The Moment Milan-Sanremo Was Won

Jasper Philipsen sprints down the left side of the Via Roma to pass Michael Matthews and win by centimetres.

There’s talk of moving Sanremo to Rimini, the big resort on the Adriatic coast. Haven’t you heard? Relax, it’s the music festival and not the race. The show is a big deal in Italy, public broadcaster RAI often gets its peak ratings for the year and the singing contest is outgrowing Sanremo and its Ariston theatre. Yet we’ll always have Sanremo as a bike race. They can uproot the start to Pavia but it still remains a 290km ride to Sanremo with the Turchino, Cipressa and Poggio.

It took the best part of 20km for the breakaway to form as the invited Italian teams battled to go away. Like Noah’s ark each squad wanted to go in two-by-two and the right move was only away once Corratec-Vini Fantini, Polti-Kometa and VF-Bardiani-Faizanè managed to have at least a pair of riders, the first two of these even managed three in Valerio Conti, Davide Baldaccini, Kyrylo Tsarenko and Davide Bais, Mirco Maestri, Andrea Pietrobon respectively, Alessandro Tonelli, Samuele Zoccarato for Bardiani. They were joined by Groupama-FDJ’s Lorenzo Germani, Movistar’s Sergio Samitier and Romain Combaud for DSM but Germani would sit up.

The most tactical part here was the chase. The breakaway never got three minutes’ lead. Alpecin-Deceuninck led the charge. Silvan Dillier did the work of several riders and at the time of typing late on Saturday afternoon he is either still going, having crossed into France, or is slumped somewhere in Sanremo surrounded by empty pizza boxes. Lidl-Trek deployed Jacopo Mosca for a similar role but probably a pizza less. UAE were absent but that was because they had plans for later.

For hours the peloton seemed to be stretched out into single file, the race reaching points along the course ahead of the fastest schedule. It was fast but steady, a televised chaingang. Milan-Sanremo is a slow burn but this time it was hard to pick up the small details. It took the three capi to give us some clues, a big crash delayed some riders while others were just dropped including Christophe Laporte whose presence at the back suggested he must have fallen by RAI’s TV moto said not.

The Cipressa arrived all of a sudden with the valiant breakaway still clear. UAE got to work on the Cipressa… or at least Alessandro Covi did. Three others from the team were out of place, off the pace and had to sprint to get to the front which meant their time didn’t last long. Only Isaac Del Toro was able to lead Tim Wellens and Tadej Pogačar.

The Mexican’s pace ejected many riders to leave a group of less than 40 over the top but as Wellens would later lament they needed more. The pace had been high but UAE shut it down once they reached Costarainera and the pace on the balcony section across to Cipressa looked slower than parts of the climb. Another year, another season without an attack on the Cipressa.

The next attack came from Davide Bais, the Polti-Kometa rider who had been up the road all day and managed to latch on over the Cipressa. This was a pop-up advert for his sponsors but Bais showed the group behind wasn’t driving hard. UAE’s pace earlier had got rid of a lot of helpers and the resulting smaller group changed the feel of the race, a lot of leaders without workers.

The Poggio saw Tim Wellens lead out Pogačar. The pending attack was obvious, even the spot where it would happen so Pogačar could make the most of the slope. Pogačar launched and Van der Poel was with him right away, with Alberto Bettiol and Filippo Ganna right there and Mads Pedersen two bike lengths behind. Then Pogačar shut it down, as fast as he can climb the Poggio is so fast that the others were just getting a free tow but by now there were 13 riders in the picture, among them Jasper Stuyven, Jasper Philipsen and Tom Pidcock to give Lidl-Trek, Alpecin-Deceuninck and Ineos two riders. There was time to think about tactics as suddenly Pogačar went again and others couldn’t or wouldn’t. He quickly got a gap. Van der Poel was caught in traffic had to go around others before sprinting across the gap.

The two didn’t form a tandem as the Dutchman sat on during the descent, then Tom Pidcock got across to them, as did the rest. Just before the descent ended Mohorič attacked on the last ramp of the descent into Sanremo. Three years ago Jasper Stuyven won the race with this same move but now the Lidl-Trek rider joined Van der Poel for the chase. Van der Poel was rekindling memories of his 2019 Amstel Gold win where he just rode on the front throughout to win but now Alpecin-Deceuninck had a second card to play as Jasper Philipsen had made it to the front group.

Mohorič brought back, Matteo Sobrero made a late attack à la Cancellara with Tom Pidcock chasing. The Briton passed Sobrero to lead into the Via Roma. He says his weakness in cyclo-cross is the lack of brute power and we saw it again as Van der Poel in person chased him down. Stuyven lead out the sprint for Pedersen and then Michael Matthews launched, peeling left but Jasper Philipsen came up and pipped him on the line with Pogačar in third.

The Verdict
Another thriller but the action came even later than usual, past the last ramp of the Poggio and on the flat run to the village. Pogačar’s first attack was telegraphed but his second move was electrifying as he got a gap that only Van der Poel could close. This marked the start of a manic six minutes that was relentless for the surviving riders and TV tachycardia for viewers. Pogačar could have won, Van der Poel too, then Mohorič, only for Sobrero, suddenly Pidcock, here comes Pedersen, it’s Matthews, only for Philipsen to take it on the line with an indisputable sprint.

Matthews deserves credit for not closing the door, he was sprinting to the left but didn’t put Philipsen into the barriers and lands this third podium here and his sixth top-10 and he must already be known to shopkeepers and cafe goers for his frequent rides through here all year. Another near local Pogačar made it onto the podium again. Fifth, fourth and now third, he told Italian TV he’s worried about finishing second next year. So how to win? Easier blogged than done but a more cohesive UAE team, one that turned every cape and climb into an Alpe and he might improve his chances so maybe he is condemned to try every year, a Sisyphus rolling up the Poggio. But if he can get away, so can Van der Poel who had his every move covered. The Dutchman, dressed in white and rainbows, was in a winning position over the Poggio but seemed happy don worker’s overalls once in Saneremo to help Philipsen. Whatever the costume, Van der Poel was like a croupier distributing cards in the finish, a bad hand to Pogačar during the Poggio descent, no better for Mohorič or Sobrero, all along the royal flush was for his colleague Philipsen.

For Philipsen it’s his greatest win and shows he is more than a sprinter. When he turned pro – with UAE at the same time as Pogačar – he was touted as a classics contender but has focussed on sprints with Alpecin, now we are starting to see his range. We all wondered what UAE were going to do but Alpecin-Deceuninck coped with the torment of the Cipressa and delivered in the streets of Sanremo. Philipsen’s contract is up at the end of the year and he’s hired an agent to help. If he is to move teams they better land him a huge contract because he will surely deliver plenty of wins but he’ll also need to be compensated for the absence of a Van der Poel leadout.

100 thoughts on “The Moment Milan-Sanremo Was Won”

  1. Bravo Inrng – a fine write up. My heart was in my mouth as Pidcock was caught. I can’t help wondering whether Van Der Poel should have worked with Pogacar allowing that pair to then contest the win. A fine result for Phillipsen and as you say suspense until the last.

  2. It seemed on the Cipressa that UAE’s ambitions outstripped the ability of their riders. There wasn’t enough of them when needed. Maybe the race was ridden deliberately hard by Alpecin and Lidl-Trek specifically for this reason. It was almost a shock to see Laporte and an admittedly ageing Kristoff off the back on the Capi. It looked to me after he’d made his initial bridge to Pogacar’s last attack that Van dr Poel was struggling to close his wheel out of the hairpins. At that point I thought Pedersen would win, largely because I hadn’t noticed Philipsen was still there. The helicopter shots of Pidcocks perfect line through a couple of hairpins is as good as anything we’re likely to see all season. It felt like Sobrero couldn’t quite believe where he was, if he’d have gone all in then (assuming he could) I think he would’ve took some catching bearing in mind he sort of freewheeled about 10 bike lengths clear. I wouldn’t rule out Philipsen getting some more big wins this spring as a foil to Van der Poel.

    • Also, that Pogacar was able to sit impatiently second wheel all the up the Cipressa, attack hard twice on the Poggio and then lead nearly all of the decent at a hard pace and then sprint for 3rd is another underlining of what an absolute phenomenon he is. Bearing in mind this is a race that is so long the accepted wisdom is you have one effort to give at the end and the person who times it best wins.

    • Credits to Lidl-Trek for deliberately stringing the group when the Cipressa was closing in, which totally derailed half of the UAE team. Probably one of those sort of unnoticed tactical moves which most shaped the race. They rode a very good race, only Mads wasn’t having his best day (and Philipsen was probably going to beat him anyway).

  3. A fantastic and ever changing final to keep everyone on their toes and thoroughly deserving of the ‘Monument’ that is Milan – San Remo. Great to see high levels of roadside support-long may this support grow and continue.
    Congratulations INRNG on the new layout. Your hard work is very much appreciated.

  4. What was Ganna’s mechanical? He went over the Poggio in I think fourth place, and then lost 1’11” by the finish!

    Pidcock seemed to be lacking just at the top of the Poggio (legs or positioning, or a bit of both). So he needed most of the descent just to get back to Van Der Poel and Pogacar, by which time there wasn’t enough descent left to do any damage. It’s a race I think he could one day win, but he’s got to be perfect over the top to do so.

    • It looked to me like Ganna’s gears jammed in 53×11 (or whatever his biggest was) and he couldn’t accelerate out of the corners. Presume he more or less sat up once he lost the front group. He’d have been a huge threat in the final 2km as was looking strong.

      • Indeed. It would have changed hugely the finale for Pidcock, too, increasing exponentially the chances of one of them winning. This is an interesting angle on inrng’s frequent question when weighing riders’ chances: “…but how to win?”. The answer is perhaps that not everything in every race depends on the rider as a single athlete, the result can also be the product of a tactical game (not in every edition, of course, and surely not last year, but clearly enough it was the case this time).

        • Especially Sanremo. Some races like a summit finish or time trial are so reliant on basics like watts but here there are so many factors. A sprint finish can be hectic and comes with the sense that if you played the same finish again and again with the same riders and weather the result could vary, one rider moves left or right, gaps open etc. Sanremo does this but in so many ways on the Poggio and into the finish.

    • Does he deserve credit for this? Continuing to drift leftwards would have been a legitimate move and made it harder/impossible for his rival to pass.

      Not sure he deserves credit for failing to make the winning move, to be frank.

      • From the video it looks like he knows Philipsen is coming, he could have shut the door but that would have been contentious given he started his sprint on the other side. He said afterwards something along the lines of wanting to be the best but acknowledged that Philipsen was just better… by centimetres.

      • It’s a fine line as sometimes closing the door results in a crash and/or disqualification, so there’s a the responsibility to other riders angle. But I take your point, yes.

        • Yeah I agree Matthews deserves credit for not closing the door.
          It was the first thing I thought from the overhead.

          Definitely would have been contentious and surely the start of an argument but for the biggest win of his career, I would expect most people would consider it so impressive he didn’t. I find it crazy Matt Goss has an MSR to his name and Matthews doesn’t have a single Monument despite obviously being the stronger rider, I guess victories in all three Grand Tours is nice though.

          I like him just for the terrible halo on his Jesus back tattoo.
          It’s somewhere between a doughnut and a halo.

    • Totally agree – I actually think if he kept on his original path he could have closed the door and not even Jasper would have had an issue with it. I think when he came off the Lidl-Trek wheel he went to the barrier and then doubled back and then went back a bit to the barrier but stopped himself. If he went closer to the barrier initially and did not double back, he could have kept a closer gap to the wall and not let Jasper past him. I’m not sure where the wind was from, but I think he opened the door too much for Jasper.

      Regardless, Matthews has always been a very standout and classy rider, he never quits and is super talented, but his results outclasses his talent level. My opinion – one of the more underrated riders of this generation – Saturday’s race just proves how great he is.

        • Just as a late thought, Matthews at the line was far right of Philipsen. Working back to their closest point of convergence, take his vector angle and move it to the left toward Philipsen. Had he stayed close right to Philipsen from their point of convergence forward, he may well have won, as he covered a longer vector to the line. Fun to speculate that his final angled path (way off toward the right) was much longer than Philipsen’s path in those final few meters.

          • Great point – and in a finish that came down to centimetres, this could easily have led to a different result.

            Fun to speculate.

            And regardless, another great event, a great write-up by Inrng and great debate on this forum.

            Can’t wait to see the rest of 2024! Let’s get Jonas to ride LBL or Fleche or Amstel – make July a bit more even between the top two riders.

      • Matthews has had the unfortunate luck of his career largely overlapping with Sagan (and now having Pog to contend with in his later years – witness stage 6 of 2022 TdF). For those cricket fans much like Stuart Magill and Shane Warne. If Magill hadn’t overlapped with the greatest leg spinner of all time, he would have been a phenom. Sagan and Matthews are (were?) very similar riders who love a hard finish, can climb reasonably well and sprint with the pure sprinters with Sagan probably faster in the sprint but Matthews arguably the better climber. Still don’t understand why Matthews hasn’t consistently turned up at the Tour of Flanders – it seems tailor made for him and his skills. Maybe because of Sagan?

  5. Happy to see a solid performance by Bettiol, the richer the field, the better for the upcoming Classics. A pity he couldn’t grab the instant…

    • Did you think he would?

      I had Bettiol in the same bracket as about five other super strong classic riders who wouldn’t get away on the climb and wouldn’t win a sprint so who’s only chance was a dart from the group post-Poggio if there wasn’t a rider already solo.

      In my mind that gives him a tiny, tiny chance of winning but I’d have happily cheered him on as I like Bettiol a lot. It seems about once maybe twice every five years you get a rider like him win in the Stuyven mold.

  6. Rimini brings Amacord to mind … I think!
    Alpecin had two cards to play and in the end that was the difference. They will need to put in a bit of an uphill ramp at the finish for Matthews to win. Just the same some handy points for Jayco.

  7. I suppose looking back, Alpecin deserved the win for the hard work done all day long (together with Trek) to keep the pace at record limits. When the break never gets a 3 minute lead when 10 is the norm, that says a lot.
    Even so UAE got swamped later on when they should have been at the front and Pogacar could never got the gap he wanted. Was it because of the high pace all day long? Not according to Pogacar, but he seemed a bit thinner then before (for the double attempt maybe?) so did n’t have the killer kick.
    We’ll see at Catalunya next week a better picture of Pogacar’s form, but chapeau Philipsen and I expect his agent’s phone is ringing more often now!

  8. “The Dutchman, dressed in white and rainbows, was in a winning position over the Poggio but seemed happy don worker’s overalls once in Saneremo to help Philipsen”
    was great to see from a guy who IMHO has been a prima donna for most of his career. Will his Belgian rival and rainbow jersey wearer in 2022 ever reach this level of maturity and selflessness?
    I think Pogacar might win MSR eventually but it might have to be the way that Nibali won back in 2018, but could he ever fly (swim?) under-the-radar like The Shark did?
    Great race, excellent review and finally the real racing season begins!
    Counting the days until De Ronde.

    • My impression is that MvdP rides for himself except when he knows he doesn’t have great legs to finish, at which point he’s happy to set up someone else. That seemed to be the routine at the Tour last year, essentially making a virtue out of necessity. Not that it’s not to his credit, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen him actually sacrifice his chances to win to benefit a teammate.

      As always, great write-ups from our host – thanks once again for the previews, summaries, and wonderful minutia!

      • Compared to guys who don’t have the legs on the day, but insist on being the protected rider anyway, MvdP’s a hero IMHO. I really used to dislike the guy’s drama queen self-centeredness but either I’m mellowing out or he’s maturing – unlike the Belgian guy who wore the rainbow stripes last season.

          • Spitting at spectators who were throwing beer and shouting at him. I’m guessing you were one of those who celebrated Hinault punching protestors though.

          • Could be, but I wasn’t going on about that sort of thing vs being selfish and self-centered as a racer on a team.
            Some of the louts at the side of the road/course IMHO deserve a wad of spit or a slap upside the head, especially when they’re spewing beer/piss at the riders, setting off smoke bombs, getting in the way to get their mugs on TV, etc.

          • Spitting at spectators behind the barriers has nothing to do with punching protestors blocking the road but neither overreaction did the slightest to reduce or resolve either issue, either at the time or in the future.

      • Well, come on, if the man had great legs what sense would exactly make to ride for a teammate being himself the top chance to grab a victory, which is what the team is there for?

        Personally, I believe that he had very good legs both at the TDF and yesterday, but the course, or what remained to ride of the course at a certain point, was more suited to Philipsen’s skills. Which MvdP duly acknowledged and acted accordingly.

        Yesterday was probably more about not feeling sure about his legs (but how did he actually close on Pogi’s second attack who had surprised him *and* on a *further couple* of moves?), at the TDF was rather good legs but riding the French race as a prep for greater objectives – which he got.

        • So MvdP had great legs in the TdF and yet his best finish was 12th place, 43 seconds off the pace, with none of his other finishes were even in the top 20? Even if you were right that he was only riding himself into shape, there were multiple finishes where he was in the lead group at the very end, and instead of sprinting for himself acted as a lead out. All well and good for the team, since Philipsen won four of those races, but his statements and behavior then were much as they were yesterday (i.e., riding with authority and power until the very end, and then becoming a domestique).

          We have seen MvdP do monster sprint finishes, and we’ve seen him utterly collapse within sight of the finish line. I think he knows his own legs better than you do, and I have to take him at his word that he has the maturity to know when his sprint is there, and when it’s not.

          • That he had great or very good legs was evident by his gregario shows, if one had watched those stages. That he was treating the TDF as a workout was also manifest. Of course, he could have done otherwise, but decided not to, for whatever reasons. Nibali did the same before the Rio Olympics.

      • Pretty much Phillipsen’s domestique in the TDF – fair enough, he was aiming for bigger things later, but I don’t see him as a showboater or selfish rider.

        • It’s a little hard for me to buy the “aiming for bigger things later” line. MvdP is the prototype of a rider who can do repeated extremely intense efforts, and recover to ride hard the next day or two. He’s done that countless times as a cyclocross rider. At the last TdF there were multiple stages where he was in the lead group in the last kilometer of the race, and he did a hard effort and then shut it down. Would it really have impaired his chances at the WC if he had continued to push hard to the finish in those TdF stages, or to have started his hard effort later, so he had a chance to win? I don’t think so. He’d already done the hard effort of being at the pointy end of the race right up to the last kilometer.

          Looking at a few recent WC winners, doesn’t appear that riding to win in GTs within a couple of weeks of the WC is a mistake. Remco won the Vuelta GC, along with a couple of individual stages, two weeks before winning the 2022 WC. Alaphillipe won the 2020 WC just one week after doing the Tour, winning a stage, wearing yellow for several days, and getting several top 5 finishes in other stages. In 2018 Valverde took 14th in the TdF GC, along with multiple top 5 stage finishes, then got 5th in GC at the Vuelta (along with two stage wins). Then two weeks later he won the WC.

          MvdP has started four GTs, finished only two, and won two individual stages (out of 61 he’s started), with precious few near misses in other stages. Notably both of his stage wins were at the beginning of the relevant tour. I think the truth is that he’s not good at grand tours, and perhaps bored by them. He’s often wildly out of position at the end of a GT stage, and often seems confused about where he should be or what he should be doing. And I get it, he cut his teeth mastering one-hour extremely intense CX races, which require total focus every second, hopping off and on the bike, etc. In a tough one-day race he can kind of replicate that, ride in the pack and then start taking things seriously in the last hour of the race, then he has a few days off and a whole new challenge.

          Three consecutive weeks of 4.5-6 hour slogs in a GT, which constant attention focused on him as a superstar, doesn’t seem to agree with him. And that’s fine, he’s having an incredible career focusing on CX and one-day road races. If he finishes his career with that one single, very memorable, TdF stage win, I don’t think he or any of his fans will feel the less for it.

          • The first paragraph makes no sense in cycling, at least within my knowledge of the sport. The 2nd is not relevant (other riders can do whatever… Nibali was a GT rider, still took the TDF as a mere prep for the Rio Olympics, as I said above, athletes got out from the Vuelta after 2 weeks etc., of course you can have examples of whatever, which doesn’t mean athletes choose their prep as they consider). I sort of agree with the 3rd and 4th, but can’t see their relation with the subject. MvdP rode a crazy Giro without turning domestique, evidently enough in the case of *that* TDF he had a specific plan with his team, and as long as we know, everything went great enough.
            By the way, one can’t just be in top form all the time, especially building towards a later peak. But that might be enough to use your power and skills in a way or a another.

          • This all seems like some very silly criticism of MvDP. You’re taking him to task for his performance at the TdF where he led out his teammate to 4 stages and the green jersey, while winning the WC just 2 weeks later. I’d take a rainbow jersey over more TdF stages any day.

          • He was a briefly ill during the Tour de France, there were some off days mid-race. If things had gone perfectly or even just normally he probably would have gone for the uphill finish in Limoges taken by Pedersen and who’d have bet against him?

      • Mathieu said so much himself after the finish to the Belgian media. He followed Pogacar and woul’d ve liked to go to the finish with Pogi but reliased that he didn’t really had it in him. Somewhere after the Poggio’s crest he realised Philipsen was still in contention and then he decided to go all in for Philipsen.

        • I actually don’t understand what the argument is here?
          It sounds like everyone is saying completely valid stuff that all makes sense?

          MVDP is great, MVDP helps teammates sometimes, MVDP concentrates on one day races, MVDP can collapse quite comically after wins – all of which is great! He’s a marvel and I’m overjoyed we’ve been able to watch his career alongside the other big six in this currently half decade.

          • There is no real argument indeed. I guess there just was some guessing whether MVDP always had the plan to go for Philipsen or not. Going by his own words he rode for the win for himself until on or after the descent from the Poggio. That’s all. He’s a great champion.

    • I think he’d have the same issue as Pogacar. The climbs are just too short and shallow for them to make enough difference. I wouldn’t back Evenepoel to stay ahead of Van der Poel, Van Aert, Pidcock et al on the descent of the Poggio either.

    • I’d say it’s exactly the opposite of a race made for Evenepoel.
      It’s the one race you cannot win with a long solo move. And you need a sprint to win it.
      Evenepoel would not even make it through fighting for positioning to the foot of the Cipressa in the front, even less does he have the skills to follow on the descents.
      But yeah, other than that he might win 🙂

      If you look at it like that, he might even be made to race the Tour of Flanders physically speaking. But he would simply not have the skills or the knowledge to finish in the top 20.

      • I believe so too, just remember his praticipation of the Flèche Brabanconne, two years ago I believe. He was nervous to the point of scared on some of the climbs.

        • I think what Watts says is true but way to harsh.

          Remco could def win MSR – he’d need a bit of luck but so does every winner generally. I do agree he’s a bit tactically deficient but at the same time as fans we should factor in how hard it is to be tactically astute when you’re generally the big favourite in every race you turn up at, WVA suffers from the same, Sagan did previously also, as have others. It’s much easier to appear as a mastermind when you’re slightly weaker than the best and only win when you play your cards perfectly – Kwiatowski is probably a good example.

          That said, those who are the best and appear to be tactically smart – MVDP, Pog – deserve double the praise really. Even if Pog has been undone a couple of times overplaying his hand.

          • Yes, I am probably too harsh. Thanks for calling me out oldDave.

            But Evenepoel has stopped evolving. He seems like a man who lost his humility, and believes those who cheer him on. It’s a dangerous thing for us humans to believe we are all that. We lose our will to better ourselves.
            Evenepoel was too good for his own good in his junior days, so he only started learning for real when he turned pro. And he did progress a lot in the first years. But now he has been world champion and is a GT winner, so you can understand why he would start believing the hype. I just think he could be so much better if he used his head as well as his legs.

          • I mean the truth is I’m not a Remco fan so you’re preaching to the converted here… although recently I’ve started to wonder if the riders I warm to least on TV are strangely the ones I’d get on with quite well in real life! Remco sounded really quite nice on Geraint’s podcast!

        • I think circumstances might have changed, in different ways, since then. But of course, if anybody manages to get as lit up as Chiappucci was then anything’s possible.

  9. Looking at the top 12 who contested the win – you had a finish that was contested by the reigning Road, Mountain Bike, Cyclocross and Gravel World Champions. Only an untimely mechanical prevented a former World Time Trial and Track Pursuit World Champion being there as well; and two former road champions were in the mix. You also had a Tour de France winner and a Green Jersey Winner rubbing shoulders; riders who between them had won all five monuments – ranging in characteristics from Roubaix to Lombardy – and Strade Bianchi. Is there any other race in the world that could have such a diverse range of rider types all being in at the finish with a genuine shot at victory?

    • +1 Nice counterpoint to those who IMHO don’t really understand racing so much. Too many of them want to see something predictable in the watts/kg theme. My wife wonders if this is due to wagering on the results rather than a real passion for SPORT?

      • I think this is a tiny bit of a generalisation Larry T?

        The idea of ‘real passion’ often seems to translate as ‘anyone who shares my opinions’.

        Personally I have friends who do and do not gamble and have a range of interest/passion in/for the sport but I don’t think any of that doesn’t entitle them to an opinion. It might just be that they honestly disagree and that’s fine.

        • “I think this is a tiny bit of a generalisation Larry T?”
          Probably, but it’s what my wife says when I describe this attitude. I have to admit that I never thought about it, but it made sense to explain some things.

    • That’s the beauty of Milan – San Remo, it’s an just the most perfectly balanced race, which somehow makes it open to be won by a wide variety of phenotypes – from GT winners, sprinters, classics riders, TT powerhouses, technical specialists, etc.

  10. Too many sprinters at the end which means the Cipressa and Poggio werent ridden fast enough. Sprinters being dropped on hills means fast.

    Half of the UAE team was missing in action, sleeping or out of shape. After Lidl’s strong pull to the Cipressa UAE should have burned up the hill so only 10 or less riders were left. Strong ride to Poggio and have another rider plus Wellens to up the pace even faster.
    Where were Novak, Ulissi or Hirschi? And why were they in the race?

    • True but all of this easier said than done no?
      Sure UAE said/thought exactly the same in the post race debrief but sometimes mistakes or other teams good tactics outfox you. I can’t blame them too heavily. It seems like they just expected a little too much from Del Toro from what I could see, which is justified given his form till now, but also understandable that he’d falter given his age and experience.

      • Ulissi and Hirschi I expect to up there when it counts, flats and mechanicals excepted. For a young guy like Del Toro I expect him to do well for about 2/3-2/4 of MSR then fade.
        If sprinters and Piddcock make over the Poggio then the pace was too slow, even at record speed.
        TP did great anyway but I think he needs to work on his descending skills, his one weakness.

    • Same s__t, different day. Coulda/woulda/shoulda. Is your CV on file at UAE HQ for next time, so you can be in the team car barking out the instructions? One note: you won’t have 20/20 hindsight to help you.

      • Yep, its Monday morning and I am Monday Morning Quarterbacking. But I was saying essentially the same thing all last week and no race goes according to plan.
        I do appreciate the utter originality of your comment.

        • sorry Cycling Nut if my post seemed narky as it wasn’t intended to, I enjoyed your post and was just writing what first came to mind after, I assume you’re probs more replying to Larry but just wanted to say in case I’d come across with more force than I’d meant to.

        • “But I was saying essentially the same thing all last week”
          Those morons who run things at UAE should check-in here for pre-race tactical advice I guess? I guess it’s a “feature” of social media that allows folks to share their genius with the rest of us in ways like these. Back-in-the-day it would just be the other drunks in the bar? DeRonde is two weeks away, still time for you to school ’em for that one I guess?

    • Because UAE let TRENTIN and FORMOLO go to other squads. FORMOLO did the cipressa in 9:30 two years ago and reduced the bunch to 27.

      • It’s even worse – didn’t Philipsen used to ride for them? Get the Emirates guys on the horn and tell ’em to put you and Cycling Nut at the helm of UAE.
        WTF do guys like Saronni, Gianetti or Fernandez know about the sport? They probably NEVER read this blog!!!

        • Even guys who know all there is to know about something sometimes succeed in making a complete bollocks of it! Not only in sports, but especially in sports.

          I would even claim that knowing all about their sport is a prerequisite for it. It is as if the ability to make a perfect plan and to execute it makes them – not often, but on rare and memorable occasions – blind to the one unlikely scenario where that beautiful plan will not work and may indeed leave them with no more cards to play.

  11. Thank you for a great write up INRNG.

    I left MSR with same thoughts as every year.
    Great last ten mins but nothing can make up for the hours of boredom that proceed it.

    Last year MVDP’s brilliance got me through, as Nibali’s win did a few years earlier – this year was fun, but I see tactical battles at the end of races all the time so it was not enough to make me change my opinion on the race overall.

    Great post above from TomJ mentioning the variety of riders in the finale, this is a strong argument and nearly persuades me, but I can’t help thinking I’d prefer a smaller variety of riders and a race that at least had a 10% consistent chance of any kind of interest before (at most) the last thirty mins.

    I still love Italy and can usually soak up boredom by just looking at scenery – but years of watching MSR have ingrained in me that this is just a bad race, even if I enjoy the last ten mins as much as any cycling fan. I know all the arguments of ‘just tune in for the last 20mins’, ‘it’s like a stick of dynamite burning slowly right till the end’ or ‘you wouldn’t have the last ten mins without what comes before’ and just can’t buy any of them. Aside from Fleche Wallonne this is the silliest race on the calendar.

    But – everyone is free to like or dislike whatever and I’m glad most people seem to have enjoyed this race.

    I just find it frustrating to think the above when I like the idea of MSR so much – I love what Larry T says about it being the start of the season and its place as the start of spring. I love the idea of the variety of riders who can win. I love the roads, the scenery, the speed. It has all the historic lustre and fully deserves its place as a monument. I just think it’s place in the sport as a crown jewel race and the idea of what is stands for hides the fact that it’s a very poor return on an afternoons worth of watching. I suspect if we didn’t have a sport that was so all over the place with so many overlapping, unwatched, undervalued races where riders are scattered between each, which in turn makes MSR a kind of an early season reunion, then it’s weaknesses would be even starker.

    But that’s not the riders fault.
    So many great rides today, Trek were great and was a bit gutted for Pedersen as this was clearly his chance, MVDP was brilliant as always, Pog likewise, would have loved Matthews to pick up a Monument, thought both Mohoric and Pidcock had nabbed it but hadn’t reckoned on Alpecin being so smart to play the team game and Philipsen delivered under a lot of pressure (having got MVDP to work for him) which is always amazing.

    • Hi oldDAVE. There aren’t words that I can type that can appropriately demonstrate how much I disagree with you. Some things are worth waiting for. Even if all I got was 6 hours of that fake helicopter noise and various pictures of churches, with little captions underneath telling me when they were built in dodgy translated English, and absolutely no footage of the race, and if you legally weren’t allowed to watch the finish without sitting through that. It would still be well worth it. Its the best race of the year alongside the world championships as far as I am concerned. I am deeply concerned that you don’t understand all this without the need for an explanation. I’m also pretty concerned that as a cycling fan of a few years you haven’t got to grasps with the idea of watching it from the capi onwards. You’ve got to do better than this.

      • Agree fully with watching from the Capi onwards: it’s not just the last 10 mins that are exciting.

        This year on the Capi we saw Laporte surprisingly dropped and there’s the ratcheting of tension as they have to negotiate a few more-technical roads and build to the Cipressa.

        The Cipressa always adds the intrigue of whether a move will try to go, or if/how a favourite’s team will try to drop sprinters. This year was interesting as, even if UAE’s plan didn’t go perfectly, they still shedded loads of riders (who came back perhaps only because the breakaway crashed on the descent, maybe adding nerves to the very diminished peloton so that they didn’t push on quite as aggressively as they might have). I’m not sure if Philipsen was in the Pogacar group at that stage, or was he in the second group that then got back on? Regardless, it’s another of the small but potentially significant tactical aspects that occurs before the Poggio.

        The Poggio onwards is then the best 10 mins of the year, precisely because so many different types of rider can still be in play. In contrast, with Flanders, Roubaix, Flèche, LBL or Lombardia you know exactly what type of riders will be in the top 10 (not that this makes them boring… just different complexities to enjoy).

        • Yes, it’s piped in. Listen next time how you always hear the same engine and rotor sound regardless of whether the aircraft is moving laterally, vertically or hovering. Different helicopters have the same sound on TV too.

          • The question is WHY? Unlike back in the day when their ‘copter was grounded and Los Angeles traffic reports were read by a guy in the hanger at the airport while a vacuum cleaner was running…we can SEE that the video is coming from a ‘copter. So why the annoying “soundtrack”?

      • +1 I don’t care if someone watches the whole thing, the last 10 minutes or skips it entirely. Just don’t lecture me on what my interest level should be as a cycling fan based on what your individual knowledge/passion/interest might be. I think the Giro d’Italia is the best stage race but I don’t get upset if you don’t agree. Same with MSR, etc. Enjoy the show, whether it’s from your couch or at the roadside! My plans include both…as usual.

  12. “Whatever the costume, Van der Poel was like a croupier distributing cards in the finish, a bad hand to Pogačar during the Poggio descent, no better for Mohorič or Sobrero, all along the royal flush was for his colleague Philipsen.”

    Chapeau. This is brilliant.

  13. I heard on a podcast that the new agent signed by Philipsen is Pogačar’s agent. And he (JP) used to ride for UAE. So, obviously…
    That’s just my two penn’orth for the rumour mill.

    Thanks for such great coverage, InRng.

  14. The Northern classics work better for me because they are bunched together … weekend, mid-week etc. PSR as a standalone is as satisfying as a single frame of snooker or one set of tennis.

    • I’m starting to feel like a troll on here! I was thinking yesterday that Milan-Sanremo and Paris-Roubaix work best, and also Strade Bianche if we want to throw that in there, because they are unique. By the time Flanders comes round you’ve two weeks of the same riders riding up and down the same hills, just in a slightly different order. Liege has Fleche Wallone a couple of days before, and Lombardy has a build up of fairly similar races too. I suppose in a typically misguided race organiser move they have tried to pitch Milano-Torino as the Milano-Sanremo ‘E3 Harelbeke’ type race.

      • Ha – you’re no troll Richard S – regularly enjoy and agree with you on here.

        You made me laugh when you said ‘deeply concerned’ as obviously I’ve regularly watched from the Capi onwards over the years then sometimes times longer as I’m a sadist – either way it’s just a simple disagreement because I think it’s a bad race but I’m happy those who like enjoy it and I’d never suggest it disappears as I love the heritage.

        I guess if it better explains my reasons I think if you told most other sporting fans – ‘oh this race is great but you should only watch around 10% of it’s run time’ they’d look at you justifiably like a madman/woman! I realise that’s something unique to cycling overall, I just find MSR is on the extreme end and too stupid for me… as all sport is stupid to some degree but it’s a matter of how far you’re willing to extend belief that it means something… and MSR is just too far for me.

        In a stage race during lulls I can get into the the stories from the previous days action, the changing routes, the smaller stories and teams in the peloton that develop over time etc etc (what we all love) – some of that overlaps with a one day race, but other things are different which is what makes Roubaix, Flanders and others magical in their own way – but in MSR I find myself not caring about the break as they’ll never win and be gone by the time it gets interesting, neither the smaller teams as generally don’t factor, nor basically anyone outside of about ten-fifteen riders, which leaves only the lauded 10-30mins of tactical battling which in truth I feel like see a multiple times a year in various races which have more to offer besides, and that tactical battle simply isn’t special enough to outweigh the lack of anything else unless you get a legendary performance.

        I did think MVDP’s win last year was that, and truly incredible and Nibali’s was a just a great moment for Italian cycling and him but these are few and far between and it’s a race that brings me too close to a realisation that the sport I love is actually pretty daft and I’m a fool for loving it – and basically those who’d say ‘hang on you’re telling me only to watch 10%? That’s ridiculous’ actually have a point.

      • When did the Milano-Toriono race organisers, a race which is 31 years older than Milano-Sanremo, pitch their race “as the Milano-Sanremo ‘E3 Harelbeke’ type race.”?

        I ‘m not that old, but I guess the M-SR organisers once pitched their race as another Milano-Torino with just more coast, not he other way around

    • Thank you for posting this GCIceman, will watch. I had been relaxing my antipathy following the G chat and remembering how young he is! He’s under so much pressure in a golden era of heavy competition. It must be hard.

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