The Deceuninck-QuickStep team bus was parked amongst the other buses overlooking the San Remo seafront but the whoops of joy and the cheers coming from inside made it clear who had won Milan-San Remo.
While Julian Alaphilippe celebrated his win on the podium and heard the French national anthem ring out, his teammates enjoyed the moment together and then waited to celebrate with him.
The Belgian team won an incredible 73 races in 2018, but are doing even better this season. They have so far won 19 races, compared to 15 at this point in 2018.
Their win list includes every one-day WorldTour race on the calendar – from the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race in January, via Omloop Het Nieuwsblad in February and Strade Bianche in early March. They have still to contest the biggest spring Classics but are clearly on a roll.
Elia Viviani had been hoping to become the first Italian national champion since Fausto Coppi in 1949 to win Milan-San Remo, but his chances ended when he was forced to put a foot down in the fight for position before the Poggio. He lost contact with his teammates, knew his chances had gone and so told Alaphilippe to go for it.
At the Deceuninck-QuickStep team bus, Viviani celebrated happily with his teammates, genuinely happy for Alaphilippe.
“This guy is crazy,” Viviani said. “He’s won two stages at Tirreno-Adriatico, and Strade Bianche before that and now Milan-San Remo. He is so impressive. He is a super-talented guy, and he is still young. That is amazing.
“Everybody was looking at us today, and he [Alaphilippe] was the first to attack. I think he had confidence in his sprint after winning last week in Tirreno. It looks really good in the finish line.”
The tifosi packing the Via Roma in central San Remo groaned in disappointment when they saw Viviani at the back of the peloton on the early slopes of the Poggio. He seemed to have cracked, like so many other sprinters but there was a simple explanation why his race was virtually over before the decisive climb.
“We said that the winning move will come from leading on the Poggio, from the front, because you save energy when you don’t have to sprint out of the corners. My mistake was being too far back before the Poggio, so I was not there,” Viviani explained.
“I felt good on the Cipressa, but on the corner in the tunnel before the Poggio, Štybar touched Luke Rowe and I had to put my foot down. I had to do a sprint to get back going and I felt like I was already at full gas. I couldn’t get back to the front group on the Poggio, I was just in bad position. I was the last one in the group. I tried to close he gap but people were getting dropped. For sure, it wasn’t a good place to be.
“When they made the call on the radio, I just said: 'Go!' It was the right move for Alaphilippe. He didn’t spend any energy before the attack and then he had more legs than anyone else in the sprint!”
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