Milan-Sanremo Preview

Friday, 16 March 2018

The first Monument of the year, this Saturday’s Milan-Sanremo is all about the tense finish, the paradox of the longest race of the year that’s often decided in the final metres, a race where every pedal stroke counts and the list of contenders and pretenders is longer than any other. Who will keep their nerve?

The Route: 291km plus the processional ride out of Milan mean it’s 300km of riding (and could be longer still if there’s a detour to avoid a big diesel spill near Ovada). The race traverses across the vast Po valley and the Pianura Padana, the flatlands that grow much of Italy’s rice crop. At 117km Ovada is the town that marks the start of the long Passo del Turchino. This climb used to be important to the race but it’s a slow and gradual climb, the railway beside the road points to the soft slope. Turchino means a shade of blue in Italian, hinting at the Mediterranean sea that awaits on the other side. The pass is a symbolic moment of passage, lifting riders away from the wintry plains to the shimmering spectacle of the Mediterranean with its palm trees and blooming flowers, from winter to spring via one mountain pass.

There’s a stressful descent with tunnels to the outskirts of Genova. The halfway point is crossed but the finish feels closer, the coastal road familiar. The race goes from one town to another, negotiating modern street furniture and antiquated town squares alike. In time comes the cape trinity: Capo Mele, Capo Cervo and Capo Berta. These are small climbs but serve as landmarks to break up the flat road and by now the race has done 250km.

Then it’s on to the Cipressa (full detail here). This starts with sharp right hander and quickly climbs through olive groves above the coastal town of San Lorenzo, the 9% gradient bites hard after 270km. This is a proper moment of climbing that can prove fatal for the sprinters, the average of 4% is a blend of a steep start and a flat portion over the top where dropped riders flounder. Television cameras often follow the back of the peloton to catalogue the dropped riders because the toboggan-run descent, the most technical part of the entire course, is often too fast to film in full. The race continues along the coastal road, the Via Aurelia.

The Finish: the Poggio (more here) starts with 9.2km to go and marks the final phase of the race. A furious pace is inevitable. A right flick off the main coastal road is followed by series of wide bends that are so fast some riders have to brake before entry despite going uphill. Positioning is everything as the road winds up, every metre matters. Unlike the Cipressa this isn’t steep, there’s only one short step at 8%. But after 285km the elastic is like an aged rubber band and the Poggio is just enough snap the peloton.

The descent is fast and marked by a series of curves and five hairpins. The race has been won on the descent before and it has its technical moments, for example knowing which bend has the sunken inspection cover on the exit line helps but this is not for virtuoso descenders, instead it suits those with power, a series of sprints out of every corner. Carrying speed into the bends matters but what matters more is being able to pump out big watts on every exit. The ramp ends with fast junction onto the main road and it’s left at the fountain, then right on the Via Roma which has the slightest of slopes up to the finish line.

The Scenario: a bunch sprint? If only it was so simple. The chart above shows the size of the front group in Sanremo over the years. All the blue bars represent the years with the Cipressa-Poggio combo and the grey ones represent the harder years with the additional climb of Le Mànie, now skipped. It shows any “bunch” sprint is really a reduced group, typically the Poggio reduces the race to 20-40 riders. With seven hours in the legs the resulting sprint is a test of force and energy rather than pure speed and few have a team mate left to lead them out.

We’ll see an early move go clear. Look to see which teams place riders in it and if there are any big engines in the move to keep it clear for as long as possible. As ever the pace ratchets up along the coastal road, on TV you might see a bunch of riders, the trick is to spot which teams still have plenty of riders and who is well placed.

Onto the Cipressa where no winning move has worked since 1996. It’s still strategic, a chance for teams to play some cards and the harder the pace, the more the sprinters will struggle. It’s got some steep sections and it’s easy to crack and then lose 30 seconds over the flat section to the village of Cipressa: game over. There’s always a danger moment on the flat coastal approach to the Poggio as a move can slip away while others get into position, everyone wants someone else to chase. The Poggio’s early slopes can look slow on TV but chances are the bunch is going full gas only space is at a premium and the riders are packed like sardines. The best attacks came late on the steepest part after the chapel on the left and a breakaway only needs 10 seconds over the top to stay away.

The Contenders
It’s easy to cite the contenders but hard to pick a winner. The beauty of this race is that so many are in with a chance yet only champions tend to win, the list of previous winners is a roll call of champions and even if Matt Goss or Filippo Pozzato may invite head scratching they were world class when they were winning.

Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) is the obvious pick once again. He can win from an attack over the Poggio, he’s supreme on the descent and can out-sprint the best from a large group too and there’s a random touch because if doesn’t win he’ll shrug while many others named below may feel crushed by missing the career opportunity of the season, even the lifetime. He’s in form having had a good Tirreno-Adriatico and he’s also got a stronger squad this year which helps save precious energy. At times he’s his own biggest rival, despite the aura and the rainbow stripes his win rate in the classics is not prodigious as we might expect after nine years as a pro. He says he wants to put on a show but I suspect he’ll be more clinical.

Michał Kwiatkowksi won last year and can do it again. He’s been Sagan’s rival since they were juniors and is just as versatile, he’s won Tirreno-Adriatico and can sprint well too. He won’t take a bunch sprint but he can do pretty much everything else and has a sharp racing brain. Sky come with a strong team with Gianni Moscon as a dark horse, if he drifts off on the road between the Cipressa and Poggio it’ll take a lot of work to bring him back.

Quick Step have lost Fernando Gaviria to a crash but still come with options. Julian Alaphilippe was the third man a year ago and for all the unsuccessful attempts in Paris-Nice apparently his numbers in training are better than last year when he was able to follow the winning move so expect a queue on his wheel on the Poggio. Philippe Gilbert is the curiosity, he’s 35 and losing the searing acceleration that made following his moves on the Poggio almost impossible. So does he try a move on the Cipressa? Give Alaphilippe an uphill leadout on the Poggio? Elia Viviani is the team’s sprint option but has thrived on shorter, flatter courses but is a redoubtable sprint option for the team.

Arnaud Démare has won here already and returns in good form after a strong Paris-Nice. Sanremo is his kind of sprint, a brute force contest after seven hours and he’s got a solid Groupama-FDJ team in his service, essentially seven lead out riders.

Greg Van Avermaet could win all five monuments, he wasn’t far off in Liège-Bastogne-Liège and if he could hang on to the finish (or wait for the revised flat finish on the banks of the Meuse next year) he’s in with a chance for the sprint. Sanremo is the hardest because how does he win, if he jumps clear on the Poggio he’s likely to find Peter Sagan hard to handle in the finish and if he waits for the sprint then others are surely quicker? Jürgen Roelandts could try the sprint too.

Alexey Lutsenko

Financial scares aside Astana have had a great start to the season. Alexey Lutsenko looks hard to categorise, he can pound the cobbles and win on the Jebel Akhdar alike and has the punch for the Poggio. The team has Magnus Cort Nielsen as back-up for the sprint and Michael Valgren is a dangerman too.

Mitchelton Scott come with two sprinters and worries about a virus that has caused several late selection changes. Caleb Ewan is presumably on orders to sit tight until 150m to go and he’s got the speed but Sanremo is a different sprint after 300km. Matteo Trentin could almost follow the moves over the Poggio but can and has won classics from sprints. It’s not a case of Ewan or Trentin being better than the other, it’s having options according to how the race pans out, if things go wild on the Cipressa then Trentin is good, if the race huddles then Ewan is an ace card.

Sonny Colbrelli tried to follow on the Poggio last year but either couldn’t or wouldn’t. He’s a hard sprinter who thrives in tough conditions so Saturday looks good for him but he’s not an obvious pick for the win, an outsider rather than a likely pick. Bahrain-Merida team mate Vincenzo Nibali rides and may try an attack but how can win?

Sacha Modolo returns to the race that made him famous when he was fourth in 2010 aged 23. That’s been his best result but like Colbrelli and Trentin he thrives in harder sprints.

Alexander Kristoff (UAE Emirates) made a name for himself with a win here and now faces similar conditions. His problem is his form, he’s been expressing doubts and been on antibiotics recently but when he won in 2014 he wasn’t on the radar much either and let his powerful sprint do the work. New team mate Ben Swift has been on the podium here too but the top step seems a tall climb for an infrequent winner.

Marcel Kittel

Marcel Kittel is Katusha-Alpecin’s star attraction and comes off two stage wins in Tirreno-Adriatico. He starts this race for the first time and the Cipressa and Poggio look to be too much for him but imagine losing sight of him only for him to appear on your screen on the back of the group as the speed into Sanremo. Nathan Haas brings more options.

Did a black cat walk across the path of the Sunweb bus? They’ve had a spate of injury woes. Some good news though because Michael Matthews fractured his shoulder in the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and could have raced Tirreno-Adriatico but resumes here. He’s ideal for this race with his punch and sprint but the form is the doubt.

André Greipel (Lotto-Soudal) has tried here before and on paper this ought to be his race, he can cope well with sharp climbs and has a huge sprint. But come Sanremo and his watts weaken and he was out of the mix in Paris-Nice too.

A few more in rapid fire. Cofidis are a soap opera right now. Nacer Bouhanni was dropped because the team say he’s not fit, he keeps retweeting interviews saying he is: open conflict with the management. Christophe Laporte is good for a long sprint, but a World Tour win would be an upset and if he wants to dream, perhaps Paris-Roubaix is more his thing? Tony Gallopin fell ill in Paris-Nice but recovered and is out for revenge but if he can sprint, others are faster. Danny van Poppel is Lotto-Jumbo’s pick for the sprint. Finally Edvald Boasson Hagen (Dimension Data) gets the perennial tip but often struggles in longer races, team mate Stephen Cummings is off the radar and can jump away when everyone least expects it.

Peter Sagan
Michał Kwiatkowski
Arnaud Démare, Elia Viviani, Matteo Trentin
Alexey Lutsenko, Alexander Kristoff, Julian Alaphilippe, Gianni Moscon, GVA
MCN, Matthews, Kittel, Ewan, Colbrelli, Gilbert, Modolo, Greipel, Swift

Weather: a wet start and 9°C on the plains with a light headwind. The sun should appear at times when the race is on the coast and the temperature rises a few degrees and a 10-15km/h headwind.

TV: Rai’s coverage begins at 2.00pm CET with four hours of live broadcast with Eurosport doing the international feed. The finish is forecast for 5.00pm CET. Cyclingfans and steephill have guides and links to schedules and streams.

StevhanTI March 16, 2018 at 10:59 am

I’ve got this feeling it could be Trentin’s day.

Duncan March 16, 2018 at 5:57 pm

Not on your nelly.
I would choke on my corn flakes if he nabbed it.
For all the contenders there actually feel like relatively few scenarios as there are a two/three exceptionally good riders in every version – if we discount a move going on Cipressa, then you have either a small group on the Poggio, or a bunch sprint or a reduced sprint due to the conditions…

In a small group surely one of Sagan, Kwiato, Gilbert, GVA, Alaphillipe, Moscon will be there to win.
For a bunch sprint surely you have one of Viviani, Demare or Ewan, plus Sagan again.
The a reduced sprint which be a mish-mash of both.
Don’t see Trentin beating any of those in a sprint, plus if Kittel or Kristoff come with form and make it to the end.

If he gets into the group over the Poggio maybe but still doubtful he’d be able to follow Sagan’s wheel?

CA March 17, 2018 at 1:51 am

How did misconstrued get a mention

CA March 17, 2018 at 1:52 am

Sorry. Moscon not misconstrued

Duncan March 17, 2018 at 6:31 pm

Because he’s clearly one of the top riders around at the moment?

CA March 17, 2018 at 7:48 pm

Ok, he’s had some strong placings, but he hasn’t won much, but yeah I made that comment before I saw his list of top-10’s last year. I wouldn’t pick him to win anything though.

Michael B March 16, 2018 at 11:13 am

I think it’ll be harder than ever to keep it together for a bunch sprint given the amount of puncheurs around nowadays and in that scenario the obvious choice is Sagan. However, I have a feeling it might come back together and Demare can prove 2016 was no fluke.

Duncan March 16, 2018 at 5:58 pm

I don’t understand what this is based on?

Michael B March 17, 2018 at 8:18 am

It’s based on my opinion, maybe it’ll be wrong, we’ll see. INRNG’s own list of favourites leans towards the puncheurs, although three of the last four MSR’s have ended in diminished group sprints. I think it’s a toss of the coin if that’ll happen again but if it does come to a group sprint Demare looks a strong candidate to my eyes and slightly underrated compared to other contenders. I know you’re not a fan of him but he has less question marks against his form than many sprinters, now that Gaviria is out.

CA March 17, 2018 at 5:02 pm

Demare is looking strong, having a solid season too. I wouldn’t be surprised at this either. Definitely see this as WAY more likely than Moscon…. still scratching my head at how he’s got a mention.

Ecky Thump March 16, 2018 at 11:13 am

No Gaviria.
No Sagan Poggio break?

Duncan March 16, 2018 at 5:59 pm

Good shout. But he came so close last year surely he just needs to ride the same race for the next ten years and eventually it’ll happen, or happen again and again… it was perfect tactics until the sprint?

Ecky Thump March 16, 2018 at 10:43 pm

Like those below, I was alluding to the belief that Sagan may be able to wait for the sprint.
This time last year, Inner Ring, in the race preview, wrote that “Gaviria was his (Sagan) nemesis’ after several sprint victories and, in hindsight, it must have been this fear that drew Sagan’s audacious move.
There is not necessarily the same threat this time around.
There’s possibly Kristoff, with Viviani and Ewen, to offer serious competition in a sprint.
I think that the Belgians, and Kwiatkowski, will look at an early move.
Sagan can afford to follow this year.

Utah March 17, 2018 at 3:49 am

This was my thought as well. Theres no-one there that Sagan can’t handle after such a parcours. I’d be surprised to see him attack, follow maybe, but can’t see why he’d attack on the poggio this time.

Richard S March 16, 2018 at 11:28 am

I’m going to guarantee a large bunch sprint finish by saying I don’t think there will be a large bunch sprint finish. I think bad weather and a host of riders who need to attack early will prevent it. Interesting that you question how GVA can win. He has outsprinted Sagan enough times in two up finishes for him to be confident. If it comes down to a small/very small group like last year and he’s there then he’d arguably be the favourite regardless of who else is there. He has however openly stated that he doesn’t like it cold and wet. Astana could be interesting again. They have Lutsenko to go on the Cipressa, or on the flat after the Cipressa, Valgren to try a break over the top of the Poggio and then Cort Nielsen for a gallop. I reckon there could be a queue waiting to go over the top of the Poggio and we end up with a mini bunch of 10 or 12 riders, and someone sneaks off in the last 1000 to 500 metres. I’ll say Alaphilippe.

Disappointed that you too have bought into the Sagan bullsh!t idea that he’d rather put on a show than win. Sitting in the bunch all day doing nothing doesn’t seem to bother him at the worlds.

crj March 16, 2018 at 11:52 am

On Sagan: “He says he wants to put on a show but I suspect he’ll be more clinical.”

I think you’ve misinterpreted this, seems you and the author are on the same page. But I agree on Alaphilippe.

Davesta March 16, 2018 at 12:00 pm

Can’t wait for this, thanks for the preview!

Correction – Nibali is no longer Sacha Modolo’s Barhrain-Merida teammate, as Modolo now rides for EF Drapac… 🙂

gabriele March 16, 2018 at 12:42 pm

In fact, Modolo never raced on the same team as Nibali (it was UAE last year – yeah, those arab teams all look the same).

The Inner Ring March 16, 2018 at 5:43 pm

Fixed, that Nibali sentence was meant to be added to the Colbrelli paragraph.

AP March 16, 2018 at 12:21 pm

Crikey 2004 must have been grim viewing.

Michael B March 16, 2018 at 12:25 pm

The action replay definitely was for Erik Zabel…

JEB March 16, 2018 at 12:26 pm

I think Sagen and Kwait will not work if they are both in a group – bit like prisoners dilemma – making a bunch sprint more likely – in light of that and bad weather I’ll go for Kristoff.
But just because they wont work together doesn’t mean their teams wont rip the race apart on the cipressa and drop the big sprinters.

Duncan March 16, 2018 at 6:01 pm

Not convinced that’s true. If Sagan and Kwiat go they know they can get to the finish together and you have thought both would still have confidence against one another in a sprint.

Don’t forget Sagan and Kwiat were in multiple breaks together and juniors and have been as seniors and still did it again last year – that wasn’t the first time. So don’t think you’re right on this.

gabriele March 16, 2018 at 12:39 pm

Colbrelli is Nibali’s teammate at Bahrain, not Modolo. And Colbrelli was alone on the front of this race in 2014 (I think) when as a 23 years old Bardiani rider he tried a finisseur move with one km to go (then sprinted to sixth with the remaining energies).

He spent one or two seasons too many in Bardiani, where he had close to no support in such a selective race, and, even more important, couldn’t build up experience in most top level race he was suited to. However, he’s surely an outsider given that, as his previous record shows pretty well, he needs to sort out how could he ever maximise his options, being an – until now – weaker version of the Matthews, (old) Degenkolb and so on. He’s very versatile, he’s already proven he can be good both in hilly classics, even very hard ones like Tre Valli or Giro dell’Appennino, and on the cobbles – it’s not by chance that his greatest victory is “the” hybrid Brabantse Pijl.
He’s the rare sort of rider who can podium at Amstel and Kuurne… This year he looked good at Omloop and impressive on Hatta Dam.

Curiously enough, although I myself would say that Matthews is a stronger rider (also having spent nine years in the WT while Colbrelli is at his 2nd), Colbrelli’s top victories are more interesting: all in all, Matthews top wins are, at the end of the day, his GT stage wins, especially the 3 he got at the TdF. As a Classics lover, I’d personally go with Brabantse, Tre Valli and Appennino.

Duncan March 16, 2018 at 6:02 pm

Definitely think Matthews could come through tomorrow – better pick that Trentin.

Richard S March 16, 2018 at 6:23 pm

Trentin who was a feature at the opening Belgian weekend and rode as strong as an ox at Paris-Nice in support of Yates vs Matthews who has barely raced all year and is hardly recovered from an injury – in the longest race of the year…. It’s just a guess but I’d bet you were born south of the equator..?!

gabriele March 16, 2018 at 7:18 pm

That would mean he’s been pulling what most reader would define, unfairly enough, “a Contador”.

Anonymous March 16, 2018 at 12:40 pm

I still don’t know what Kittel is doing at MSR and how he got a chainring.
Getting dropped on the slightest uphill sections is his signature move. He’ll be behind the peloton even before the Cipressa.

Richard S March 16, 2018 at 1:53 pm

I read a preview of the Tour one year when Degenkolb and Kittel were both at ‘Argos-Shimano’, so 2013 or 14. Anyway it said they needed two sprinters as Kittel was likely to get dropped even on road bridges. Not much has changed since then in his make up to think he’ll be able to win here. I’d be surprised if he’s still in touch after the Cipressa, flabbergasted if he makes it over the Poggio with the front runners. Fair play to him for trying though.

jollygoodvelo March 16, 2018 at 3:07 pm

Last year Kittel looked to be climbing slightly better and I’d say he’s now got a new signature move: being dropped by his own leadout with about 3km to go.

The Inner Ring March 16, 2018 at 5:44 pm

One chainring because if it’s an easy ride to Sanremo then like I say he could be last over the Poggio and in with a chance, but otherwise slim chances. Still how much better is Viviani than him for this?

gabriele March 16, 2018 at 7:14 pm

Much better. Kittel doesn’t win races like Plouay.
And that wasn’t by pure chance, Viviani’s always been able to win hard races since the very start of his career (he famously made a name for winning the two Memorials of Pantani and Vandenbroucke in less than a month time – none of which was actually as hard as their name would suggest, but they were equally far from being pan flat).
Last year, for example, Viviani was winning on complicated terrain in Romandie – and that always was one of his favourite hunting grounds (he beat several classic puncheurs in a Dauphiné some years ago).
Viviani isn’t a climbing sprinter like Matthews, but he’s no Kittel either. After all, he made the top-ten last year. He climbs better than Greipel or Ewan, to name a couple of, respectively, resistant or light sprinters.

Anonymous March 17, 2018 at 4:38 pm

Not tat I knew it beforehand, but…..Kittel getting dropped already on Capo Berta, 36km to go…..

Halvor March 16, 2018 at 1:42 pm

I think Sagan Will wait for the sprint this year, after consecutive victories in the worlds using that strategy, and difficulties winning when bringing others to the finish line.

David P March 16, 2018 at 2:17 pm

And also his trolling kwiat, sounded like a bluff to me

Duncan March 16, 2018 at 6:03 pm

100% agree.

Digahole March 16, 2018 at 8:35 pm

+1 obvious af

Duncan March 16, 2018 at 10:37 pm

Sorry to clarify. I do not think Sagan will wait for the sprint I think he was bluffing to wind up Kwiat and play a few mind-games with whoever comes with him this year – I would put money on him attacking in the same way at the same place if he has last years form. It’s the best way for him to win.

Dylan White March 16, 2018 at 2:37 pm

I always thought black cats were supposed to be lucky, not unlucky. I hope it’s the former, I own one.

jollygoodvelo March 16, 2018 at 3:08 pm

Depends where in the world you are whether they’re considered lucky or unlucky. My black cat is always telling me how lucky I am to own him (and how I should express my thanks in the form of food).

The Inner Ring March 16, 2018 at 5:45 pm

In Italy if one crosses your path it’s bad luck. I know people who have seen a cat cross in front of them and so they stop and then turn around and find another route, so strong is the superstition.

Jeff March 16, 2018 at 2:44 pm

I think everyone remembers last year too well, and I don’t expect Sagan or Kwiat to get away on the Poggio. Sagan certainly has the power to do it, but everyone will be ready for it, and he won’t be keen to drag passengers with him. I’d love to eat my words, though, and see those two and whoever manages to get across duke it out in the finals K’s.

I think it’s another year for a reduced bunch sprint (which seems to be the majority of finishes at MSR).

Anonymous March 16, 2018 at 4:07 pm

Anyone but Demare, please.

He took a tow up the Poggio when he won here, and his sprinting in the first few stages at last year’s Tour – when Sagan was DQ’d – was pantomime-villain stuff.

Not. A. Fan.

Adam March 16, 2018 at 4:40 pm

It was the Cipressa, but yes, I agree that whole affair was very disappointing. His response afterwards didn’t exactly do him any favours either; a classic “non-denial” followed by accusing everyone else of being jealous of his win.

That dodgy sprint in the Tour was a legitimate racing incident though; sure, he shouldn’t have cut up Bouhanni but it’s it’s not really his fault that he escaped punishment because the commissaires were so busy with Sagan and Cav.

I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt for now though, he’s a young rider and interesting to watch.

Duncan March 16, 2018 at 6:04 pm

I kinda agree, not a fan of Demare, but I have no real reason…

Of all the wildcards I’d be happiest if Bouhanni won, sadly he’s ill.

Eskerrik Asko March 16, 2018 at 9:09 pm

A fan, definitively – and not only because I’m a fan of anyone who rides or has ridden in the tricolore, but also because of all the people who are quick to make up their minds and stick to their snap judgements, all the better when they fit in with their perceived ideas.
PS I have no idea what really took place. Based on the evidence that was available it could have been that Démare couldn’t have been where he was without receiving a significant pull or it could be that he was only guilty of achieving something that Matthews failed to do.

Ablindeye March 16, 2018 at 6:14 pm

Great preview. The tension builds already let alone over 300km tomorrow. On that front a great insight into the Poggio with previous winners can be found here https://youtu.be/U2j04jii9zU

IzzyStradlin March 16, 2018 at 7:12 pm

TIM WELLENS FROM THE CIPRESSA FTW

gabriele March 16, 2018 at 7:16 pm

Sadly no Wellens nor Benoot, either. Lotto Soudal goes all in for Greipel (…or very rare winner Keukeleire?).

IzzyStradlin March 16, 2018 at 7:23 pm

DOH!!

Jeff March 16, 2018 at 8:00 pm

the same thought crossed my mind! Sad that he won’t be racing

Paul March 16, 2018 at 9:19 pm

or Debusschere. A good sprinter after a hard day, similar to Keukie.

Paul March 16, 2018 at 9:17 pm

And anyway, Wellens from the Cipressa is just about as likely as Wellens from the Cote de Cherave, and we’ve seen how well that works.

J Evans March 16, 2018 at 9:05 pm

Sagan should wait for the sprint and – like others above – I think he will: from a reduced group he’s got a great chance.
However, as his two 2nd places should have taught him by now, what he really needs to do is *wait* for the sprint – on both occasions he launched too early (over-confidence is just my personal opinion) and lost to slower (usually, on paper) sprinters.
I’m a ‘watch the last 70km’ M-SR viewer – anymore than that and I can feel like I’m wasting my life.
For me, the biggest news here is this: ‘Liège-Bastogne-Liège and if he could hang on to the finish (or wait for the revised flat finish on the banks of the Meuse next year)’. At last, they’re changing that god-awful finish.

JEB March 16, 2018 at 9:58 pm

Cav said he is all in for Bosen-Hagen and he has no chance after his fall . . .
It wouldn’t be the first time he has bluffed like this to remove the pressure.
Not even one chain ring or a mention for a former winner. I think his chances are slim – but better than Kittel and Griepel

gabriele March 16, 2018 at 10:43 pm

I was having a look at the official startlist, as the one I had available before wasn’t that trustworthy (it didn’t include Debusschere, for example 😉 ). I noticed that 14 out of 25 teams will be lead by an Italian DS. Which is obvious, up to a certain point, given that it’s an Italian race, so a bit of Italian know-how may be welcome, and several invited teams are Italian, too (although not all of them). Yet, it’s notable that while Italian cycling is facing hard times in terms of teams and survival of smaller races, its technical legacy has spread more or less everywhere else, for good or ill.
Imagine that the 2nd placed (!) nation in terms of DSs is far back France with… 3, Germany and the Netherlands have 2 each, then it’s 1 for Australia, Kazakhstan, Belgium and Spain.

PS ^__^ If you feel like it you can add 1 to UK taking it away from Italy… it’s Sciandri. But I’m not sure it would make much sense.

Larry T March 17, 2018 at 9:39 am

And I’d guess Italy might still have the most pros in the peloton? Certainly they’re at the top per capita? But if I was the king of pro cycling I’d have Gilbert win, just so he can make some progress on winning all 5 monuments.
Now it’s time to ride my own damn bike for a few hours before settling in to watch the pros race on theirs. Prosecco and stuzzichini at the ready, let the REAL racing season begin! 🙂

Pedro March 17, 2018 at 12:31 am

Hi, I am a frequent reading of the blog but it’s the first time I reply..

Any special reason for lotto jumbo leaving out groenewegen!? It’s could be a good one for mar…I think. Maybe for next year’s!

Keep the good work.

Best regards

who March 17, 2018 at 4:39 am

They think Groenewegen is not yet strong enough for the big classics like MSR, Flanders and Roubaix. This year they think he can play a role in the semi-classics in Flanders, races of about 200 km. But they sure see a future for Groenewegen in the big classics in the coming years.
This year v.Poppel is the man for Lotto-Jumbo and I think he can be a surprise. He is somebody who can digest the long distance and also some hills very well some times.

Mark Westley March 17, 2018 at 8:19 am

I don’t understand why everyone is giving Kwiat a realistic chance he was completely towed to the line last year because Sagan didn’t rate his chances, rightly so in my opinion with fresher legs there was only half a wheels length in it and arguably Sagan went too early and would have walked it had he waited 50m. What possible scenario could lead to Kwiat getting a total leadout to the line this time? I know he has a bit of a kick but that’s compared to other featherweights who can get over mountains not compared any real puncheurs or sprinters.

The Inner Ring March 17, 2018 at 8:53 am

He was faster than Marecko, Ewan and Gaviria in the T-A stage to Follonica last week, he’s won the Amstel ahead of Valverde, Matthews, Van Avermaet etc. The bigger risk is how he blows hot and cold, absent on the Strade Bianche, winning T-A the next.

Richard S March 17, 2018 at 10:07 am

‘Sagan didn’t rate his chances, rightly so in my opinion’

That’s probably the strangest thing I’ve ever read. He won!

JT March 17, 2018 at 9:02 am

I said it last year and I will say it again. People are very harsh with Kwiatkowski. In 2016 he attacked on the portion and all alone tried to hold off the bunch. In 2017, Sagan attacks and he follows with Alaphillipe. After the descent he puts in some turns and works with Sagan. When it was certain they could stay away he stops working because Sagan has a better sprint. He wins the sprint.
I didn’t see him getting towed to the line or being a wheel-sucker. He tried the year before and failed, tried last year and succeeded. But everyone feels like Sarah was the deserving winner and he was robbed.

For that reason I hope Sagan doesn’t feature at the end of the race because if not who ever wins will be seen to have “stolen” it from Sagan. This is the hardest race to win because the strongest doesn’t automatically win. And therefore Sagan might not win despite being the strongest but that doesn’t mean the person who does win is undeserving.

Richard S March 17, 2018 at 10:08 am

I agree. I’ve had my fill of the cult of personality around Sagan now.

Whale Oil Beef Hooked March 17, 2018 at 11:29 am

Absolutely nailed it there. All this BS that riders and teams are anticipating this move or that tactic by specific rivals means nothing after 290+km. If Sagan’s move last year was so telegraphed how is it only two riders had the nous or power to go with him? The Pole is tactically astute and just as prepared to “gamble” as the Slovak. I don’t care if it’s a carbon copy of last year. The best rider will still have won on the day.

How much flak would Gerrans have got if he’d won three Worlds like Sagan? Richmond was class but so was Ponferrada. I was born N of the equator.

gabriele March 17, 2018 at 11:52 am

Gerrans wouldn’t have ever won Richmond like Sagan, nor made the front group through Belgian crosswinds, nor would he ever have marked the moves closing personally on them as Sagan did in Bergen (or as Valverde does quite often). I don’t have any issue with Gerrans winning like he did, the fault – if anything – is on the rest *and* that’s how cycling works, but, then, as a fan, you’ve got the right to appreciate active riding vs. the other sort of.

Matt March 17, 2018 at 10:59 am

Démare. LOL. Does anyone actually consider him a winner of San Remo?

Would be great to see an incident-free descent of the Poggio, with a few riders away vying for the win.

Hopefully the weather holds. MSR can throw up some pretty epic races for the hard men, but those editions often result in pretty turgid viewing.

RonDe March 17, 2018 at 11:00 am

Anyone but Sagan. I’m getting sick of the (social) media circus around him which is built as much on clowning around as actual wins. He is not a Boonen or a Cancellara with 6 or 7 monument wins to his name. In fact, he’s only ever won one monument (same as Demare, Kristoff, Kwiato, Matthew Hayman) and failed several other times. Bolster the reputation with a few more solid entries in the palmares Mr Sagan.

gabriele March 17, 2018 at 12:13 pm

Yes, some three consecutive Worlds, for example -__-

And, indeed, it looks just fair to compare him with the strongest rider *ever* in pavé races and his worthy rival…

Classics (and Mouments) don’t work like this. You can be acknowledged one of the best on that terrain without ever winning a major one, and you can win one without changing much your historical status, although your career and your palmarés will get a well deserved shade of gold.

Flecha (0), Ballan (1), Pozzato (1), Hoste (0), Vanmarcke (0), Hushovd (0)… are and always be a different category than Hayman, Vansummeren, Nuyens and the likes. Démare himself must prove much more (he’s probably got the skills) before he’s looked at as a serious member of the club.

Sagan already sits well above a Devolder, despite the 2 Monuments owned by the latter.

RonDe March 17, 2018 at 12:34 pm

Yes, three consecutive Worlds. I can tip my hat at that. But without them the situation would be somewhat worse. And its certainly very fair to compare him with the best when his empty-headed cheerleaders online make him out to be exactly that. Well if he is let’s see him build the palmares to prove it. He has a long way to go to match my all-time hero, Sean Kelly, for example!

G Jok March 17, 2018 at 12:55 pm

I don’t blame any rider for what their empty-headed cheerleaders online say.

gabriele March 17, 2018 at 2:43 pm

Sean Kelly is IMHO among the top-ten of best ever riders, tout court, and one of my absolute favourites, too.
Not even Boonen is (too much of a specialist).
For sure, Sagan’s got a very long way to go – we’ll see in a ten years time or so. Anyway, if you just take away from everyone their three most significant victories, very few riders would sport an unharmed palmarés. Even Kelly might be reduced to a size little greater than, say, any Vinokourov.

Larry T March 17, 2018 at 6:16 pm

I think Kelly was a great rider too, but last time I checked he was “0 for all of ’em” when the subject is rainbow jerseys, no?
Meanwhile I dared not dream (though I said “Forza Nibali” a few times this AM while at the local alimentari here in Sicily buying my daily bread and milk) that The Shark of the Straits could pull off another monument.
Next the authorities need to give him the Vuelta ’17 victory that was stolen from him by your other hero.

RonDe March 17, 2018 at 6:20 pm

If Nibali gets the Vuelta that’s fine with me Larry. We all know who won on the road regardless how many puffs Froome took on his inhaler.

gabriele March 17, 2018 at 6:31 pm

But not regardless how many shots of salbutamol pills he was perhaps having to make for his difficulties… after all, we’ve already seen how much time Froome can *lose* in a dire third week, let alone gaining further time over his rival.

A court will settle this, I guess. I fully acknowledge that it’s not like winning it on the road, yet this is in a whole different league when compared to, say, Giro 2011.

If it’s proven that Froome was actually caught doping during *that specific* race, the 2017 Vuelta, then his victory wouldn’t be worth anything, just as Landis’ in 2006.

If it’s proven that it was unintended like what TAS defended for Contador at Tour 2010, well, I guess that everybody will see it as they feel more appropriate.

Anyway, Nibali was already due the 2013 Vuelta, probably enough ^__^

Anonymous March 17, 2018 at 11:07 pm

One thing we know for sure – it was not too many puffs on an inhaler. And if it was that, that’s cheating – it’s cheating if you take more puffs on the inhaler than you’re allowed.
Do you think others who broke doping rules ‘won on the road’ or is your opinion biased perhaps? Ridiculously so.

Anonymous March 17, 2018 at 4:04 pm

Oh the hard life of a cycling troll….

RonDe March 17, 2018 at 6:15 pm

Said an anonymous person. Oh the irony…

Susan March 17, 2018 at 11:13 pm

Not sure you know the meaning of the word ‘irony’ Alanis – not after your criticism of Sagan fans. Are you unaware of how your Froome adoration comes across?

Richard S March 17, 2018 at 5:35 pm

VAI VINCENZO!!!

Class

Bob March 17, 2018 at 5:40 pm

And there’s the answer to all the speculation, all the guessing, after 294km in the rain, a beautiful win Vincenzo Nibali. Pure audacity, pure class.

AP March 17, 2018 at 5:59 pm

Cavendish channelling his inner Comaneci there.

Michael B March 17, 2018 at 6:08 pm

What a final 10km and what a rider Nibali is (hardly a controversial opinion). Great work by his teammates to momentarily slow the race which made all the difference in the end. Caleb Ewan was very fast in the finish too, he came pretty close to a Cavendish/Haussler style win.

Speaking of which I can’t see any news on Cavendish yet, it looked an awful crash but he seemed to be moving when the cameras cut away. Spectacular crash, hope he’s ok. Bad season for him so far.

RonDe March 17, 2018 at 6:17 pm

Complimenti to Nibali. I’m sometimes hard on him but I tip my hat to a perfectly executed win. He’s the first since Sean Kelly in 91/92 to win Lombardy and then Milan-Sanremo.

CA March 17, 2018 at 7:37 pm

Mark Cavendish… what a season… is he batting 100% right now??

CA March 17, 2018 at 7:39 pm

I’m more and more sold on Arnaud Demare though – you have to admit he’s putting some really quality rides in.

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: