MTN-Qhubeka are looking at the positives from Milan-San Remo after a late crash and a mechanical very nearly scuppered their race. Edvald Boasson Hagen managed to put the team into the top 10 but a late crash on the descent of the Poggio took out 2013 race winner Gerald Ciolek.
Ciolek showed his frustration by throwing his helmet to the ground with some force, but the German believes that the result could have been improved upon had he and Boasson Hagen been able to work together on the run-in from the Poggio to the Via Roma.
“It was a nice top 10 and in a race like this it is a result anyway. It’s just the feeling that you know if we could have both worked together then maybe we could have done a bit more,” Ciolek told Cyclingnews.
Everything had gone to plan for MTN-Qhubeka up until that point, with Serge Pauwels infiltrating the break to ensure that the team did not have to work in the peloton. Ciolek had been comfortably in the front group over the ascents of the Cipressa and the Poggio, sitting near the front. However, his day was abruptly ended when several riders came down on the latter of the two climbs.
The cause of the crash was not immediately apparent, not even to some of those who had been involved in it, but Philippe Gilbert later held his hand up to being the instigator. Etixx-QuickStep pair Michal Kwiatkowski and Zdenek Stybar were also caught up by the crash.
“I was feeling pretty good up until that point. There was me and Edvald still in that group. I mean the legs never feel that great after that long distance but I was still good,” said Ciolek. “There was still quite a few fast guys left in that bunch but it was a pretty selected group anyway. Normally it would have been a sprint that suited me and Edvald and if we could have worked together then maybe that would have helped.”
Fortunately for Ciolek, he was left relatively unscathed and he was able to finish the race, albeit some 3:38 behind race winner John Degenkolb. He can take some solace though, as he goes into his next two races at E3 Harelbeke and Gent-Wevelgem, in that the form is definitely there.
“I mean if you saw that group you can say that there is nobody that isn’t in good shape,” he explained. “To be able to stay in a group like that then you must be in good shape, so I’m pretty confident for the next races. Maybe I will sleep one or two nights now, forget what happened today and look forward to the next races.”
Ciolek’s crash wasn’t the only problem for MTN-Qhubeka in the San Remo finale, with a piece of foil getting caught in Boasson Hagen’s derailleur. While it seems like a minor thing, the team believe he may have been able to do more if his bike had not been compromised.
“I think more was possible, especially as we saw some silver paper in his derailleur and his cassette. If you sprint can sprint to 10th with this disadvantage then we can expect more in the next few weeks,” MTN-Qhubeka directeur sportif Jens Zemke told Cyclingnews.
“We can be proud and pleased with this result, even if we think we could have done more. We shouldn’t forget that we are a Pro Continental team and we are a relatively new team, the boys still have to get used to each other but it’s already coming good.”