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The Moment Milan-Sanremo Was Won

The longest race and the shortest of write-ups. Jasper Stuyven won Milan-Sanremo thanks to a bold late attack, which was a surprise win but no shock.

An early break of eight, and all on TV too, with the cameras showing the race from start to finish. The curiosity was that a World Tour squad like Trek-Segafredo had a rider up the road in Nicola Conc,i but they have an Italian streak and in Segafredo, an Italian sponsor… and maybe had a plan too? Jumbo-Visma, Deceuninck-Quickstep and Alpecin-Fenix quickly took up position at the front of the bunch and one of the images of the long early phase of the race was the sight of the peloton in a long line as the three teams set a solid pace.

There were few incidents, the capi climbed fast thanks to the tailwind and the early breakaway shrank with Intermarché-Wanty’s Taco van den Hoorn the last to fold. Jumbo-Visma and Ineos led up the Cipressa like it was the Galibier in July. There were no attacks, as the pace was just too high. One rider with problems on the Cipressa was Caleb Ewan, but he reportedly made a crazy descent to get back in contention.

Onto the Poggio and it took a while for home broadcasters RAI to say “Ganna” out loud as their hulking hero was reduced to a gregario and indeed later, as the closing credits rolled across the screen, the same commentators were still lamenting Ganna’s reduced role. Ineos instead were backing Michał Kwiatkowski and Tom Pidcock, and Ganna’s pace helped prevent any early attacks.

Alaphilippe made his move on the Poggio but it was telegraphed, where we knew before the race he’d launch here, but he reminded everyone when he kept looking back to see who was on his wheel. Who? About a dozen riders with Wout van Aert, then Schachmann and the rest close by (look at the picture above and in the centre is an out of focus Stuyven). Wout van Aert had the match of Alaphilippe and looked set to play his sprint card rather than forge a breakaway. Seconds later, Stuyven was almost distanced, and he seemed on the limit, but that’s the point, as everyone knows this is the place for a maximum effort to get in the move.

Stuyven surged just as the descent was coming to an end and carried speed off the slope. This wasn’t a blazing guns spectacular, but more a stealth move in the saddle, where at first he appeared to drift off the front but kept going, presumably pouring on the watts and later said it was on instinct, where he saw an opportunity and took it. The others hesitated, Kwiatkowski peeled off the side, Anthony Turgis did a pull and then everyone started taking stock. Søren Kragh Andersen jumped and this looked dangerous, and he floated across to Stuyven who seemed to ease up a touch, but this gave him a brief breather and in slowing, Stuyven forced SKA to take the lead or it would be over for both of them. SKA threatened to poach the win, and the pair were only metres ahead going into the final S-bends that lead to the Via Roma. Behind the group was hesitating again and the gap seemed to grow a little. SKA led onto the finishing straight, but Stuyven still had something left and, after a moment’s shelter on the Dane’s wheel, launched and just held off a fast-closing Caleb Ewan. Stuyven wisely sat up to celebrate only once he’d crossed the line.

The Verdict
A surprise win; a bold win. All the attention was on the three riders before the race, and during it, as their teams led the peloton for hours. Once again, it was a slow burn before the tense finale and the action came even later than usual, occurring at the end of the Poggio rather than the start.

There’s plenty to please the crowd when van Aert, Alaphilippe or van der Poel win given their status, charisma and often the manner of their wins but there’s sport when they lose, too, and many in the peloton will take cheer from Stuyven’s win today as it gives them hope for the upcoming classics.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • LionKing Saturday, 20 March 2021, 7:25 pm

    Even as a sprint aficionado I love it when a gutsy move like that stays away. I wonder if Nibs gave him a few tips…

  • Morten Reippuert Saturday, 20 March 2021, 7:29 pm

    Once again. Trek owes beer and ‘romkulgler’ to Søren Kragh Andersen all 2021…oh my god SKA was stupid… next race, he was there despite his back problems at the Paris-Nice ITT.

    …fantastic ride by Stuven, hope he gets a a real donkey soon.

    • cp Saturday, 20 March 2021, 7:40 pm

      Donkey?

    • The Inner Ring Saturday, 20 March 2021, 9:04 pm

      He’s won Kuurne already 😉

      • cp Sunday, 21 March 2021, 2:44 am

        ahh. gotcha.

      • Kadans Sunday, 21 March 2021, 11:07 am

        and Nieuwsblad in 2020

    • J Evans Sunday, 21 March 2021, 9:56 am

      I think SKA maybe realised that if he pulled at the end, he’d be more likely to get 1st or 2nd, whereas if he didn’t, he’d be more likely to get a top ten. Not how it worked out, but how is his sprint? He might well have realised that he was not that likely to beat Stuyven in a sprint, but very unlikely to beat all those others.

      • oldDAVE Monday, 22 March 2021, 11:23 am

        Yeah – feel a bit sorry for SKA with the bashing here!
        Agree with J Evans – maybe he realised it was over and just thought screw it? Any number of reasons could explain what looks bad on TV, think we could give him some slack.
        Maybe it was a bit like Alaphillipe lighting the touch paper last year as the Tour and then blowing up immediately! Or he’s best mates with JS and did him a favour knowing he couldn’t win?

        • Cinjet Wednesday, 24 March 2021, 4:15 pm

          I agree… He could also have sprinted for a top 15 like Mohoric, Schachmann and Kwiat :’)
          In any case his surge from the group to Stuyven was very impressive and I think with 25m to go he was still 2nd.

    • Tom Tuesday, 23 March 2021, 2:38 am

      Why was SKA stupid?

      • Cinjet Wednesday, 24 March 2021, 4:16 pm

        Because he helped Stuyven win by towing him directly after catching him.

  • cp Saturday, 20 March 2021, 7:43 pm

    Can someone explain what Ineos’ strategy might have been pushing the pace like they did? Did they want a sprint from a small group? For whom? Kwiatkowski? Surely not for Pidcock.

    My usually reliable alarm clock of a Labrador slept in today, so I only saw the last 15km or so, but that was the right time to watch it seems.

    • jc Saturday, 20 March 2021, 8:13 pm

      I thought they were trying to set up Tom Pidcock, ride a fast pace to drop the sprinters and stop the obvious candidates riding away on the Poggio. He did end up in the front group and tried to ride away a couple of times but not to be. I dont believe he is much of a sprinter (might be wrong) so was not going to compete when it (almost) came back together at the end.

      • The Inner Ring Saturday, 20 March 2021, 9:06 pm

        That and I think they might have wanted Kwiatkowski to do something spectacular on the Poggio descent.

        • Larry T Sunday, 21 March 2021, 8:17 am

          I thought Pidcock must have been told to wait for his teammate though that’s not what he said post-race. When the 5 with a small gap slowed up and let the others rejoin near the bottom of the Poggio, Stuyven seemed to think “Thanks for waiting guys and now you’re going to let me just ride past?” and took his chance.
          Raced-to-win while the rest pretty much were concerned about not losing – BRAVO!

      • matthew Tuesday, 23 March 2021, 1:16 pm

        I wouldnt say Pidcock is any worse a sprinter than alaphillipe, although thats very hard to be 100% sure so early in his pro career but he finished 3rd in a bunch sprint @ KBK. I have spoken with Mathews before and he basically admits MSR is a lottery once you get over the Poggio, in this day and age with some many strong 1 day riders they were all looking at themselves to close the gap so this race is set up for someone to get a gap and distance the pack. If the gap is 10-15 riders you gotta go solo, if it is 5 or less go for the bunch sprint.

    • Ecky Thump Saturday, 20 March 2021, 8:30 pm

      I thought it was an anti-van der Poel pace, keep it high and keep him on a tight leash?

      • oldDAVE Monday, 22 March 2021, 11:27 am

        as with SKA I think this might look sillier in hindsight than it did at the time or was at the time.

        it’s a fair tactic to inhibit the attacks of Alaphillipe or VdP or VA and hope your guys can do what JS did after the climb? There wasn’t really any other way they were gonna win, it’s just Pidcock telegraphed his attack and went too early and Kwiato didn’t have it, shouldn’t lambast Ganna for following orders.

        I’d just as much as anyone would have loved them to just set Ganna off on or after the Cipressa and see what he could do (similar to Geraint/Stannard a few years ago) but we all know this has a 99% chance of failure, so given their riders, trying to create a small selection minus the sprinters but stopping the big three getting away was probably their best tactic?

  • jc Saturday, 20 March 2021, 7:46 pm

    Neither MvdP or WvA were as dominant as they have been in recent races, maybe the length of the race, maybe the pace was simply too high or maybe they need to focus their efforts a little more (a win at San Remo has to be worth more than a stage win on a wet Monday afternoon in a small deserted town). There was also the issue of not wanting to take opponents to the line, a perfect example of the prisoner’s dilemma applied to bike racing. Well done to Jesper Stuyven for rolling the dice, if you dont try you will never win.

    I have seen a few comments about how boring and repetitive this race is. For me that misses the point, the seeming hours of watching the scenery roll by before a, often, frantic last 30km on what are hardly the most difficult climbs in the racing calendar have a rhythm all of their own. No it is not the bergs of Flanders or the cobbles of Roubaix . The winner needs to pace their effort to perfection and needs a slice of luck, perfect for watching odd minutes through the day and the frenetic finale. As a once a season race it works really well.

    • Robin Monday, 22 March 2021, 12:15 pm

      Agree 100% with your comments – Milano Sanremo is my favourite race of the year, mostly because of the slow build-up and the growing excitement. To those of you who say it is boring, I encourage you to come at it with a fresh perspective next year, and soak up every glorious minute.

      • The Inner Ring Monday, 22 March 2021, 1:26 pm

        The action always comes late but this ensures a very tense final, once you get to the last 20 minutes it feels like anyone can win and you just can’t tell who until seconds to go, that’s something you don’t get in almost any other race. Now someone might say “but what about a bunch sprint” but that’s different as we know the few riders likely to win and how they’ll do it, there’s practically no chance of Nibali bursting out, of Kwiatkowski descending, Alaphilippe attacking etc.

        • Rodrigo Diaz Tuesday, 23 March 2021, 10:55 pm

          I would add for MSR that to add to the anxiety at the end there’s also a fair amount of uncertainty when just watching the riders. Because the race is so long and there’s so much work already done riders favoured to do a long range attack or a blistering spring sometimes don’t get the legs to respond as “usual”. This is further complicated by things such as having no teammates to chase down moves (because they are also cooked after 30 km past their normal race length), riders gambling on a late escape on the hills, etc.

          We hail Nibali’s beautiful win… but we need to remember that such moves failed in other occasions. Similarly, sometimes the plan actually works for a sprinter and the team makes it work – like the wins by Cavendish or Petacchi. But you also get the times where you have big names in there and a less-favoured rider (never a fluke, though) like Ciolek pulls off a massive win.

          Needless to say, I like this race 🙂

      • Larry T Monday, 22 March 2021, 3:02 pm

        +1

        • Eskerrik Asko Monday, 22 March 2021, 4:24 pm

          Nice to agree 100% with Larry T – and equally nice to welcome him back!

          PS At about 45 km to go the Swedish commentators on (Nordic) Eurosport brought Stuyven up as a rider who has the legs to make a decisive move and the head to make it at the right time – and who is bold enough to try it well knowing that it isn’t likely to succeed unless several factors happen to play in. I must admit I didn’t think much of Stuyven’s chances – but I’m proud to say that I kept trying to spot his helmet and when I saw Caleb Ewan was still there and understood what it could mean tacticwise, I actually began, albeit cautiously at first, to root for Stuyven!

          • Larry T Tuesday, 23 March 2021, 10:21 am

            Thanks! There was a time civility seemed to be getting ever more rare here while pretty much every other comments section had already descended into “You suck! No, YOU suck!” hell so I bailed on all of ’em.
            Nothing much seems to have changed elsewhere but as I continued to read this blog and comments regularly without adding any of my own, things seemed to have gotten better so I’m back until it starts to go south again or you folks “vote me off the island” as they say.
            Meanwhile, here’s to hoping the EU can get the pandemic under control enough before another cycling season suffers too much. So far, so good?

    • Mikael Monday, 22 March 2021, 2:04 pm

      Danish filmmaker Jørgen Leth have said something along the lines of; “During a long time nothing happens, during a short time everything happens”. And be not mistaken, he likes that.

      • cp Tuesday, 23 March 2021, 4:08 am

        That’s a great quote. You know he made “A Sunday in Hell” I assume.
        Milan San Remo is like a baseball game. The only difference is that baseball has about 10 minutes of action in 3 or 4 hours but those “short times that everything happens” are spread out over the whole game.

        I think it was Steven Jay Gould who calculated that an average ball game has something like 3 minutes of truly meaningful events (i.e. when hits are in the air or players are running) but that it would all be pointless without the pointless bits in between.

        I just wish the cycling commentators would learn from the best baseball announcers and be quiet a lot more.

        • Larry T Tuesday, 23 March 2021, 10:27 am

          Not just MSR, cycling is like a baseball game. I use that analogy to explain my interest in it to Americans, who all pretty much grow up with the sport in the same way Europeans do with football, of course called soccer in the US. Funny thing is I have zero interest in baseball since I stopped playing the game as a child, though I take perverted joy in pointing out the various doping (and other cheating) scandals of MLB to those who take cycling to task as some sort of outlier when it comes to cheating.

          • D Evans Tuesday, 23 March 2021, 11:39 am

            Larry, I’d like to second the “Welcome Back” above. Nice to hear from you. I agree with your comments about lack of civility, by the way, which is why I rarely stick my head above the parapet! (Not as bad here as elsewhere, mind)

    • matthew Tuesday, 23 March 2021, 1:26 pm

      Id be tempted to say the pace wasnt high enough for MVP and WVA, the group was just way too big going up the Poggio, i dont know the times of the climbs for comparison over previous years but ewan looked comfortable second wheel, (the same guy who pulled out of a race a week earlier) and Sagan finished 4th in the sprint so made it over easy enough, it was his first 1 day race of the season after getting covid and having basically a weeks training block in the adriatico? and he managed to be at the pointy end when it mattered. he is a beast but yeah, makes me think was it that hard a race?

      I dont think MVP or WVA will ever change their racing style, when they enter a race they aim to win that race regardless of what it is, they dont seem to be the ones to think too far in advance, MVP already won Strade as well, the next 3-4 years could be a truly golden age of racing.

  • Cycling Nut Saturday, 20 March 2021, 7:53 pm

    It seemed a steady pace up the Poggio and nobody would attack. Waiting for the other guy to attack. Dull. When Stuyven went I kept yelling at my screen for him to get in a tuck position, but he won anyway. When those sprinters hesitated and looked at each other I knew they lost. SKA did a great catch but faded.
    Why do sprinters like sprinting for second so much?!

    • Allegedly_Anthony Monday, 22 March 2021, 3:41 pm

      That pace on the Poggio was anything but steady – Ganna was making everyone hurt, so no-one was able to attack. It’s just a pity that Kwiatowski wasn’t there at the top to launch an attack.
      Ewan may have been too visible on the Poggio and Cipressa, but if he’d tried to chase JS he’d have blown on handed the race to someone like Sagan or Van Aert. His “mistake” was having Wellens burnt off by Ganna. He’ll win it one day, as long as he stays patient and doesn’t let frustration affect his tactical decisions.

  • Tom Saturday, 20 March 2021, 9:15 pm

    Surprised Ineos didn’t go with Ganna today…. his power could have been hard to match if they’d launched him at the bottom of the Poggio.

    • gabriele Saturday, 20 March 2021, 9:26 pm

      He explained on social networks that he had been suffering from a mild flu since the end of Tirreno (negative PCR), hence when briefing for the race, the DSs took that into account to set a supporting role for him.

  • gabriele Saturday, 20 March 2021, 9:37 pm

    I usually like Sanremo as it is, and the final 3 km were actually compelling. I also love a good finisseur action and Stuyven’s trademark one was perfectly executed and indeed deserving. That said, all in all it was quite a mediocre edition. Much teamwork, little action.

    Speaking of teamwork… butterfly effect of Roglic’s crashes (and perhaps even Roglic beating Mader on the line a day before, as a factor in later events!) ultimately denied Sagan his option for a podium: I guess that Schachmann still flavouring chapagne and maillot jaune was feeling too much of a leader to pull hard for Sagan in the last 2 km, when he himself already had lost any possible personal chance.

    • J Evans Saturday, 20 March 2021, 9:45 pm

      Sagan has shown on so many occasions that he’s perfectly capable of messing up the finish of this race all on his own… ;o)

      I almost always only watch the last 60km of M-SR: that way, it’s quite an interesting race. Watch the preceding 6 hours of very little happening, and you can expect to be a tad bored.

    • J Evans Saturday, 20 March 2021, 9:49 pm

      PS, I think every three years (ish) they should put in that hill or hills (can’t remember the names – you’ll know) they tried about a decade ago. It would be nice to change the scenario of the race every once in a while.

      • Tim Sunday, 21 March 2021, 6:00 pm

        Agreed – this is the most tactically closed race of the monuments. The race is pretty much “a move goes on the Poggio… then what?” Adding another climb would eject the sprinters but would tactically open up the race.

      • Richard S Sunday, 21 March 2021, 7:41 pm

        Is the other climb, the Pompiano or something, in between the Cipressa and the Poggio? If it is then instead of having all 3 I’d drop the Cipressa. The Cipressa is a nice climb but there’s no point attacking there if you have serious intentions of winning, or even just causing some disruption, as you will always get caught in that 10km between it and the Poggio. They ride that stretch absolutely flat out anyway to get in position for the Poggio so you’d have to be the secret love child of Van der Poel and Ganna to get anywhere. A climb closer to the Poggio (if one exists and isn’t just a figment of my imagination) would give any attacker more chance and spice it up a little without changing the essential character of the race.

        • J Evans Monday, 22 March 2021, 9:10 am

          Found it: Pompeiana. Between Cipressa and Poggio. Last used in 2013, I think.
          There was also Le Manie, a few years before that, which came at about 200km in. I think both were used some years.
          I reckon bung those two in every three years – maybe different combinations of them.

          • Larry T Monday, 22 March 2021, 11:16 am

            I don’t think they ever used the Pompeiana route, it was just tossed around as an alternative.
            OTOH Le Manie was used 2008-2014 but it’s hard to argue that it made any real difference in the race.
            We produced a guided tour featuring a lot of the MSR route a few years ago and included Le Manie, stopping for a night at a great little hotel on the descent. http://cycleitalia.blogspot.com/2014/06/la-primavera-2014-part-2.html

          • gabriele Wednesday, 24 March 2021, 9:49 pm

            Pompeiana was never actually used, I think.

          • gabriele Wednesday, 24 March 2021, 9:52 pm

            I think that Le Manie made a big difference, although it might not have been so apparent at first sight in the final result. But at least you had a lot of race action far from the line.
            RCS decided to keep it out because it’s become already too difficult for pure sprinters to win due to the high quality puncheurs field, while the organisers want to keep the “sprinters Monument” label, at least as an open possibility.

          • Irungo txuletak Saturday, 27 March 2021, 10:31 am

            Pompeiana has never been used in msr. It was planned some years ago but the idea was abandonned. Too hard a climb too close from the finish. It would have changed the very nature of the race.
            In turns, la manie early in the finale, without changing the profile of riders in contest for the win, adds to the toll and increases the probability of successfull moves in the last k.

    • oldDAVE Monday, 22 March 2021, 11:31 am

      Thank you for noting Schachmann not pulling in the finale, I hadn’t noticed this at all.
      Interesting, although he must have known as well as anyone that Sagan would not have won that sprint?

      I felt like a lone wolf yesterday saying how little I enjoyed this race.
      I think my views are more extreme (personally think it needs drastic rethink as has been clearly superseeded by Strade Bianchi and simply not entertaining enough) but nice to see others thought it was a bit lame. I don’t think tradition should hide when a race is not giving us enough bang for our time investment.

      • gabriele Wednesday, 24 March 2021, 10:10 pm

        Re: Schachmann and Sagan. A podium would have been granted and was worth the effort. Once personal options are gone, helping a teammate is always a good idea IMHO.

        Re: Sanremo’s health. Halfway the years 2000s more or less everybody was looking for a solution for the race (a bit like what’s been happening more recently with Flèche or Liège), because it looked stalled, as it had already become in past decades when, in fact, the Poggio and Cipressa had been added to the course. Yet, the last 10-15 years have started to provide a more vivid race. Having some sort of action all along the last 30 km or so isn’t bad at all for any race, and in recent/decent editions of the Sanremo we’ve seen several interesting things already happening on the Cipressa, although it wasn’t a lone rider or a group sailing away to the finish.
        Plus, the finale has become more and more of a real thriller, with the likes of Gilbert, Nibali or Sagan giving more than a serious try at that Poggio shot. Of course, it can come down to a sprint all the same, but it’s not that frequent anymore *and* the way you get there is quite emotional.
        I’d say we’ve had at least half a dozen of *memorable* editions since the late 2000s included, and that’s not bad at all.
        Not even Roubaix or Flanders provide a great edition every year (even if I prefer both to Sanremo, generally speaking, but why should we choose?).

        • RQS Thursday, 25 March 2021, 8:39 am

          If we summarise MO of MSR as a long race where the riders are softened up by the distance before a hill double which creates the selection. It’s a recipe which has clear limitations but is somewhat unique in the modern age. If this was a new race no one would be able to sell it.
          I love cycling and so enjoy the race. But it’s not my favourite. I prefer that it has been a good while since it has ended up as a bunch sprint. But it’s unlikely to create the attritional build up which creates the selections of other one day races – one of the biggest contrasts being PR or Flanders – where riders need to match efforts on cobbles or hills to keep themselves in the loop. Due to its length no rider is willing to leave themselves in the wind on a break when factors are set so much in favour of the peloton. The final two hills are likely to sap any energy a breakaway has on a chasing bunch and leave them open to a heart breaking failure in the final run-in, which again, favours numbers.
          Love the MSR for what it is, a relic of racing gone by. Most races from the same era have either been shuffled into histories footnotes or have been altered to meet modern demands. I just can’t think of how you’d create a race with a different feel without changing the start or finish of the race – but then Paris-Roubaix is that in name only these days so it does happen.

          • Richard S Thursday, 25 March 2021, 11:15 am

            I love Milan-Sanremo. I often feel like it is my favourite at the time, but then get similar feelings when Flanders, Roubaix, the Giro and Lombardy come round! Factors in its favour are its timing (after a long period starved of decent cycling), its scenery, the weather and I think, quite importantly, that everything happens at high speed. The speed they take into the bottom of both the key climbs is spectacular in itself, they then ride them at high speed, and any attack happens at a sprint. There’s also the high speed descents, the quick run in to town and usually something of a sprint finish even if its very much a reduced one. Plus there is often the drama of someone dangling just off the front at any point between the Cipressa and the finish line. Compare that to recent editions of Lombardy where they grapple up the Surmano at glacial speed and then any ‘attacks’ that occur on the steep side of the Civiglio happen at barely walking pace.

  • J Evans Saturday, 20 March 2021, 9:42 pm

    Chapeau, Stuyven. He had the guts to go for it, and the nouse and bravery to let SKA do the work in the finale. Not so sure about his long look back with 50m to go, but he pulled it off.

  • Tom J Saturday, 20 March 2021, 11:16 pm

    Van der Poel looked out of position at times, he didn’t seem to have his normal ease of floating around the peloton at will. Ditto Van Aert. I wonder if the length of their seasons is starting to catch up on them – there has to be a limit to how long you can keep form, and unlike most others in the peloton, they have been racing at high intensity since well before Christmas.

    (MvdP will go and win Roubaix with a 100km solo break now just to prove me wrong …)

    • STS Sunday, 21 March 2021, 1:06 am

      No, he will not. But that idea made me laugh, thanks!

    • Stuartare Sunday, 21 March 2021, 3:29 am

      Definitely agree on MvdPs positioning. Look at from how far back he covered Alaphilippe’s move on the Poggio – it must have been from 15th wheel. Absolutely incredible effort but it could’ve cost him a fee too many matches. His team had riders deep into the race too so maybe they didn’t make best use of that. You’re right, they’ve got to slow down at some point!

      • J Evans Sunday, 21 March 2021, 9:17 am

        MvdP rides like someone who lacks a lot of road race experience, which I suppose is the case.

        • Cascarinho Sunday, 21 March 2021, 1:40 pm

          I don’t know if it’s lack of experience or rather inability to stay focus during a long time. He replaced himself few times, but lose it very soon : it demands a lot of concentration to stay in front and I wonder if MvdP is capable of that. It seems that he has a very short attention span before getting bored, so he has to make efforts again. In MSR when all is about saving energy, it’s a problem ; in ths other races, he’s so strong that he can do what he wants. Maybe MSR is the less easy for him.

    • Richard S Sunday, 21 March 2021, 10:08 am

      MvdP didn’t look fully on it. He was often out of position, never looked like dictating anything on the Poggio and was easily outsprinted by WvA and Sagan at the line. It might be that he left too much on the road at Tirreno-Adriatico, or that the monster distance doesn’t quite suite him, but he never looked quite at it. As much as you can even say that about someone who finished in the lead group at Milan-Sanremo!

    • Nick Sunday, 21 March 2021, 1:13 pm

      I think you could argue that Van der Poel’s positioning on the Poggio helped Stuyvesant to win. When Alaphillipe and Van Aert went, they distanced Pidcock and got a little gap. That was quickly closed by MVDP, who was in about 10th wheel when the attack went. In closing the gap, MVDP towed back the next half-a-dozen riders, including Stuyven. But what if MVDP had been ready for Alaphillipe’s attack and joined him and Van Aert in forcing the gap? Would Stuyven have got back on?

  • Vittorio Saturday, 20 March 2021, 11:20 pm

    I’ve heard lamenting about Ganna as well. What I don’t understand is how (and when, and why, based on what) they have already decided which kind of rider is Ganna. To the best of our knowledge he is (on the road) a HC time trialist and a good rider for breakaways. We do not know if he has one-day races skills as well: punch? resistance? responsiveness? peak speed in restricted sprints? He could be a Cancellara, of course. But he could also be a Tony Martin or a Michael Rogers: two great riders as well, but none of them won (yet …) a single one-day race.
    I really like Ganna: I love how he is doing great in a specialty which was long ignored by italian riders. Still, I don’t like how italian media are trying to build expectations which might be simply off-target.

    Great summary (and great preview as well). I can’t remember the first time I read your pieces but it was long ago: you are still the best in capturing both the gist when approaching a race and right after,in picking the famous “moment when the race was won”. Thanks, cheers from italy!

    • Larry T Sunday, 21 March 2021, 8:21 am

      Cheers from Sicily! I think many in the Italian media have already decided what they want Ganna to be: the second coming of Francesco Moser. The question of course remains: what does Ganna (and those who manage/influence him) want to be?

    • Gareth Sunday, 21 March 2021, 10:16 am

      What’s the betting on 50km time trials in the giro in a few years? If Hanna decided to shed a few kilos and have a crack at the grand tours I’m sure the giro would quickly accommodate.

      • gabriele Wednesday, 24 March 2021, 9:47 pm

        It would be no wonder, since they already have had 40-km-or-longer ITTs in 2014, 2016 and 2017 (even though they weren’t such a clear gift to home favourites, quite the contrary if anything). And a ~60 km one was present (besides other ITTs) in 2009, 2013, 2015…

        As I said, they clearly favoured Menchov over Di Luca, Wiggins over Nibali, Contador over Aru, again Dumoulin over Nibali. And the route designers knew well in advance who would race, especially the star riders, for obvious reasons 😉

        I wonder if people have actually been watching the Giro or not in recent years. The Giro has been perfecting a very interesting display of different kinds of ITTs, shifting between different options of course design – both in terms of single ITTs and of global organisation of stages – through the years to achieve a certain variety of effects.

        In more general terms, Ganna is quite the result of a significant technical work in this field within the Italian movement (after years of negligence) rather than a causal factor he himself.

        PS Unlike Spain, Italy often loves a foreign winner given that local champions tend to be disliked for whatever reason by a decent part of the more radical fans and the journos, too (a “Renaissance podestà” effect?).
        It soon becomes a love or hate thing. It’s only when a national star rider gets to the end of his career that everybody starts to appreciate him…
        And you’ll rarely see Italian riders helping an Italian colleague from a different team as the Spanish athletes did for Contador in the 2011 Giro, for example.
        A typical way to put it, at least in previous years (things have been changing quite a lot), was that a Spanish rider would help a fellow Spanish cyclist in case he couldn’t win himself, whereas an Italian rider, once excluded from victory, would use his efforts to *prevent* a fellow Italian from winning…

  • Cycling Nut Sunday, 21 March 2021, 12:42 am

    There was a moment near the top of the Poggio that MVP WVA SKA JA and somebody else had a growing gap but eased off the gas a little as Wout pulls over, JA next in line looks back and slows just a little as wheels begin to overlap and Caleb joins, then Mvp does a slowing pull finally WVA steps up the pace, but too late. The top 3 didnt want to win. They raced not to lose and lost. Thats bike racing.

    • RQS Tuesday, 23 March 2021, 12:31 am

      They were all concerned with each other and in particular Ewan. If they didn’t drop him on the climb he was bound to descend effectively on the Poggio and keep himself in it. He was the one rider they all feared if it came down to a bunch sprint.
      That was the beauty of Stuyven’s attack, he wasn’t being watched and stole his bike lengths greedily while all the others were looking at each other. Without that pause Caleb showed exactly what the others were worried about.

  • Bilmo Sunday, 21 March 2021, 9:19 am

    I think the presence of Ewan upset the thought process of WVA and others. They didn’t know how to beat him. Normally by the end of the race they are the strongest sprinters left so are happy to work and go against each other but Ewan changed that. If he wasn’t there I think they would have worked together more to bring Stuyven back.

    • Cepphus Grylle Sunday, 21 March 2021, 12:46 pm

      It seemed to me the favourites couldn’t get away so they trusted their sprint. But, contrary to what was said above, they were prepared to lose rather than drag a competitor back to Stuyven. Except for Alaphilippe in the last km (doing a favour for the rest of the chasers?)

  • BC Sunday, 21 March 2021, 9:31 am

    Watched from start to finish like a true nerd and anorak. Not an epic but MsSR is what it is, a near 300 km slog with all the real the action in the last hour.
    INEOS appear to have learnt little from their previous incarnation. No decent group sprinter – maybe on a good day Swift, but he appeared AWOL. The logic of pulling in the last half hour to limit attacks simply suited the faster finishers, or as the event proved those prepared to take their own initiative.
    Good on Stuyven’s for taking the opportunity. Radio controlled and robotic racing in one day events have been proved once again of little use against those with good legs, intuition, a smart brain and a will to win. Long may it continue.

    • Tom Sunday, 21 March 2021, 10:18 am

      Is riding hard up the Poggio to give a group of 15 including two of your guys (Pidcock and Kwiato) a chance at winning better than letting the big three attack on the Poggio and have them play for the win? At least they are giving themselves a (small) chance, rather than no chance. It just didn’t work. 9 times out of 10 it doesn’t – Stuyven being the classic example, as 9 times out of 10 his attack gets caught. Only this was the one time and is why it is worth giving yourself the opportunity.

      • BC Sunday, 21 March 2021, 11:44 am

        Tom. With respect. Kwiato has not shown winning form so far this year and Pidcock, who has never been tested over this distance, simply lacks the sudden change in pace (at present) to be a serious contender. Whatever the INEOS tactic was, they were never going to displace the three main favourites from the group. The plain fact is that since their formation this team have been content in the classics to burn themselves out pulling the real contenders along, with little to show for their efforts. This is not a down on INEOS, just a comment that says that surely if you have tried the same tactic for years without success, then the lesson of its futility should have been learnt. Maybe they could learn something about the classics from QSD model!

        • Cycling Nut Sunday, 21 March 2021, 3:16 pm

          Its seems like Ineos is once again using the classics as hard training and not much else.

        • AndyW Sunday, 21 March 2021, 9:50 pm

          Curious about the criticism of Ineos for MSR. Seems like they did about as well as they could with the talent they have at their disposal. They sensibly got onto the Poggio first, prevented early attacks and then got their two best one-day riders in a very elite front group. They just didn’t seem to have the legs/timing to do a Stuyven.

          • The Inner Ring Monday, 22 March 2021, 8:36 am

            It was a bit like watching a team deploy a sprint train only they didn’t start the race with a sprinter. But like so many team plans, whatever ideas they had for Pidcock or Kwiatkowski in the morning were another thing with 300km in the legs.

  • Richard S Sunday, 21 March 2021, 10:02 am

    I agree that the presence of Ewan at the top of the Poggio, not only there but strong enough to end up briefly on the front, threw WvA and probably MvdP off. I think they’d have been happy to tow everyone else to the line and contest the sprint if Ewan wasn’t there. Also like others I was baffled by what Ineos were doing. They seem completely unable to let a race, any race, just pan out. To be stealthy. You can imagine them all patting themselves on the back in the bus at the end of the race ‘great work lads, we really bossed it’, but to what end? They were never going to drop the big 3, or out sprint them. They could’ve tried a couple of attacks and then left Ganna for one last big one in the final k. Anyway, ‘props’ to Stuyven. He played his hand beautifully.

  • Gareth Sunday, 21 March 2021, 10:12 am

    One of the things I love about the classics is how the more of a favourite you are the harder it is for you to win.

    Beautifully demonstrated yesterday as the big 3 and everyone else watched each other while another rider slipped away for the win.

  • Tomski Sunday, 21 March 2021, 11:06 am

    Stuyvesant turned himself inside out to win. Great opportunism while everyone else was looking at each other.

    • Tomski Sunday, 21 March 2021, 11:07 am

      (Thanks autocorrect)

      • Ecky Thump Sunday, 21 March 2021, 12:08 pm

        That’s brightened my day 🤣🤣
        If COVID-19 didn’t get you, the tobacco would –
        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=54-lMuwbKNI

        • Anonymous Sunday, 21 March 2021, 10:38 pm

          Stuyvesant didn’t invent cigarettes, he invented a small town named New Amsterdam, which was renamed later.

          • Steve Monday, 22 March 2021, 3:06 pm

            But what about Raleigh?

      • plurien Sunday, 21 March 2021, 12:08 pm

        ..yeah he was really, er, smoking.

        Tailwind with lovely weather made this year’s race a different proposition. The years when it’s wet and cold with headwinds all along the coast are way more selective.
        Ewan was shepherded by Wellens who seemed also to be going a bit for himself.
        Trek just did the perfect job of staying out of sight apart from the man in the break. So much smarter than needing to be up front and then having nobody left.

  • sam Sunday, 21 March 2021, 2:33 pm

    i’m starting to think van der poel will end up like sagan with some excellent wins, but less that anticipated. he seems to lack the tactical nuance to win subtle races like san remo and instead just had the sheer force of power to win very difficult races with tough finishes—his most impressive wins came when he just smashed the pedals harder than anyone else.

    i maybe be wrong, but a la sagan when the race gets crafty he looks out of place. and like sagan, other riders will soon learn to never let him get ahead or go solo.

    • Ecky Thump Sunday, 21 March 2021, 2:46 pm

      I wouldn’t be so harsh on the young man just yet.
      For one, it’s Milan – Sanremo, notoriously difficult to get it just right and claim the victory.
      Two, he’s done nothing but win and be successful in his career so far.
      I’m sure that he’s brimming with confidence and he just does his own thing.
      Long may it last, I say.
      He’s tremendously enjoyable to watch, breathtaking at times.
      Like Alaphillippe, we should just enjoy him and the other young guns.

      • sam Sunday, 21 March 2021, 4:00 pm

        i hope that it’s not the case and wholly agree with you, more of a passing thought about recent observations.

        like inrng has pointed out on numerous occasions: the moment a young talent appears we extrapolate way too far. i hope his career is long and successful.

        • The Inner Ring Monday, 22 March 2021, 8:42 am

          He’s got different ideas to many, he’s been talking about starting the Tour de France because his sponsors expect this and maybe he can take the yellow jersey… and then go to Tokyo for the MTB event. Almost nobody else is going to ride the road and then MTB barring Pidcock but MvdP says aloud the Tour de France isn’t a big deal for him. The point here is he rates things differently and while traditionalists argue if he can win all five monuments, he’s thinking about doubling Tokyo and Koksijde.

      • plurien Sunday, 21 March 2021, 5:16 pm

        And to think; we are still missing Remco.

    • David Sunday, 21 March 2021, 6:38 pm

      I think it’s debatable that Sagan has “less than anticipated wins.” A consecutive trio of World Championships is incredible every time I think about it.

      The only thing Sagan has that is less than anticipated are Monuments. For everything else, by any metric, he’s over-achieved, even in terms of the lofty expectations he had created for himself with the early hype.

    • Digahole Monday, 22 March 2021, 1:00 pm

      Sagan might not be a tactical genius but I think you’re being a little harsh on him – Everyone’s always marking him and he’s never really been on a team with multiple tactical options to play. Hi n the other hand, he’s created so many of his wins with his positioning. I take your point about MVDP, but Saturday was similar in a way, in that the other teams were focused on taking MVDP and WVA out of the picture, *then* going for the win, if possible. Maybe Sagan will actually benefit from that this year. If he keeps this form trajectory, it might be the year of Sagan rather than the cyclocrossers! That’d be something

  • Anonymous Sunday, 21 March 2021, 2:36 pm

    Enjoyed the race, nice to see an “outside” bet win.

  • DJW Monday, 22 March 2021, 3:22 pm

    Pidcock stated after the finish that he had no knowledge of the Poggio descent and no precise position of the finish line. Surely “marginal gains” should include Ineos riders having adequate knowledge of critical parts of the course.

    • The Inner Ring Monday, 22 March 2021, 3:27 pm

      Surprising, shows just how fresh he is to the sport. Several teams spend the time between Paris-Nice/Tirreno training on the coast by Sanremo just so they can practice the descents again and again and Ineos have their mini HQ just outside Monaco too.

      • Larry T Monday, 22 March 2021, 5:25 pm

        I thought I read somewhere his knee was troubling him so those recons were axed to give it a rest? But he was still leading the charge down the Poggio descent and gapped his teammate to the point it was just him + the three big faves and Anderson.
        I thought that was going to be the selection and those 5 would fight it out for the win until Pidcock seemed to ease up as if he’d been told to wait for Kwiato…then Stuyven caught up but instead of slowing like the others as they came together, slipped past ’em all on the extreme left and as they say in Italy – SE NE VA! BRAVO!

  • Cycling Nut Tuesday, 23 March 2021, 1:22 pm

    Looked at the finish line video and Ewan barely beat Wout by the with of his rim! Way to go Wout!

  • Larry T Wednesday, 24 March 2021, 3:08 pm

    RE: What I wrote in regards to the earlier POSSESSION post, like magic we now have exactly what I predicted – https://www.cyclingnews.com/news/ineos-owner-jim-ratcliffe-backs-dave-brailsford-after-freeman-testogel-verdict/
    What’s the British opposite of gobsmacked? That’s me.

    • RQS Thursday, 25 March 2021, 7:53 am

      “Unsurprised”

      • Larry T Thursday, 25 March 2021, 9:34 am

        OK, I had hoped there would have been a more British word for it 🙂

        • Steve Thursday, 25 March 2021, 4:42 pm

          ‘Combobulate’, surely

  • gabriele Wednesday, 24 March 2021, 10:28 pm

    For people asking about Poggio’s time, well, it was very fast, the third-fastest-ever or so, just a handful of seconds short of the *1996 Fondriest-Jalabert* record. The tailwind and Ganna’s work both helped to achieve it, but it’s worth noting that, since 2017 included, the Poggio is being climbed in less than 6′ more often than not, which is quite shocking given that nobodoy had done it anymore after Rebellin in the year 2000.
    On the contrary, since 2010 nobody had even come close to a time of 6’10”, barring Kwiatkowski in 2016, during his first Sky year just after leaving QS.
    While during 2011-2015 it even looked like that going below 6’30” had become sort of a challenge…

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