The pair had made it away over the Poggio, 6.5km from the line, with Alaphilippe launching from the front of the peloton as they neared the top of the decisive final climb of the extended 305km race.
Only Strade Bianche winner Van Aert was able to follow, though he was forced to hang several seconds back over the top, such was the force of the Frenchman's move. He made it back on the descent, however, with the pair flying down and holding off the peloton despite the descending talents of Matej Mohorič (Bahrain McLaren) and Vincenzo Nibali (Trek-Segafredo) giving chase.
“Actually, it didn't happen. He went quite early and I had to close a little gap. I dropped again but there was nobody behind me, so I had no choice but to keep pushing and I was rewarded because I came back on the downhill.
The two rode together to the line with the peloton bearing down but just not able to make the catch, while Alaphilippe cannily managed to manoeuvre himself behind Van Aert for the sprint finish. Despite being in prime position to come around, Alaphilippe didn't have quite enough left to take a second victory in as many years, inching alongside Van Aert but missing out by less than a wheel's length after seven hours and 16 minutes of racing.
"Julian played it really well, he put me on the front, and I needed to keep a bit of speed because the bunch was coming back," Van Aert said.
"It was hard to do the right pace and still keep something for the sprint but in the end it was enough, because it was only half a wheel.
"I'm super happy. I can't believe I've taken these two victories in a row. I don't have words actually. I know everyone says that when they win a Monument but to start the second part of the season like this... it's crazy."
The peloton crossed the line two seconds later, with Michael Matthews (Team Sunweb) nabbing the final podium spot just ahead of Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe).
How it unfolded
The 2020 edition of Milan-San Remo, the 111th running of the race, was different in more ways than one. After being forced to move to August after the COVID-19 pandemic saw the season disrupted, the route also changed, with the Turchino and Capi climbs all gone after several mayors of coastal towns objected to the race passing through.
As a result, the race ballooned to a 305km inland route with a handful of new climbs added in – nothing too taxing, but everything would add up on the long road from Milan to San Remo.
With over 300 kilometres of racing ahead of the peloton, there wasn't a prolonged battle to make the break of the day, with six riders managing to get away in the first 20 minutes of racing.
Like last year's race, Bardiani-CSF got two men in the break with Alessandro Tonelli and Fabio Mazzucco. The Italian duo were joined by Manuele Boaro (Astana), Héctor Carretero (Movistar), Mattia Bais (Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec), Damiano Cima (Gazprom-RusVelo) and Marco Frapporti (Vini Zabù-KTM).
The break's advantage only grew in the early kilometres as the riders traversed an unfamiliar inland route, pushed along by a tailwind. By the 50km mark, the breakaway were 6:30 up the road, while things were calm back in the peloton.
After 167km of racing, the riders hit the day's first climb, Niella Belbo, though there was no action aside from a softening up of their legs. It would be the same on the Turchino-like Colle di Nava too, another new climb which peaked at the 235km mark.
Several teams did the work up front, with Jumbo-Visma, Groupama-FDJ, Lotto Soudal and Deceuninck-QuickStep all putting in a shift at the head of the peloton. With 70km to race, at the top of the long, shallow climb of the Colle di Nava, the break's advantage had fallen to under two minutes.
On the climb, Carretero became the first man to drop back to the peloton, while Mazzucco did the same on the descent. Deceuninck-QuickStep took up the pace-making soon after, bringing the break back for good at the 35km mark on the flat run-in to the Cipressa.
The pace only upped as the peloton neared the penultimate climb of the day, with NTT Pro Cycling also contributing to the work as Alaphilippe suffered a mechanical 25km out.
Loic Vliegen (Circus-Wanty Gobert) and Jacopo Mosca (Trek-Segafredo) attacked at the base of the Cipressa, the first real action for a while, as Bora-Hansgrohe took it up behind to bring the duo back just before the top. Meanwhile, at the rear of the peloton, Caleb Ewan (Lotto Soudal) and Fernando Gaviria (UAE Team Emirates) were in trouble.
Daniel Oss (Bora-Hansgrohe) led the way down the descent, opening up such a gap that he was out front alone on the run to the Poggio. Alexey Lutsenko (Astana) put in a brief attack before quickly being caught, before Bob Jungels (Deceuninck-QuickStep) took up the chase, 15 seconds behind Oss.
The Italian almost made it to the Poggio alone but was brought back metres before the climb started as Groupama-FDJ and Team Ineos made the pace. Trek-Segafredo and Circus-Wanty Gobert went on the attack once again, sending Gianluca Brambilla and Aimé De Gendt off the front.
De Gendt sat on before launching on his own with 7km to go, though his effort was in vain as the superstars began to fire behind. Reigning champion Alaphilippe made his move, with only van Aert able to follow.
The Frenchman crossed the top of the Poggio alone, with Van Aert trailing before making the catch on the descent. Ten seconds back, Mohorič was among the riders leading the charge at the head of a strung-out chasing pack.
In the end, nobody was able to catch the lead duo, with no major attacks coming from behind. Alaphilippe and Van Aert were able to contest the final between them. Despite leading from the front, Van Aert held on to take the win, his second in three races since the restart, and his first Monument victory.
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Wout Van Aert (Bel) Jumbo - Visma||7:16:09|
|2||Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Deceuninck - QuickStep|
|3||Michael Matthews (Aus) Team Sunweb||0:00:02|
|4||Peter Sagan (Svk) Bora - Hansgrohe|
|5||Giacomo Nizzolo (Ita) NTT Pro Cycling Team|
|6||Dion Smith (NZl) Mitchelton - Scott|
|7||Alex Aranburu Deba (Spa) Astana Pro Team|
|8||Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) CCC Team|
|9||Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Lotto Soudal|
|10||Matej Mohoric (Slo) Bahrain - Mclaren|
|11||Andrea Vendrame (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale|
|12||Tadej Pogačar (Slo) Uae Team Emirates|
|13||Mathieu Van der Poel (Ned) Alpecin - Fenix|
|14||Oliver Naesen (Bel) AG2R La Mondiale|
|15||Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Team Ineos|
|16||Davide Formolo (Ita) Uae Team Emirates|
|17||Matteo Jorgenson (USA) Movistar Team|
|18||Alberto Bettiol (Ita) EF Pro Cycling|
|19||Zdeněk Štybar (Cze) Deceuninck - QuickStep|
|20||Tiesj Benoot (Bel) Team Sunweb|
|21||Aime De Gendt (Bel) Circus - Wanty Gobert|
|22||Gorka Izagirre Insausti (Spa) Astana Pro Team|
|23||Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Trek - Segafredo|
|24||Arnaud Demare (Fra) Groupama - FDJ|
|25||Damiano Caruso (Ita) Bahrain - Mclaren|
|26||Robert Stannard (Aus) Mitchelton - Scott||0:00:08|
|27||Kristian Sbaragli (Ita) Alpecin - Fenix||0:00:13|
|28||Lorenzo Rota (Ita) Vini Zabu KTM|
|29||Anthony Turgis (Fra) Total Direct Energie||0:00:14|
|30||Giulio Ciccone (Ita) Trek - Segafredo|
|31||Alessandro De Marchi (Ita) CCC Team||0:00:16|
|32||Ben Swift (GBr) Team Ineos||0:00:27|
|33||Gianni Moscon (Ita) Team Ineos||0:00:30|
|34||Xandro Meurisse (Bel) Circus - Wanty Gobert||0:00:36|
|35||Davide Villella (Ita) Movistar Team||0:00:57|
|36||Marco Canola (Ita) Gazprom - Rusvelo|
|37||Geoffrey Soupe (Fra) Total Direct Energie||0:01:03|
|38||Nacer Bouhanni (Fra) Team Arkea - Samsic|
|39||Elia Viviani (Ita) Cofidis||0:01:24|
|40||Guillaume Boivin (Can) Israel Start - up Nation|
|41||Jan Bakelants (Bel) Circus - Wanty Gobert|
|42||Andrea Pasqualon (Ita) Circus - Wanty Gobert|
|43||Simone Velasco (Ita) Gazprom - Rusvelo|
|44||Simon Clarke (Aus) EF Pro Cycling||0:01:26|
|45||Amund Grøndahl Jansen (Nor) Jumbo - Visma||0:01:28|
|46||Niccolò Bonifazio (Ita) Total Direct Energie||0:01:46|
|47||Gianluca Brambilla (Ita) Trek - Segafredo|
|48||Loïc Vliegen (Bel) Circus - Wanty Gobert||0:01:57|
|49||Fausto Masnada (Ita) CCC Team||0:02:14|
|50||Giovanni Visconti (Ita) Vini Zabu KTM|
|51||Marcus Burghardt (Ger) Bora - Hansgrohe||0:02:42|
|52||Stefan Küng (Swi) Groupama - FDJ|
|53||Cesare Benedetti (Ita) Bora - Hansgrohe||0:02:43|
|54||Roman Kreuziger (Cze) NTT Pro Cycling Team||0:03:44|
|55||Alexey Lutsenko (Kaz) Astana Pro Team|
|56||Nikias Arndt (Ger) Team Sunweb|
|57||Søren Kragh Andersen (Den) Team Sunweb|
|58||Dries Van Gestel (Bel) Total Direct Energie|
|59||Timo Roosen (Ned) Jumbo - Visma|
|60||Sam Bennett (Irl) Deceuninck - QuickStep||0:04:26|
|61||Jacopo Mosca (Ita) Trek - Segafredo||0:04:46|
|62||Salvatore Puccio (Ita) Team Ineos|
|63||Sonny Colbrelli (Ita) Bahrain - Mclaren|
|64||Lawrence Warbasse (USA) AG2R La Mondiale|
|65||Michael Woods (Can) EF Pro Cycling||0:04:56|
|66||Jonas Koch (Ger) CCC Team|
|67||Alexander Edmondson (Aus) Mitchelton - Scott|
|68||Clément Russo (Fra) Team Arkea - Samsic||0:05:05|
|69||Alexander Konychev (Ita) Mitchelton - Scott|
|70||Dylan Teuns (Bel) Bahrain - Mclaren|
|71||Daniel Oss (Ita) Bora - Hansgrohe|
|72||Kasper Asgreen (Den) Deceuninck - QuickStep|
|73||Bob Jungels (Lux) Deceuninck - QuickStep|
|74||Filippo Ganna (Ita) Team Ineos|
|75||Felix Grossschartner (Aut) Bora - Hansgrohe|
|76||Michael Gogl (Aut) NTT Pro Cycling Team|
|77||Umberto Marengo (Ita) Vini Zabu KTM||0:05:47|
|78||Cyril Lemoine (Fra) Cofidis|
|79||Lawrence Naesen (Bel) AG2R La Mondiale||0:06:21|
|80||Stijn Vandenbergh (Bel) AG2R La Mondiale|
|81||Rick Zabel (Ger) Israel Start - up Nation|
|82||Reto Hollenstein (Swi) Israel Start - up Nation|
|83||Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Uae Team Emirates|
|84||Francesco Gavazzi (Ita) Androni Giocattoli - Sidermec||0:08:43|
|85||Nicola Conci (Ita) Trek - Segafredo|
|86||Eduardo Sepulveda (Arg) Movistar Team|
|87||Adrien Petit (Fra) Total Direct Energie|
|88||Ramon Sinkeldam (Ned) Groupama - FDJ||0:09:24|
|89||Miles Scotson (Aus) Groupama - FDJ|
|90||Davide Cimolai (Ita) Israel Start - up Nation|
|91||Fernando Gaviria Rendon (Col) Uae Team Emirates|
|92||Davide Martinelli (Ita) Astana Pro Team||0:09:47|
|93||Ivan Garcia Cortina (Spa) Bahrain - Mclaren||0:10:59|
|94||Daniel Savini (Ita) Bardiani CSF Faizane|
|95||Scott Thwaites (GBr) Alpecin - Fenix|
|96||Fabio Sabatini (Ita) Cofidis|
|97||Roberto González (Pan) Vini Zabu KTM|
|98||Koen De Kort (Ned) Trek - Segafredo|
|99||Michael Valgren Hundahl (Den) NTT Pro Cycling Team|
|100||Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) NTT Pro Cycling Team|
|101||Magnus Cort Nielsen (Den) EF Pro Cycling|
|102||Christophe Laporte (Fra) Cofidis|
|103||Jacopo Guarnieri (Ita) Groupama - FDJ|
|104||Omar Fraile Matarranz (Spa) Astana Pro Team|
|105||Senne Leysen (Bel) Alpecin - Fenix||0:13:39|
|106||Nikolas Maes (Bel) Lotto Soudal|
|107||Paul Martens (Ger) Jumbo - Visma|
|108||Tim Declercq (Bel) Deceuninck - QuickStep|
|109||Mattia Bais (Ita) Androni Giocattoli - Sidermec|
|110||Jasper De Buyst (Bel) Lotto Soudal|
|111||Bert-Jan Lindeman (Ned) Jumbo - Visma|
|112||Filippo Fiorelli (Ita) Bardiani CSF Faizane|
|113||Caleb Ewan (Aus) Lotto Soudal|
|114||Imerio Cima (Ita) Gazprom - Rusvelo|
|115||Igor Boev (Rus) Gazprom - Rusvelo|
|116||Nicola Bagioli (Ita) Androni Giocattoli - Sidermec|
|117||Alessandro Tonelli (Ita) Bardiani CSF Faizane|
|118||Stepan Kuriyanov (Rus) Gazprom - Rusvelo|
|119||Maximiliano Ariel Richeze (Arg) Uae Team Emirates|
|120||Oliviero Troia (Ita) Uae Team Emirates|
|121||Laurent Pichon (Fra) Team Arkea - Samsic|
|122||Kenneth Vanbilsen (Bel) Cofidis|
|123||Dario Cataldo (Ita) Movistar Team|
|124||Michael Schär (Swi) CCC Team|
|125||Cameron Meyer (Aus) Mitchelton - Scott|
|126||Mitchell Docker (Aus) EF Pro Cycling|
|127||Jhonatan Restrepo Valencia (Col) Androni Giocattoli - Sidermec|
|128||Dries De Bondt (Bel) Alpecin - Fenix||0:15:01|
|129||Thomas Boudat (Fra) Team Arkea - Samsic||0:15:02|
|130||Michael Albasini (Swi) Mitchelton - Scott||0:15:05|
|131||Florian Vachon (Fra) Team Arkea - Samsic|
|132||Danny Van Poppel (Ned) Circus - Wanty Gobert|
|133||Daniel Mclay (GBr) Team Arkea - Samsic|
|134||Marco Frapporti (Ita) Vini Zabu KTM|
|135||Vincenzo Albanese (Ita) Bardiani CSF Faizane|
|136||G Lawson Craddock (USA) EF Pro Cycling|
|137||Cees Bol (Ned) Team Sunweb|
|138||Leonardo Bonifazio (Ita) Total Direct Energie|
|139||Simone Consonni (Ita) Cofidis||0:15:34|
|140||Dylan Van Baarle (Ned) Team Ineos||0:16:02|
|141||Antwan Tolhoek (Ned) Jumbo - Visma|
|142||Josip Rumac (Cro) Androni Giocattoli - Sidermec|
|143||Oscar Riesebeek (Ned) Alpecin - Fenix|
|144||Damiano Cima (Ita) Gazprom - Rusvelo||0:17:44|
|145||Fabio Mazzucco (Ita) Bardiani CSF Faizane|
|146||Maximilian Richard Walscheid (Ger) NTT Pro Cycling Team|
|147||Tosh Van der Sande (Bel) Lotto Soudal|
|148||Rory Sutherland (Aus) Israel Start - up Nation|
|149||Julien Duval (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale|
|OTL||James Mitri (NZl) Vini Zabu KTM|
|DNF||Nicola Venchiarutti (Ita) Androni Giocattoli - Sidermec|
|DNF||Manuele Boaro (Ita) Astana Pro Team|
|DNF||Marco Haller (Aut) Bahrain - Mclaren|
|DNF||Iuri Filosi (Ita) Bardiani CSF Faizane|
|DNF||Oscar Gatto (Ita) Bora - Hansgrohe|
|DNF||Matteo Trentin (Ita) CCC Team|
|DNF||Ignatas Konovalovas (Ltu) Groupama - FDJ|
|DNF||Alex Dowsett (GBr) Israel Start - up Nation|
|DNF||Frederik Frison (Bel) Lotto Soudal|
|DNF||Hector Carretero (Spa) Movistar Team|
|DNF||Gabriel Cullaigh (GBr) Movistar Team|
|DNF||Jasha Sütterlin (Ger) Team Sunweb|