes a pretty much direct measurement of *how soon* you lost wheels, when speaking of guys who ended up in the third group or further back; or, when speaking of people who were there when the final split formed, it’s about how spent you are… being some 20% slower of the rest is well beyond “cruising” on a downhill or flat terrain – besides, at least according to my very modest experience, you’ll however try to get to the line as soon as you reasonably can, even without any supreme effort.

It’s an interesting case of what I consider “effortless (or less-effort ^__^) performance”, that is, sometimes it’s quite revealing to look at what a rider does when he’s not pushing hard, for whatever reason – including the fact that he can’t anymore.
Top riders in races which aren’t their objective as such, gregari once they’ve done their work and so on. It can be a good way to judge a rider’s “engine” (mere curiosity, since it doesn’t mean much in itself: many riders are limited by their “trainability” or by mental factors and so on), or to estimate how deep a rider went in a specific sector.
Obviously (more than) a pinch of salt is needed when making up your mind with that vague an information.

GrahamG March 20, 2017 at 11:47 pm

I thought it was Moscon – gave the impression of being on a club ride with Dumoulin chewing the handlebars barely 1 m ahead. looked almost comical…

gabriele March 21, 2017 at 12:49 am

@GrahamG
No, I now checked the video, it always was Wisniowski (208). A curiosity: you can see him talking side by side with Kwiatko just after the second tight hairpin in the series of two halfway up or so. Then he goes on leaving quite clearly a couple of meters behind Dumoulin.
The line was W., K., Moscon, Viviani. I’d also say that – despite W.’s display of freshness – just a second before Sagan’s attack, K. had said Moscon that he had to take W.’s place on the front, and the Italian was indeed in the process of taking the first position when Sagan went.

gabriele March 21, 2017 at 1:13 am

@inrng
I don’t know if you consider it fine to leave a comment about what other sites wrote (if it’s “no, please” – well, just zap the comment), but I was quite surprised reading Farrand on CN:

“Sagan made a brief call for the return of Le Manie after losing on Saturday. Current race director Mauro Vegni would love to see Grand Tour riders such as Chris Froome and Alberto Contador fight for victory, but that would be like trying to rewrite history – a betrayal of all the great racing of the 108 editions of the race”.

I don’t know what Vegni would love or what he says he would love, but he could easily twist the route in favour of climbers, it’s not like Liguria is lacking mountains. Thus, I’d tend to think that he’s satisfied with the current format. He’s even doing “melina” about Le Manie, come on.

However, what really makes no sense to me is defending that having a GT champion fighting for victory would be a “betrayal of all the great racing of the 108 editions of the race”. If at least the guy hadn’t written any number!
We may argue about the last two decade’s format being “good” or “bad” (I don’t dislike it, especially if you made it just a little more balanced), but what is sure is that it *betrays* the kind of racing that was on display for the greatest part of the previous 88 editions.
Having a look at the stats makes that pretty much clear.
Until 1995, you *never* had more than a couple of editions in a row (including the “sprinters’ years” which brought to the addition of Poggio and Cipressa!) without some sort of valid GT contender making the Sanremo podium, it was the most normal and common thing, then it’s just Nibali in more than 20 years.

…Speaking of people who apparently love to “rewrite history” (well, they tried to do that with the 90s, so why not the Sanremo?).

Reply

The Inner Ring March 21, 2017 at 10:45 am

As we know the route of Sanremo is the story of change (http://inrng.com/2014/03/milan-sanremos-ever-changing-route/). I suppose the race needs to stay accessible for the sprinters but an extra hill somewhere to weed out some sprinters and tempt more grand tour big names to start would be ideal… but easy to type online and hard to find the road in reality. Pompeiana is too selective, Le Manie maybe – it’s good for TV too – and they could always go in land for other “stradine” but at the risk of going beyond 300km.

I suspect if there was a strong Italian contender then Vegni would help design a suitable route, eg Pompeiana was pro-Nibali, but there isn’t right now.

Also the sport is very different from the past, it was normal for the GT contenders to ride lots of races, eg Liège, now they spend time on Teide and neither Aru nor Nibali even started in Milan.

Reply

gabriele March 21, 2017 at 11:40 am

I think that Nibali became aware that the race has been made even less suited to him then it was until 2013 (besides podiuming, he made a top ten thanks to an attacking group in 2011). In 2014 he was quite much disappointed by the lack of support by other riders when he attacked on the Cipressa, and in the following two years he’s been complaining constantly about the kind of race we were having, trying to create some pressure over the organisers – in vain.
I don’t think that the route isn’t being made harder because Nibali isn’t racing, given that he’s been around for years without being much “rewarded” by the course designers (even Le Manie was merely a lucky chance!): it’s the other way around, if anything… as many others before him, he’s becoming less interested in a no-hope contest.
Also note that it’s not all about Nibali: currently, Italy hasn’t got any fast pure sprinter, while there are quite a lot of second-line climb-resistant fast men who would be benefitted by a harder route… I can’t see them winning easily over, say, Matthews, but just as Matthews they could have more chances against supposedly faster athletes.
Vegni isn’t that chauvinist, at the end of the day, just look at last year’s Tirreno! 🙂

GT riders have been racing less and less the Sanremo because, as the seasons went by, it was becoming more and more clear that it was bound to be a sprinters’ race, quite dangerous on top of that. Let’s have a look at TdF podiumers. It’s not just about being Italian, like Chiappucci, Bugno or, later, Pantani: Indurain was racing regularly, just as Zülle, Rominger quite often, and Virenque, too. Even Lance finished it some eight times, or Vinokourov. Obviously, you always had the Ugrumov or the Beloki who weren’t interested, but GT riders had a shot, be it only for training reasons or for a bet (like Pantani when he attacked on the Cipressa), five or more times each. Without being allowed to have any impact.
Now, indeed, it’s already surprising to get the odd participation by Nibali or Valverde (or S. Sánchez or F. Schleck or Wiggins or Cunego before them) – sincerely, looking at the results charts, it’s hard to blame them (I also saw somewhere in the internet a nice table with all the time gaps between the first ten riders in the last 50 years, that was very telling, too).

Reply

Larry T March 21, 2017 at 9:02 pm

Should they add some hills to Paris-Roubaix to get the GT boyz there too? Whose idea is it that rail-thin climbers must be kings of the entire sport? As an old-fart I have to agree with the likes of Giancarlo Brocci – “Let them eat! Introduce a minimum body weight. Then they will be attractive to watch again, and they will last more than one month a year. One of our L’Eroica mantras is: “From heroic cycling to the sweet life,” when cyclists were good-looking sex symbols, not to be pitied, like anorexic models or patients suffering from a chronic illness…”
Leave MSR’s route alone, please!!!

Reply

gabriele March 22, 2017 at 11:29 am

Richard S explained that quite well for me, a little below. I don’t expect Froome and Contador to be in the mix for the Sanremo (that is the sort of things which CN says that Vegni said). They wouldn’t be anyway – it’s not like there aren’t hillier one-day courses around, and the guys already showed they just don’t have what’s needed more often than not, whatever climb you might add to the route.
What I would really like is seeing those GT guys who are good in the Classics, too, some of them far from being as skinny as Froome, being allowed a tiny but *existing* chance in the Sanremo, just as the tradition of the race has required for some 90 years, before the switch during the last 20.
Balanced, multi-skilled riders should be “rewarded” by having more option around, since they’re chance are reduced in any single field.
The Roubaix comparison makes little sense, since Roubaix is indeed respecting its own tradition, while Sanremo isn’t doing it, currently: historically, the Sanremo could be contested by GT champions one year, just to end up in a pure sprinter’s pocket the following season. That’s what made it peculiar and that’s what its route design always looked for.
All in all, I’d tell you that if a sprinter is kicked out by a less-than-7% less-than-5km climb 100km away from the line, he’s not worth of winning a Monument. Even when it’s a sprint, the main group on the finish line should include some 20-25 riders at most, not more than 30 or even more than 40, and sometimes 50 or so. And that’s not about your weight.

Larry T March 23, 2017 at 1:30 pm

Sorry, I thought stage races were designed for this- “Balanced, multi-skilled riders should be “rewarded” by having more option around, since they’re chance are reduced in any single field.” In some ways your argument reminds one of the problems with F1 (and most motorsports these days) – the cars exceeding the capacity of the racing circuits…then the circuits become “obsolete” mostly due to safety issues. Rather than build/adapt ever more (and usually boring) racing circuits perhaps the speed and grip of the cars should be more tightly controlled?
Constant jiggering around with a Monument course to satisfy some sort of quota for various types of winners isn’t something I’d cheer for…I’ll let the Velon folks do that with their events. I say leave La Primavera alone!

Richard S March 22, 2017 at 8:58 am

I wouldn’t expect folk like Froome or Contador, who are notorious one day race dodgers, to be doing Milano-Sanremo, but you’d think the GC boys who have a bit of a kick and a good record in the hillier one day races such as Valverde, Nibali, Chaves, Martin (though its not like Quick-Step need him), Rui Costa or Rosa might be there. Especially as they all, Martin aside, ride for teams who aren’t exactly bursting with options at that kind of race. As Larry says below though I don’t think one day races should be tilted towards the GC men in the (probably) vain hope that they’ll enter. I’d rather see the Grand Tours tilted towards the bigger riders! Instead of a minimum weight why not have a maximum height/length for climbs?! As a general rule you could say something like the Ghisallo would be the limit?!

Reply

gabriele March 22, 2017 at 11:11 am

Come on, we’ve seen lots of heavier (*solid*) riders climbing better than the rest the Tre Cime di Lavaredo, the Stelvio, the Hautacam or whatever, and that was way before people could blame EPO to “explain” Indurain, Armstrong, Ullrich, Vinokourov… or Ivan Basso, who, both before and after being sanctioned, was no absolute lightweight, and yet he won his clean(er) Giro on the Zoncolan. Merckx and Gimondi were far from skeletal, but the list could be very long. They always had to face way lighter climbers, but were simply good enough to beat them – even uphill, on the right day.
However, it’s true that present-day GTs’ routes (paradoxically, the Giro less than the other two, at least in terms of *change*) are being shifted towards climbing and away from TT; a policy which I don’t appreciate at all.
OTOH, we shouldn’t forget that more challenging Classics-like terrain is being added, and the pure climbers are sometimes being quite much affected, even if they don’t lose ground in any specific stage (and sometimes they do). Easy to think about the 2015 Tour, but that was already happening in the Giro since five years before, with crosswinds and strade bianche.
Even climbs where the top effort is around 6′-7′ or less, perhaps in a flatter context, do favour powerful riders over power to weight or aerobic power: just think about the Poggio or any berg, no many featherweights shining there. And we’re seeing more and more of them being added to GTs (especially one of them…).

If anything, I’d add a little more TT and serious classics-like stages, anyway, instead of *removing or limiting climbs* which makes little sense when checked against cycling’s history – the problem is that TTs make for awful audience data (so the only TTs we are treated to are the – very debatable – TTTs because, although you lose spectators, sponsors force them into the races).

CA March 23, 2017 at 2:58 pm

Exactly Gabriele – longer TT’s (100km) like they had back in the day would favour larger GC riders, but they make for brutal TV.

One idea that you mentioned and I like is more classic type stages and less pure mountain stages.

CA March 23, 2017 at 3:02 pm

One more idea… to mix things up a bit, reintroduce 1 long TT (100km). Then to counteract the viewers lost and the extra brutality of the 100km TT, have the day before be a rest day, then the day after be a very short stage (like a crit). A crit would be exciting and would for sure result in higher bidding fees from the host town. Plus, the crit would let the GC guys “coast”…

Ferdi March 22, 2017 at 9:58 am

What Nibali should demand is having a top-notch sprinter in his team. If the top sprinters don’t have full teams at their service, but are just part of a multi-sided block, then there will be less teams interested in chasing breaks and attacks.

Reply

CA March 23, 2017 at 2:54 pm

Should have a Tour de Tiede

OR, there should be a weekly one-day race on Tiede and the overall classification counts towards the World Tour

Reply

Eskerrik Asko March 21, 2017 at 7:14 am

“Fare melina”, to waste time (by possessing the ball, passing pointlessly but safely, lingering when taking throw-ins and free or goal kicks etc); expression originated in football, nowadays commonly used to indicate the attempt to hinder or to postpone something.

“Learn a new word every day! Read inrng.com!”

Reply

gabriele March 21, 2017 at 10:35 am

My secret masterplan – make Italian international again!

Reply

Dodge2000 March 22, 2017 at 10:52 am

It’s been said a few times in different places, but even when he loses, Sagan wins. He is full of confidence, enjoys riding a bike and if the choice is do something or sit and wait, he’ll invariably do something.

When you don’t mind so much about the result, as you are wearing back to back Champs jersey, winning races left, right and centre and always getting plaudits when he loses in style. Must be pretty liberating and enables that care-free, attacking racing we expect from him.

Same with Contador. He is not going for second place, trying to amass WT points. He’s done all he can be expected to do. It’s a win win, if you win, well done, if you don’t you get lauded for the attacking style.

Reply

gabriele March 22, 2017 at 11:44 am

Totally OT: what the hell are BMC and the jury doing at Volta a Catalunya and, more than everything, is everyone pretending nobody ever raced a bicycle?
I saw a couple of videos about Movistar and what I could see there was pretty much simple: Rojas skipping turns!
When you feel you are too weak to take a turn, you stay last and don’t enter the line, which means that when you see another rider dropping back beside you, you push his back as soon as you can reach it to inform him he needs to enter the line ahead of you. You can’t shout because you’re quite short on breath and, anyway, they probably wouldn’t hear you.
You are not “pushing a rider” as in “helping him”, it’s a “communicative” gesture. And the last rider, Rojas here, usually decides on the spot if he can enter or not in any given rotation, it’s not like he always stays back and everybody knows he will.
It’s totally clear, and I thought that anyone having ever raced or perhaps ridden a bike (the same things happens in breakaways with riders from different teams *all the time*… or in Sunday groups) should see that.
Now everyone is pretending that it was “pushing”, and it’s all about how to punish that… come on, this is really laughable. This is making trash of the rulebook because rules need to be used according to the sense they make.
I wonder if people are deliberately pretending not to understand what they see in the videos or if they really don’t know what a cycling race is like. Perhaps some teams have become so used to the “rocket tactics” of wasting and dropping your gregari in a TTT that they don’t remember what is it like to race as a group.

Reply

J Evans March 22, 2017 at 12:47 pm

@Gabriele
I haven’t seen the incidents and, having never been in the situation nor watched many TTT’s (I usually don’t bother), I very probably wouldn’t know if this was producing any advantage or not – and there doesn’t seem much agreement amongst comments I’ve read about it.
The more general problem, however, is that the UCI don’t apply their rules uniformly or properly. The UCI’s means that riders are always trying to ‘bend’ the rules because the rules are so bend-able. The UCI has long since encouraged – and created – this culture.
(Even the original ‘punishment’ did not punish the entire team – was this the UCI trying to seem like they’re cracking down whilst actually doing nothing effectual? Was this then over-ruled because of further complaints – whether in media or by teams? As ever, things are murky, confused and shambolic.)

Reply

gabriele March 22, 2017 at 1:37 pm

The original punishment was nonsense in itself, but was probably intended to get the result you hint at in your last parenthesis. In fact, I perhaps prefer this latter solution to the previous homemade ruling, but it’s a hard choice between two evils.

What shocks me is that the video shows the most common and regular situation in the world (*not* because it’s a tolerated infringing of the rules – just because the rules aren’t meant to tackle this situation) and people are acting like aliens, as if they couldn’t understand what’s going on, speaking of pushing and cheating and whatever else.
BMC are probably pretending, but they took advantage of the social network pressure bred out of pure ignorance. Yet, what about… sports journalists? Sad.

And, I’m no native speaker, but the Collins Concise says that pushing is “to apply steady force in order to move something”. No steady force, here, and the purpose isn’t as much to move the person as to communicate something (well, that the guy needs to move ahead). The idea of “special effort” or “stiff stroke” is present throughout the semantic field of the word. We’re sent to “thrust”, which, again, is a “forceful drive” or “continuously exerted pressure”.
It simply *doesn’t apply*.
Neither have we *ever* seen any problem with this rule being applied without uniformity before now (not a “sticky bottle” or “sidewalk” case, here, not at all).

Here the problem isn’t within the rules, which are pretty clear (“pushing” is forbidden, not “touching”), nor with any gray zone in Movistar’s behaviour.
The problem is that the rules are being bent in order to apply them in a case which isn’t appropriate at all, thanks to a social pressure generated both by political and economic aspects we don’t have access to, *and* general lack of understanding by most “fans” of what is happening right before their eyes.
Just think about it: Rojas, a sprinter, who’s back from a serious stop for injury, isn’t taking turns because he’s clearly suffering *but* he spends energies pushing (physics anyone?) Oliveira, a TT specialist and effective climbing gregario, or Amador, another strong TTer and GT podiumer.
Ooooook…

BMC are probably disingenuous (and very much near to what I’d call “cheating”); the jury has been tricked into a tight spot; the mix of social network, nationalism, fandom and sheer ignorance is once again awful.
The “only” problem with the UCI, in this case (generally speaking, I agree with you), is that they – or, better said, the jury – decided to consent when a powerful team started to speak nonsense and asking wrong applications of the rules.

Reply

J Evans March 22, 2017 at 2:17 pm

I’m still in the ‘don’t know’ camp, having not seen the incident – can’t find it online – but a coincidence that – as at Tirenno last year – it is BMC who are benefitting?

Reply

Anonymous March 22, 2017 at 2:33 pm

Here you go, the smoking gun as selected by Tejay Van Garderen himself:

https://www.instagram.com/p/BR6BgHbFNl8/?taken-by=tejay_van&hl=en

I’d even say (but it’s not easy to be sure because of the take we’ve got) that Oliveira isn’t gaining speed at all when Rojas’ hand is on his butt, he himself is speeding up *after* that.

Perhaps Lance taught TJ a thing or two, and I’m not speaking of doping.

gabriele March 22, 2017 at 2:33 pm

It was me.

Cepphus Grylle March 22, 2017 at 1:34 pm

The one incident I saw looked very much like a communication tap, not a push. Though Rojas didn’t look too uncomfortable then!

Reply

gabriele March 22, 2017 at 1:42 pm

Rojas was obviously suffering, he’s back from a serious stop because of a injury and doesn’t have race nor training days in his legs. Being Movistar, they’ve been on TV most of the time and it was quite apparent that Rojas were working less than the rest even when he was taking turns. He even commented on that during the TV interview after the race and apologised with the team…
The whole thing is pathetic. BMC proves once again that their ethics has always been Phonak level all the way through.

Reply

J Evans March 22, 2017 at 2:25 pm

Two ‘pushes’ caught here:

http://video.eurosport.co.uk/cycling/volta-a-catalunya/2017/the-pushing-which-saw-jose-joquin-rojas-stripped-of-catalunya-overall-lead_vid965750/video.shtml

For me, both of those are a ‘bottom touch’, not a push – you can see that no force is applied and neither last any time.

Reply

J Evans March 22, 2017 at 2:30 pm

*If* – and that’s quite a caveat – that’s all there was, then this is a nonsense.
And I’m pretty sure I’ve seen similar things in the TTT’s I have watched (usually only in GT’s).

noel March 22, 2017 at 2:31 pm

to be honest, the one I saw looked a bit more like a friendly shove than a communication tap. The trouble is the grey area, and actually I think the only answer the UCI could give was a sanction of some sort, in order that now everyone knows… no touching, and then we have no fuzzy grey area to argue about.

Reply

J Evans March 22, 2017 at 2:35 pm

If the rule said ‘no touching’ and that was how it had been applied previously – or new notification was given, then fine.
Otherwise, this seems the usual mess.

gabriele March 22, 2017 at 2:51 pm

The above is all which I’ve seen, and there’s *no* gray area at all to be seen. I guess that “number three” must *really* be the worst of them all, yet I wonder how gray that gray can get if two out of three instances are snow-white.
That is, *if* the third “push” at least looked more or less like a “push” (which the other didn’t), all the same I’d tend to interpret it as a further example of the totally regular behaviour we’ve been seeing in the other two, unless it was a *huge* and *very manifest* push.
If it’s dubious, it would be just logic to understand it as an ongoing behaviour (hence regular) rather than a new and different attitude by Rojas.
Also note that we know, from the first crazy sanction, that the jury included all the three examples in their decisions… and that’s absolutely wrong, anyway.

Writing “no touching” you’re suggesting to change the rules, but that would be a bad change IMHO, creating way more problem than it solves.
And it still makes no sense to apply a rule which isn’t there. Because the rules currently say “no pushing”, they don’t say “no touching”.

Bending the rules in order to have cyclists understand that the rules you’ll apply are *not* the ones in the rulebook (“no pushing”), but some invented rules (“no touching”) you’ll imagine and enforce on the spot? Yeah, great idea. But, as J Evans wrote above, I guess that all the world already understood that’s precisely how things work.

gabriele March 22, 2017 at 3:02 pm

And, again, to me this feels as if in a football match you’d have seen a player grabbing the ball with his hands because he needs to go and kick a corner, for example, as it often happens when the game is stopped, and suddenly all the world was complaining because the rules don’t allow that or whatever… and the referee actually showed a red card to the poor guy. And there was nothing forbidden or strange or different from usual in what he actually did, he was respecting the rules indeed, but everybody – including the referee – lost for a moment their proper understanding of the game.

Reply

Nick March 22, 2017 at 5:41 pm

agreed. I guess BMC don’t like losing TTTs.

Reply

J Evans March 22, 2017 at 2:52 pm

Potential humiliation for TVG if he *still* doesn’t win a race?

Reply

gabriele March 22, 2017 at 3:14 pm

Speaking of “humiliation”, he apparently took the comments away from his Instagram post because most of the (English speaking!) commenters hadn’t shown a great appreciation towards his attitude or the nature of his complaint. Come on, he used social networks to raise the mess but he doesn’t like backfire, huh? The funny thing is that people’s comments are harsh towards BMC when they see the images, whereas in the CN articles, with no footage… well, you can guess.
I also loved Stewart (BMC’s DS) comment: “in the end I’m happy to see the UCI rethink it and apply the correct rule, even if maybe it wasn’t applied correctly.”

Reply

Othersteve March 22, 2017 at 11:15 pm

I suspect that J Evans is correct, even with the “bonus handicap” given to BMC TJVG
will most likely not podium!

Reply

Larrick March 23, 2017 at 3:46 am

Got to love all these comments on the TTT by people who didn’t even watch it. If you had you would have seen Rojas let Oliveira drop into line ahead of him only for Oliveira to lose the wheel of his teammate ahead. Oliveira with JJ behind then frantically spent a minute or two trying to latch back on. From then on JJ made sure no one else found themselves in the same difficulty. If he hadn’t handled those riders they probably would have lost at least one of them and that would mean that each rider left takes more turns with less recovery. This is why there’s a rule. The word push is probably not the best descriptive word to use. Then again it’s not a surprise when it would have been translated from the French and probably by a non cycling person. Maybe a UCI member for instance. 😊

Reply

Eskerrik Asko March 23, 2017 at 10:58 am

It is indeed obvious that there is a very real or merely theoretical – I have no idea – possibility that without Rojas’ helpful hand there would have been a gap between the pushee and the rider in front of him and it would either have cost a lot of energy to close it or the team would have been 1/2 riders short or the team would have had to slow down. It can thus be argues that the team won time by breaking the rule and that a time penalty for the entire team is therefore both just and necessary.

But this could also be the view of someone who has not seen or watched too many TTTs. The relevant question whether a communicative hand movement or a push, whatever one wants to call it, is something tha one would see in every TTT (if one looked closely or as closely as the judges and the other teams have done until now) and that would therefore have been considered a quite normal and not illegal procedure by everyone concerned. Except of course the team that lost by two seconds (although we cannot be sure about that either). Until now, that is.

Reply

J Evans March 23, 2017 at 12:06 pm

I agree – there are a lot of uncertainties here, whereas some are claiming that it was definitely pushing and definitely cheating (and some are equally sure of the opposite).
It would be very hard to know if something was pushing or touching just from watching – unless it was a really obvious shove.
And, as you intimate, another question is whether or not this is commonplace in TTTs. (Me, I don’t know, but would be interested in the usually neutral and informed opinion of Inner Ring.)
As seems so often the case, the UCI rule is unclear and badly written (and apparently, possibly contains a different understanding depending on which language you read it in).
Similary, as we see throughout cycling, it seems that this rule is not always applied or not applied in a uniform way.
It would seem a simple answer might be a ‘No touching in TTTs’ rule – but then it could be necessary in an emergency, to prevent a collision or something.
Cycling continues to be dogged by sagas and disarray – and the UCI-omnishambles seems continually unable to prevent this.

Reply

gabriele March 23, 2017 at 1:35 pm

Larrick, I watched the TTT, but what you say doesn’t make the touch a push, and only the latter is forbidden by the rules. It’s true that I didn’t see one of the three touches, which means that I must have been doing something else in a given moment.

If you want a detailed explanation, it depends on the speed you hold when you’re going back before entering the rotation. When you go back you obviously go more slowly than the rest of riders, then when you latch on you’re going the same speed. That’s pretty much self-evident.
Part of the difference is granted by the fact that when you enter the slipstream the same effort you were producing while on the side of the group gives you more speed, but it doesn’t cover the whole difference.
That’s why you need to know (as in “acquiring or possessing an information”) *exactly* when you’re going to need to be back in the line, because you rise slightly your speed *as soon as you’re being passed by the last rider*. And that’s why if the last rider doesn’t want to enter the rotation, he must inform you as soon as possible.
Besides, to have you enter before him, the last rider must let a gap open, but if you, as the rider who just ended his shift, are still going in “slow mode” (because you think that there’s another rider who needs to surpass you, the last one), that gap becomes hard to close.
That’s where the troubles come from, not from any lack of performance potential which the push make for but from a lack of coordination which is reduced by better communication.
Hence, you’re absolutely right when you write: “From then on JJ made sure no one else found themselves in the same difficulty”. That “butt touching” was quite useful, sure: it made the team performance better, no doubt, that sort of complication in the rotation might have you lose riders, no doubt.
Only, it’s not about pushing – which is forbidden – it’s about communicating to your teammate that he must enter right then.
And it’s not that “pushing” is not the best word, it’s that the rule intend to forbid “pushing” and not “touching”.
And, guys, you *see* when someone is really pushing someone else on a bike. And you can measure how much time did the supposed “push” last (apparently, the two who were recorded – I haven’t seen the third, yet – lasted 0.5 and 0.8 secs). This is not a case of pushing, it just isn’t what is happening.
Also consider that when you’re the last man and don’t want to enter the line, you open a gap which means you’re actually going just a bit slower than the rest, you adapt your speed to the guys who’s coming back, which means that you don’t even “transmit”, so to say, the group’s speed to the rider you’re touching.

Seriously, if anyone ever lived this sometime in his or her life, you just can’t mistake it. The whole thing is laughable, I suppose we must accept it as a side effect of the sport’s “success” (?), that is the presence of teams with a disproportionate budget plus the presence in the sport of many newcomers who just don’t understand what they see. The judge clearly tried to solve the conflict and the pressures with a mock penalty, but that created even more chaos, since the rules about sanctions are quite clear.

Reply

Larrick March 23, 2017 at 5:40 pm

Gabriele

I agree with the term push being in the rules (in English) and that’s not what really happened. Hence my use of the term handled. It’s a long time ago now but I rode on the track as a junior and appreciate that it doesn’t always have an impact but sometimes it does. It depends on how the rider dropping back is going. Only JJ knows why he did it. The rule, I can only presume, is there because of those times it is helpful.

I’ve watched a lot of TTT’s over the years and have seen it done often but I can’t remember someone sitting at the back doing it on 3 occasions in the last decade or so. He does it once and I’m sure he gets away with it, twice and he’s making it noticeable. Three times and he’s really putting the onus on the commissaire to make a ruling. I don’t really buy into the fact that BMC are a rich team and that makes them rule the way they did. If you were to posit why Catalunya has its first TTT in 10 years and over 41k then that might be a different story but that’s the organisers and not the UCI….

Reply

CA March 23, 2017 at 6:32 pm

Obviously the pushes weren’t over the top, but they still gave a mental boost to riders who’s elastics were about to snap. I’m not sure if the 1-minute penalty to the entire team is justified, but it’s not possible to argue that these “pushes” did not give a benefit to the team as a whole.

The rider who was pushed could give that much more during their pull knowing that they’d get a tiny boost back into the slip-stream after their pull…. c’mon, it’s not possible to claim that Movistar didn’t benefit.

The last thing cycling needs is for every team to post a sprinter at the back of a paceline to tap the tiny climbers back into the paceline at the Tour de France’s TTT.

Reply

gabriele March 23, 2017 at 6:59 pm

They. Are. Not. Pushes.
No “tiny boost”. No “boost” at all. As I said, you can even notice in one of the the videos.
Rojas isn’t able to keep the rotation and informs the others (by the way, according to the “push” theory the extra energy for the supposed *boost* should come from the guy hanging on the back for dear life…?!).
You normally don’t see it several times in TTT because when someone is suffering and feels he’s going to be dropped, he goes on the front, gives a huge shift with everything he’s got in the tank and then strolls to the finish line all alone. He doesn’t stay back there skipping shifts and breaking the rotation.
In this case, Movistar had decided to try and give the leader’s jersey to Rojas as a reward for the hard months he had had (as reported by the Catalan El Periódico, for example). That’s why he was allowed to stay back there in order to make the finish line… if someone could have received “tiny boosts”, it was going to be him, not the other way around.
But let’s get over it.
^__^

Reply

CA March 23, 2017 at 7:34 pm

Agree to disagree, but yes, let’s get past this – who started posting about this in the Milan San Remo slot anyways? haha

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: