It may have been the first Monument of the season, but the story was the one we’ve seen so often already this year. Some 175 men fought for half the day to win a bike race, and Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-QuickStep) ended up on the top step of the podium.
Milan-San Remo is the seventh victory of the season for the Frenchman, and the 19th for his team - no doubt the sweetest yet. Part of an elite group contesting the win in San Remo, Alaphilippe beat Oliver Naesen (AG2R La Mondiale) and Michał Kwiatkowski (Team Sky) to the top spot after a tense sprint to the line.
The Frenchman had played a major part in forming the elite group that made it to the finish, launching an attack over the top of Poggio and bringing a number of the strongest men in the sport with him. Peter Sagan, Alejandro Valverde, Vincenzo Nibali and Kwiatkowski – they were all there – but it was Matteo Trentin (Mitchelton-Scott) and Matej Mohorič (Bahrain-Merida) who tried to make their mark on the run-in to the finish.
Both were caught, however, setting up the battle royal sprint to the line. Mohorič went again, flying past Sagan, who led the way to the line. Alaphilippe masterfully switched wheels before heading into the wind himself after seven hours in the saddle. Another win for the 26-year-old, his best yet.
“It’s difficult to realise what I did and what my team did,” Alaphilippe reflected after the race. “They protected me all day. Tim Declercq was pulling all race and in the final we controlled and made the race harder, and I had to do no mistakes.
“I was really focused to control the attacks, and with 600 metres to go when Mohorič went to attack I said ‘it’s now or never’. It’s unbelievable – I saw my teammates after the finish and everybody was crying.
“I made a big effort at the top of the Poggio to make a big selection, and to see what could happen. At the end I was only with strong riders and I tried to recover in the downhill. In the last two kilometres I said I want to win – no second place.
“I need time to realise [what I’ve achieved]. I’m very happy.”
How it happened
The riders signed under warm spring sunshine in the shadow of the Castello Sforzesco in the centre of Milan, happy to race in spring-like conditions after a rain-soaked start in 2018.
The 2018 winner Vincenzo Nibali, and world champion Alejandro Valverde, lined up at the head of the race, while the likes of Sagan, Fernando Gaviria and Caleb Ewan preferred to stay out of the spotlight and lined up at the back of the peloton. All 175 riders on the start list signed on and started the 110th edition of Milan-San Remo.
The riders always consider Milan-San Remo a 300km race because they include the 7.5km neutralised sector out of central Milan as kilometres in the saddle. The official start is at an anonymous point on the Via della Chiesa Rossa that heads south out of Milan.
As soon as the flag dropped, the attacks to go into the early break began. But with the peloton facing seven hours in the saddle, 10 riders were quickly given their freedom and a moment in the Milan-San Remo spotlight.
The 10 were Fausto Masnada (Androni Giocattoli), Mirco Maestri, Alessandro Tonelli (both Bardiani CSF), Guy Sagiv (Israel Cycling Academy), Luca Raggio, Sebastian Schönberger (both Neri Sottoli) with Joonas Henttala, Andrea Peron, Charles Planet and Umberto Poli all there for Novo Nordisk.
The peloton let them go and they opened a one-minute gap in 10km. After 30km, the gap was up to 10 minutes, but that was the maximum the peloton allowed before upping the pace and starting to control the breakaway. The average speed for the first hour on the Lombardy plane near Pavia and the River Po was a quick 44.4km/h.
A number of teams agreed to share the work, with Adam Hansen riding for Lotto Soudal, Tim Declercq for Deceuninck-QuickStep, while UAE Team Emirates and Bora-Hansgrohe also helped with the hard graft. The gap to the break began to fall as the Passo del Turchino began to loom on the horizon.
Nathan Van Hooydonck of the CCC Team was the first rider to abandon after Novi Ligure as the 100km sign approached. The first feed zone came after 134km as the gradient of the Passo del Turchino began to hurt just a little. The break reached the 120-metre long tunnel at the summit with a lead of 5:50 and dived down to the sun soaked Mediterranean coast.
With 154km covered, there was 137km left to race along the coast west to San Remo. The break worked smoothly together, desperate to maintain as much of their lead as possible. The gap was 5:45 with 100km to go but the peloton gradually upped the pace as the tension rose and the kilometres clicked down.
The break reached the second feed in Ceriale after 221km with their lead down to 3:30. Musettes were grabbed quickly as the speed stayed high. There was time to take on fresh bidons and some final food before the final of Milan-San Remo began on the Capi climbs.
The Capo Mele comes the first with 51km to go. The difference between the 10-rider break and the peloton was clearly noticeable, and the gap fell below 2:30 for the first time. The Capo Cervo caused no problem but the break fell apart on the harder Capo Berta when Schönberger attacked with 40km to go. But the peloton was rapidly closing them down, hitting the Capo Berta at 62km/h.
Masnada hunted down the pursuing Bardiani CSF riders before passing Schönberger and cresting the summit of the Berta alone. He had the now-traditional flare cloud to battle through, with the smoke wafting in a direction indicating a cross-headwind along the coast.
Hitting the bottom of the Cipressa, with 27km to race, Masnada was alone as the peloton swallowed up the remains of the break. His brave effort lasted until around halfway up the climb, before he too was swept up as Astana and Groupama-FDJ led the way.
The pace was perhaps not as high as it could be on the Cipressa, with the peloton not lined out. Some of the more climb-averse sprinters would certainly have been happy with how things were progressing, at least, though Dylan Groenewegen (Jumbo-Visma) and Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis) looked to be hanging on at the rear of the group.
Local boy Niccolò Bonifazio (Direct Énergie) launched a daring attack on the descent, racing the lead motorbike down to the flat road before to the Poggio. He had a 20-second advantage at the bottom, but was caught before reaching the foot of the Poggio.
Team Sky and Deceuninck-QuickStep led the way onto the final hill of the race, setting a high pace for their men, Kwiatkowski and Alaphilippe. The first attack came seven kilometres out as Alberto Bettiol (EF Education First) launched.
Alaphilippe soon followed, with Kwiatkowski and Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) in close pursuit. Cresting the summit, the trio were together with Trentin, Valverde, Naesen and Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma).
Several more riders chased on down the descent, including Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb), Mohorič, Nibali (both Bahrain-Merida), and Simon Clarke (EF Education First).
Trentin tried a solo move on the flat, but was chased down by race debutant Van Aert under the flamme rouge. Mohorič went next, 800 metres from the line, before a relative lull in the proceedings as the contenders looked around for the next move.
Sagan hit the front in the final 500 metres, with Alaphilippe glued to his wheel before the brief game of cat and mouse ended as Mohorič went for it again. In a flash, Alaphilippe switched wheels, getting to Mohorič before Naesen could.
In the final 150 metres, Alaphilippe hit the wind once again, as he had on the Poggio. This time, though, he wouldn’t be caught. As it has been so many times already this season, it was just a question of who would be the runner-up.
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Deceuninck-QuickStep||6:40:14|
|2||Oliver Naesen (Bel) AG2R La Mondiale|
|3||Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Team Sky|
|4||Peter Sagan (Svk) Bora-Hansgrohe|
|5||Matej Mohoric (Slo) Bahrain-Merida|
|6||Wout Van Aert (Bel) Team Jumbo-Visma|
|7||Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar Team|
|8||Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Bahrain-Merida|
|9||Simon Clarke (Aus) EF Education First|
|10||Matteo Trentin (Ita) Mitchelton-Scott|
|11||Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Team Sunweb||0:00:03|
|12||Michael Matthews (Aus) Team Sunweb||0:00:08|
|13||Daniel Oss (Ita) Bora-Hansgrohe||0:00:24|
|14||Alexander Kristoff (Nor) UAE Team Emirates||0:00:27|
|15||Magnus Cort (Den) Astana|
|16||Fernando Gaviria (Col) UAE Team Emirates|
|17||Marco Haller (Aut) Katusha-Alpecin|
|18||Mike Teunissen (Ned) Team Jumbo-Visma|
|19||Davide Ballerini (Ita) Astana Pro Team|
|20||Giacomo Nizzolo (Ita) Dimension Data|
|21||Amund Grondahl Jansen (Nor) Team Jumbo-Visma|
|22||Davide Cimolai (Ita) Israel Cycling Academy|
|23||Julien Simon (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits|
|24||Clement Venturini (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale|
|25||Luka Mezgec (Slo) Mitchelton-Scott|
|26||Reinardt Janse Van Rensburg (RSA) Dimension Data|
|27||Nils Politt (Ger) Katusha-Alpecin|
|28||Sam Bennett (Irl) Bora-Hansgrohe|
|29||Caleb Ewan (Aus) Lotto Soudal|
|30||Jean-Pierre Drucker (Lux) Bora-Hansgrohe|
|31||Simone Velasco (Ita) Neri Sottoli-Selle Italia-KTM|
|32||Arnaud Demare (Fra) Groupama-FDJ|
|33||Matteo Montaguti (Ita) Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec|
|34||Gianluca Brambilla (Ita) Trek-Segafredo|
|35||Krists Neilands (Lat) Israel Cycling Academy|
|36||Alberto Bettiol (Ita) EF Education First|
|37||Enrico Battaglin (Ita) Katusha-Alpecin|
|38||Lilian Calmejane (Fra) Direct Energie|
|39||Jos van Emden (Ned) Team Jumbo-Visma|
|40||Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Dimension Data|
|41||Anthony Turgis (Fra) Direct Energie|
|42||Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) CCC Team|
|43||Sonny Colbrelli (Ita) Bahrain-Merida|
|44||Lawson Craddock (USA) EF Education First|
|45||Tao Geoghegan Hart (GBr) Team Sky|
|46||Nicolas Roche (Irl) Team Sunweb|
|47||Dario Cataldo (Ita) Astana Pro Team|
|48||Marc Hirschi (Swi) Team Sunweb|
|49||Enrico Gasparotto (Ita) Dimension Data|
|50||Romain Bardet (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale|
|51||Tom-Jelte Slagter (Ned) Dimension Data|
|52||Soren Kragh Andersen (Den) Team Sunweb|
|53||Jens Keukeleire (Bel) Lotto Soudal|
|54||Sven Erik Bystrom (Nor) UAE Team Emirates|
|55||Jacopo Guarnieri (Ita) Groupama-FDJ||0:00:35|
|56||Niki Terpstra (Ned) Direct Energie|
|57||Stephen Cummings (GBr) Dimension Data|
|58||Alessandro De Marchi (Ita) CCC Team||0:01:01|
|59||Stefan Kung (Swi) Groupama-FDJ||0:01:15|
|60||Laurens De Vreese (Bel) Astana Pro Team|
|61||Christophe Laporte (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits|
|62||Nacer Bouhanni (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits|
|63||Carlos Barbero (Spa) Movistar Team|
|64||Marcus Burghardt (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe|
|65||Elia Viviani (Ita) Deceuninck-QuickStep||0:01:27|
|66||Yves Lampaert (Bel) Deceuninck-QuickStep|
|67||Zdenek Stybar (Cze) Deceuninck-QuickStep|
|68||Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Deceuninck-QuickStep|
|69||Kristian Sbaragli (Ita) Israel Cycling Academy||0:01:29|
|70||Larry Warbasse (USA) AG2R La Mondiale|
|71||Tom Van Asbroeck (Bel) Israel Cycling Academy|
|72||Diego Ulissi (Ita) UAE Team Emirates|
|73||Marco Marcato (Ita) UAE Team Emirates|
|74||Viacheslav Kuznetsov (Rus) Katusha-Alpecin|
|75||Cyril Lemoine (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits|
|76||Jose Goncalves (Por) Katusha-Alpecin|
|77||Umberto Marengo (Ita) Neri Sottoli-Selle Italia-KTM|
|78||Dylan Groenewegen (Ned) Team Jumbo-Visma|
|79||Jasper Stuyven (Bel) Trek-Segafredo||0:01:33|
|80||Matteo Busato (Ita) Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec||0:01:36|
|81||Sacha Modolo (Ita) EF Education First||0:01:54|
|82||Edward Theuns (Bel) Trek-Segafredo||0:02:06|
|83||Toms Skujins (Lat) Trek-Segafredo||0:02:13|
|84||John Degenkolb (Ger) Trek-Segafredo||0:02:37|
|85||Manuel Belletti (Ita) Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec||0:02:39|
|86||Lukasz Wisniowski (Pol) CCC Team||0:02:54|
|87||Taco van der Hoorn (Ned) Team Jumbo-Visma|
|88||Yevgeniy Gidich (Kaz) Astana Pro Team|
|89||Anthony Roux (Fra) Groupama-FDJ|
|90||Giovanni Carboni (Ita) Bardiani CSF|
|91||Carlos Betancur (Col) Movistar Team||0:03:11|
|92||Dorian Godon (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale|
|93||Luis Mas Bonet (Spa) Movistar Team|
|94||Tomasz Marczynski (Pol) Lotto Soudal|
|95||Danny van Poppel (Ned) Team Jumbo-Visma|
|96||Francesco Gavazzi (Ita) Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec|
|97||Manuele Boaro (Ita) Astana Pro Team|
|98||Jonas Gregaard Wilsly (Den) Astana Pro Team|
|99||Gijs Van Hoecke (Bel) CCC Team|
|100||Tosh Van Der Sande (Bel) Lotto Soudal|
|101||Mattia Cattaneo (Ita) Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec|
|102||Maximiliano Richeze (Arg) Deceuninck-QuickStep|
|103||Luke Rowe (GBr) Team Sky|
|104||Oscar Gatto (Ita) Bora-Hansgrohe|
|105||Sebastian Langeveld (Ned) EF Education First|
|106||Heinrich Haussler (Aus) Bahrain-Merida||0:03:39|
|107||Kristijan Koren (Slo) Bahrain-Merida||0:03:51|
|108||Nikolas Maes (Bel) Lotto Soudal||0:04:46|
|109||Reto Hollenstein (Swi) Katusha-Alpecin||0:05:22|
|110||Koen de Kort (Ned) Trek-Segafredo||0:05:26|
|111||Michael Schar (Swi) CCC Team|
|112||Salvatore Puccio (Ita) Team Sky|
|113||Christopher Juul Jensen (Den) Mitchelton-Scott||0:05:27|
|114||Filippo Ganna (Ita) Team Sky||0:06:31|
|115||Owain Doull (GBr) Team Sky|
|116||Marcel Sieberg (Ger) Bahrain-Merida|
|117||Roger Kluge (Ger) Lotto Soudal|
|118||Julius van den Berg (Ned) EF Education First|
|119||Daryl Impey (RSA) Mitchelton-Scott|
|120||Robert Stannard (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott|
|121||Matthieu Ladagnous (Fra) Groupama-FDJ|
|122||Ignatas Konovalovas (Ltu) Groupama-FDJ|
|123||Zico Waeytens (Bel) Cofidis, Solutions Credits|
|124||Guillaume Van Keirsbulck (Bel) CCC Team|
|125||Marco Frapporti (Ita) Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec|
|126||Fausto Masnada (Ita) Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec|
|127||Luca Pacioni (Ita) Neri Sottoli-Selle Italia-KTM|
|128||Bernhard Eisel (Aut) Dimension Data|
|129||Nans Peters (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale|
|130||Jerome Cousin (Fra) Direct Energie|
|131||Niccolo Bonifazio (Ita) Direct Energie|
|132||Mads Schmidt Wurtz (Den) Katusha-Alpecin||0:07:45|
|133||Matthias Brandle (Aut) Israel Cycling Academy|
|134||Roy Curvers (Ned) Team Sunweb||0:10:18|
|135||Conor Dunne (Irl) Israel Cycling Academy|
|136||Guy Sagiv (Isr) Israel Cycling Academy|
|137||Sebastian Schonberger (Aut) Neri Sottoli-Selle Italia-KTM|
|138||David Lozano Riba (Spa) Team Novo Nordisk|
|139||Joonas Henttala (Fin) Team Novo Nordisk|
|140||Charles Planet (Fra) Team Novo Nordisk|
|141||PŽter Kusztor (Hun) Team Novo Nordisk|
|142||Mirco Maestri (Ita) Bardiani CSF|
|143||Umberto Orsini (Ita) Bardiani CSF|
|144||Daniele Bennati (Ita) Movistar Team|
|145||Michal Golas (Pol) Team Sky|
|146||Markel Irizar (Spa) Trek-Segafredo|
|147||Mikel Landa (Spa) Movistar Team|
|148||Olivier Le Gac (Fra) Groupama-FDJ|
|149||Jurgen Roelandts (Bel) Movistar Team|
|150||Jasper Philipsen (Bel) UAE Team Emirates||0:13:56|
|151||Julien Duval (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale|
|152||Tim Declercq (Bel) Deceuninck-QuickStep||0:14:42|
|153||Bert Van Lerberghe (Bel) Cofidis, Solutions Credits|
|154||Oliviero Troia (Ita) UAE Team Emirates|
|155||Kenneth Vanbilsen (Bel) Cofidis, Solutions Credits|
|156||Paul Ourselin (Fra) Direct Energie|
|157||Sam Brand (GBr) Team Novo Nordisk|
|158||Alessandro Tonelli (Ita) Bardiani CSF|
|159||Fabien Grellier (Fra) Direct Energie|
|160||Daniel McLay (GBr) EF Education First|
|161||Andrea Peron (Ita) Team Novo Nordisk|
|162||Giovanni Visconti (Ita) Neri Sottoli-Selle Italia-KTM|
|163||Luca Raggio (Ita) Neri Sottoli-Selle Italia-KTM|
|164||Edoardo Affini (Ita) Mitchelton-Scott|
|165||Umberto Poli (Ita) Team Novo Nordisk||0:19:25|
|166||Michael Hepburn (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott||0:20:53|
|167||Alessandro Pessot (Ita) Bardiani CSF|
|168||Adam Hansen (Aus) Lotto Soudal|
|DNF||Dylan Teuns (Bel) Bahrain-Merida|
|DNF||Vincenzo Albanese (Ita) Bardiani CSF|
|DNF||Lorenzo Rota (Ita) Bardiani CSF|
|DNF||Maciej Bodnar (Pol) Bora-Hansgrohe|
|DNF||Nathan Van Hooydonck (Bel) CCC Team|
|DNF||Liam Bertazzo (Ita) Neri Sottoli-Selle Italia-KTM|
|DNF||Casper Pedersen (Den) Team Sunweb|