Degenkolb wins Milan-San Remo

Kristoff and Matthews complete the podium

As has so often been the case, the longest of the Classics fell to the man who spent the shortest amount of time at the front. At almost 300 kilometres,Milan-San Remo is a race of patience as much as it is of endurance, and John Degenkolb (Giant-Alpecin) showed both qualities in abundance as he emerged in the final 50 metres to claim victory.

Last year’s winner Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) had looked set to confirm pre-race expectations when he was ushered into the box seat by teammate Luca Paolini with a little over a kilometre remaining, but the Via Roma after seven hours of racing is a finishing straight like no other.

Kristoff was forced to open his effort from distance – or at least, sooner than he would have liked – and he was swamped in the final 100 metres. Degenkolb swooped past to take the spoils, while Kristoff just held off Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEdge) and a blanket of riders for second place.

Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo) was among them, and he had to settle for fourth after opening his sprint from quite a way back. The Slovak had shown his eagerness on the Poggio when he attempted to bridge across to attackers Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) and Geraint Thomas (Sky), and he even briefly found himself at the very front of the race with two kilometres remaining. A costly error, perhaps.

Degenkolb, by contrast, maintained a watching brief during that breathless finale, always well-positioned on the climbs, but never once exposing himself to the wind before it was absolutely necessary. His was an approach ripped straight from the Oscar Freire playbook and, as its wont, La Classicissima rewarded intelligence as much as it did strength.

“It was a really tough race, a beautiful victory. It’s a race that really suits me, it’s perfect for me and now it’s mine,” Degenkolb said. “The team helped me perfectly as far as the Poggio. I was always near the front positions on the descent and then I just gave it my all in the sprint.”

Kristoff’s words after the podium ceremony echoed the lament of so many beaten men on the Via Roma over the years. Milan-San Remo’s traditional finishing straight returned to the route this time around after an eight-year hiatus and, once again, that almost imperceptible rise to the line made a whole world of difference.

“Luca Paolini did great work for me. On the Poggio, he was fantastic and he practically brought me all the way to Via Roma. He led me out wonderfully and I gave it my all,” Kristoff said. “Unfortunately, Degenkolb passed me on a slightly uphill finishing straight. Those last 50 metres seemed liked they’d never end. Maybe I went too early…”

The Norwegian’s hopes had already seemed to be ebbing away on the Cipressa, where Team Sky and BMC’s aggression left him dangling at the rear of the reduced peloton like a loose tooth, but – not for the first time – Paolini was La Primavera’s best supporting actor. The bearded Italian kept Kristoff in touch there, and then led the bunch almost all the way up the Poggio, with Kristoff tucked on his wheel in second position.

With other fast men, including Mark Cavendish (Etixx-QuickStep) and André Greipel (Lotto Soudal) losing contact on the Poggio, the balance looked to be tilting towards Kristoff, though as ever in Milan-San Remo, there were late cameos and twists.

On the climb itself, Thomas, who was already off the front with Daniel Oss (BMC), powered away alone, while closer to the summit, Greg Van Avermaet showcased his form with a searing acceleration that saw him bridge across to the Welshman at the top of the descent.

Sagan and Matthews, meanwhile, also made an attempt to track the move in the company of Julian Arredondo (Trek Factory Racing), but ultimately found themselves caught in no man’s land and the race came back together on the plunge down into San Remo.

“I followed Sagan on the Poggio to stay with him but it wasn’t the moment,” Matthews said. “Kristoff was strong in the finale but I left it too late in the sprint. I had good legs in the finale, maybe I was the fastest. It’s one of the best results of my career but I’m disappointed.”

Such is the terrible beauty of Milan-San Remo, as Degenkolb could attest. Twelve months ago, a late puncture eliminated the German from contention, and he fought back the tears as he considered his turn in fortunes.

“One year ago it was the biggest disappointment in my career. I had the legs to be there and sprint like today like I did today but it took me almost a week to get over it,” he said. “When I look back now it’s really unbelievable, from the deepest to the highest point: that was the emotion.”

How it unfolded

For the third successive year, steady rain and low temperatures greeted the peloton as they lined up beneath Milan’s Arco della Pace and it was decidedly more winter than primavera for the entire trundle through the flatlands of Lombardy and Piedmont as far as the Passo del Turchino

As ever, an early break with a sizeable Italian contingent formed once the flag dropped and the eleven escapees - Jan Barta (Bora-Argon 18), Sebastian Molano (Colombia), Maarten Tjallingii (LottoNL-Jumbo) Andrea Peron (Novo Nordisk), Stefano Pirazzi (CSF Bardiani), Adrian Kurek (CCC Sprandi Polkowice), Matteo Bono (Lampre-Merida), Serge Pauwels (MTN-Qhubeka), Julien Berard (Ag2r-La Mondiale), Tiziano Dall'Antonia (Androni Giocattoli) and Marco Frapporti (Androni Giocattoli) – carried a lead of ten minutes across the mighty Po, shortly beyond Pavia.

Katusha and Trek Factory Racing were perhaps the most diligent of the pace-setters in the peloton in the opening 200 kilometres, and they ensured that the deficit was down to just five minutes by the time they crested the summit of the Turchino and began the drop towards the Riviera.

Mercifully, the rain abated as the afternoon progressed, and while it wasn’t quite spring on the Ligurian coast, the roads were at least almost dry by the time the race hit the capi in the final 50 kilometres. Those headlands fractured the unity of the break – Matteo Bono slipped away alone – but they also stirred Team Sky into action in the peloton.

Luke Rowe took up the reins on the Capo Berta, with Thomas and Ben Swift tucked in behind him, and when their teammate Salvatore Puccio’s wheels slid from under him on the descent, that trio found themselves with a gap over the peloton. Rather than sit up, Rowe elected to keep forcing the pace, and by the base of the Cipressa, they had picked off the remnants of the early break, though Orica-GreenEdge’s brief spell of chasing meant that the bunch was always within touching distance and they were caught as the climb began.

On the Cipressa, it became clear that Sky and BMC were determined to make the race as selective as possible in a bid to shake off the pure fast men. Silvan Dillier, Van Avermaet and Thomas, along with an impressive Zdenek Stybar (Etixx-QuickStep), enjoyed a brief rally off the front, and when that petered out, Lars Peter Nordhaug’s brisk tempo put Kristoff, Cavendish, Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis) and Greipel in difficulty.

Filippo Pozzato (Lampre-Merida) enjoyed a brief cameo on the descent, but as the road flattened out, Oss and Thomas forged clear. With Oss performing the bulk of the pace-setting, the duo established a lead of 30 seconds with 15 kilometres remaining, but it was shorn back to 17 seconds as they began the climb of the Poggio.

Once the gradient stiffened, Thomas struck out alone, and while Paolini was now leading the bunch in support of Kristoff, he was making no inroads into the deficit on the climb. 700 metres from the summit, Philippe Gilbert (BMC) launched a testing acceleration but it was his teammate Van Avermaet who eventually broke the deadlock, ripping clear of the chase group and setting out in pursuit of Thomas.

Van Avermaet would lead all the way down the descent – where Gilbert, Gerald Ciolek, Stybar and Michal Kwiatokowski all crashed out of contention – and then try to forge away as the road flattened out, only to relent inside the final two kilometres.

When Paolini took over in support of Kristoff and led a group of 30 or so riders past the famous fountain and onto the Via Roma, it began to feel like a case of what Yogi Berra would call déjà vu all over again. But one can never step in the same river twice, and this time victory washed over John Degenkolb.


#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1John Degenkolb (Ger) Team Giant - Alpecin6:46:16 
2Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Team Katusha  
3Michael Matthews (Aus) Orica Greenedge  
4Peter Sagan (Svk) Tinkoff Saxo  
5Niccolo' Bonifazio (Ita) Lampre - Merida  
6Nacer Bouhanni (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits  
7Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Trek Factory Racing  
8Davide Cimolai (Ita) Lampre - Merida  
9Tony Gallopin (Fra) Lotto Soudal  
10Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) MTN - Qhubeka  
11Jurgen Roelandts (Bel) Lotto Soudal  
12Matti Breschel (Den) Tinkoff Saxo  
13Ben Swift (GBr) Team Sky  
14Sebastian Langeveld (Ned) Team Cannondale - Garmin  
15Tim Wellens (Bel) Lotto Soudal  
16Grega Bole (Slo) Ccc Sprandi Polkowice  
17Paul Martens (Ger) Team Lotto NL - Jumbo  
18Sonny Colbrelli (Ita) Bardiani CSF  
19Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing Team  
20Aleja Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar Team  
21Michele Scarponi (Ita) Astana Pro Team  
22Maciej Paterski (Pol) Ccc Sprandi Polkowice  
23Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) IAM Cycling  
24Jon Izaguirre Insausti (Spa) Movistar Team  
25Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Team Giant - Alpecin  
26Fabio Felline (Ita) Trek Factory Racing  
27Rinaldo Nocentini (Ita) Ag2r La Mondiale0:00:06 
28Nathan Haas (Aus) Team Cannondale - Garmin  
29Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Tinkoff Saxo0:00:09 
30Luca Paolini (Ita) Team Katusha0:00:11 
31Geraint Thomas (GBr) Team Sky0:00:12 
32Mathieu Ladagnous (Fra) FDJ0:00:23 
33Laurent Pichon (Fra) FDJ  
34Yoann Offredo (Fra) FDJ  
35Daryl Impey (RSA) Orica Greenedge  
36Rein Janse Van Rensburg (RSA) MTN - Qhubeka  
37Simon Yates (GBr) Orica Greenedge  
38Silvan Dillier (Swi) BMC Racing Team  
39Bram Tankink (Ned) Team Lotto NL - Jumbo  
40Ramunas Navardauskas (Ltu) Team Cannondale - Garmin  
41Filippo Pozzato (Ita) Lampre - Merida  
42Manuel Quinziato (Ita) BMC Racing Team  
43Oscar Gatto (Ita) Androni Giocattoli  
44Jan Bakelandts (Bel) Ag2r La Mondiale  
45Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana Pro Team  
46Mark Cavendish (GBr) Etixx - Quick-Step  
47Andre' Greipel (Ger) Lotto Soudal  
48Matteo Montaguti (Ita) Ag2r La Mondiale0:00:51 
49Jelle Vanendert (Bel) Lotto Soudal0:00:56 
50Daniel Oss (Ita) BMC Racing Team0:01:18 
51Lars Boom (Ned) Astana Pro Team  
52Jose Rodolfo Serpa Perez (Col) Lampre - Merida  
53Franco Pellizotti (Ita) Androni Giocattoli0:02:38 
54Cyril Lemoine (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits0:02:52 
55Philippe Gilbert (Bel) BMC Racing Team0:03:00 
56Zdenek Stybar (Cze) Etixx - Quick-Step  
57Alexey Lutsenko (Kaz) Astana Pro Team  
58Borut Bozic (Slo) Astana Pro Team  
59Gerald Ciolek (Ger) MTN - Qhubeka0:03:38 
60Marco Haller (Aut) Team Katusha0:04:38 
61Gregory Rast (Swi) Trek Factory Racing  
62Mathew Hayman (Aus) Orica Greenedge  
63Adam Hansen (Aus) Lotto Soudal  
64Julian Arredondo Moreno (Col) Trek Factory Racing  
65Sergey Lagutin (Rus) Team Katusha  
66Alessandro De Marchi (Ita) BMC Racing Team0:04:41 
67Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Etixx - Quick-Step0:04:56 
68Julien Vermote (Bel) Etixx - Quick-Step  
69Koen De Kort (Ned) Team Giant - Alpecin0:04:59 
70Zico Waeytens (Bel) Team Giant - Alpecin  
71Kristian Sbaragli (Ita) MTN - Qhubeka  
72Giovanni Visconti (Ita) Movistar Team  
73Alexandr Kolobnev (Rus) Team Katusha  
74Danilo Wyss (Swi) BMC Racing Team  
75Florian Senechal (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits  
76Jérome Pineau (Fra) IAM Cycling  
77Andriy Grivko (Ukr) Astana Pro Team  
78Sam Bennett (Irl) Bora - Argon 18  
79Matthew Harley Goss (Aus) MTN - Qhubeka  
80Heinrich Haussler (Aus) IAM Cycling  
81Jose Joaquin Rojas Gil (Spa) Movistar Team  
82Manuele Mori (Ita) Lampre - Merida  
83Marco Bandiera (Ita) Androni Giocattoli  
84Giacomo Nizzolo (Ita) Trek Factory Racing  
85Juan Jo Lobato Del Valle (Spa) Movistar Team  
86Michal Golas (Pol) Etixx - Quick-Step  
87Branislau Samoilau (Blr) Ccc Sprandi Polkowice  
88Bartlomiej Matysiak (Pol) Ccc Sprandi Polkowice  
89Cristiano Salerno (Ita) Bora - Argon 18  
90Adriano Malori (Ita) Movistar Team  
91Bert Jan Lindeman (Ned) Team Lotto NL - Jumbo  
92Jacopo Guarnieri (Ita) Team Katusha  
93Axel Maximiliano Richeze (Arg) Lampre - Merida  
94Dmitry Kozonchuk (Rus) Team Katusha  
95Lasse Norman Hansen (Den) Team Cannondale - Garmin  
96Enrico Battaglin (Ita) Bardiani CSF  
97Simon Clarke (Aus) Orica Greenedge  
98Bartosz Huzarski (Pol) Bora - Argon 18  
99Javier Megias Leal (Spa) Team Novo Nordisk  
100Jacobus Venter (RSA) MTN - Qhubeka  
101Aleksejs Saramotins (Lat) IAM Cycling0:06:30 
102Juan Pablo Valencia (Col) Colombia0:07:08 
103Luca Chirico (Ita) Bardiani CSF  
104Roy Curvers (Ned) Team Giant - Alpecin  
105Lars Petter Nordhaug (Nor) Team Sky  
106Zakkari Dempster (Aus) Bora - Argon 18  
107Carlos Julian Quintero (Col) Colombia  
108Jack Bauer (NZl) Team Cannondale - Garmin  
109Bjorn Thurau (Ger) Bora - Argon 180:08:27 
110Moreno Hofland (Ned) Team Lotto NL - Jumbo0:08:57 
111Samuel Dumoulin (Fra) Ag2r La Mondiale  
112Matteo Bono (Ita) Lampre - Merida  
113Thomas Leezer (Ned) Team Lotto NL - Jumbo  
114Maarten Tjallingii (Ned) Team Lotto NL - Jumbo  
115Vicente Reynes Mimo (Spa) IAM Cycling  
116Marcel Sieberg (Ger) Lotto Soudal  
117Simone Stortoni (Ita) Androni Giocattoli  
118Brayan St Ramirez Chacon (Col) Colombia  
119Edoardo Zardini (Ita) Bardiani CSF0:11:30 
120Mark Renshaw (Aus) Etixx - Quick-Step  
121Jan Barta (Cze) Bora - Argon 18  
122Fabio Sabatini (Ita) Etixx - Quick-Step  
123Manuele Boaro (Ita) Tinkoff Saxo  
124Cesare Benedetti (Ita) Bora - Argon 18  
125Maciej Bodnar (Pol) Tinkoff Saxo  
126Serghei Tvetcov (Rom) Androni Giocattoli0:11:37 
127Arnaud Demare (Fra) FDJ  
128Benoit Vaugrenard (Fra) FDJ  
129Christophe Laporte (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits  
130Luke Rowe (GBr) Team Sky  
131Hayden Roulston (NZl) Trek Factory Racing  
132Jonas Vangenechten (Bel) IAM Cycling  
133Jasha Sutterlin (Ger) Movistar Team  
134Adrian Kurek (Pol) Ccc Sprandi Polkowice  
135Julien Berard (Fra) Ag2r La Mondiale  
136William Bonnet (Fra) FDJ  
137Moreno Moser (Ita) Team Cannondale - Garmin  
138Stijn Vandenbergh (Bel) Etixx - Quick-Step0:14:58 
139Andrea Guardini (Ita) Astana Pro Team  
140Ruslan Tleubayev (Kaz) Astana Pro Team  
141Paolo Simion (Ita) Bardiani CSF  
142Christian Delle Stelle (Ita) Ccc Sprandi Polkowice  
143Charles Planet (Fra) Team Novo Nordisk  
144Robert Wagner (Ger) Team Lotto NL - Jumbo  
145Johan Le Bon (Fra) FDJ  
146Joonas Henttala (Fin) Team Novo Nordisk  
147Rick Flens (Ned) Team Lotto NL - Jumbo  
148Matteo Tosatto (Ita) Tinkoff Saxo  
149Bert De Backer (Bel) Team Giant - Alpecin  
150Jaroslaw Marycz (Pol) Ccc Sprandi Polkowice  
151Albert Timmer (Ned) Team Giant - Alpecin  
152Chad Haga (USA) Team Giant - Alpecin  
153Tomasz Kiendys (Pol) Ccc Sprandi Polkowice  
154Edwin Avila Vanegas (Col) Colombia  
155Miguel Angel Rubiano Chavez (Col) Colombia  
156Johan Vansummeren (Bel) Ag2r La Mondiale  
157Steven Cummings (GBr) MTN - Qhubeka  
158Alex Dowsett (GBr) Movistar Team  
159Kevin De Mesmaeker (Bel) Team Novo Nordisk  
160Sébastien Chavanel (Fra) FDJ0:20:41 

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