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Illness and bad luck undo Ineos Grenadiers' hopes at Milan-San Remo

SANREMO ITALY MARCH 19 Michal Kwiatkowski of Poland and Team INEOS Grenadiers reacts after cross the finishing line during the 113th MilanoSanremo 2022 a 293km one day race from Milano to Sanremo MilanoSanremo on March 19 2022 in Sanremo Italy Photo by Tim de WaeleGetty Images
Michał Kwiatkowski rolls over the line as Ineos Grenadiers' best finisher at Milan-San Remo (Image credit: Tim de WaeleGetty Images)

Ineos Grenadiers' multi-pronged squad at Milan-San Remo came undone at Saturday's race as the high-pace of Jumbo-Visma and UAE Team Emirates exposed their weaknesses and the impact of recent illness.

The British squads' options included Filippo Ganna, Michał Kwiatkowski, Elia Viviani, Tom Pidcock and even Ethan Hayter, but only Kwiatkowski remained  at the front of the race in the group that went on to race for victory over the Poggio.

Pidcock missed Strade Bianche due to a stomach problem and was surprisingly dropped over the Capo Berta with 38 kilometres still to race. He did not finish the race, with Ineos Grenadiers confirming that he had further stomach problems as early as the Turchino climb after 140 kilometres of racing. 

Viviani, who had suffered with a cold after Tirreno-Adriatico, was dropped early on the Cipressa along with fellow pure sprinter Fabio Jakobsen. Hayter was also distanced, finishing 54th in the pack of chasers. 

Filippo Ganna revealed he had been ill after Tirreno-Adriatico but was upbeat before the race about being competitive and perhaps making a late attack. However, he lost the wheel of Kwiatkowski and Luke Rowe on the race to the foot of the Cipressa and was slowed as the peloton caught part of the early break.

The world time trial champion was too far back as Jumbo-Visma and UAE Team Emirates kept the pace high and was caught behind the split over the top. He finished 51st in the same time as Hayter.   

Kwiatkowski ended up 16th as Ineos Grenadiers' best finisher. He was able to follow the attacks over the Poggio but could not descend as fast as eventual winner Matej Mohorič (Bahrain Victorious). He was also slowed by Giacomo Nizzolo's crash on the descent and so finished in the second chase group at 11 seconds in the Via Roma.

Afterwards, the mood at Ineos Grenadiers was understandably downbeat in the bus paddock beyond the finish area.

"That's racing. I don't want to complain. After being ill, it was hard to think I had a chance of winning but we gave it a try," Ganna explained. 

"I had some back pain but that can happen after 300 kilometres. They rode the Cipressa hard and fast and unfortunately I was a bit behind.

"I got caught up with the riders from the early break and so it was difficult to fight for position and move up. I got stuck in the second group and we just couldn't close the gap."

Ineos Grenadiers will now head to Belgium for the start of the cobbled Classics and to Spain for the Volta Ciclista a Catalunya. Ganna will follow a select programme of Classics but miss the Tour of Flanders in the hope of peaking for Paris-Roubaix. 

"My plan is to ride E3 Harelbeke, Gent-Wevelgem, then the Circuit de la Sarthe stage race in France and then Paris-Roubaix. I've raced 26 days and will hit 30 before Paris-Roubaix," he said.  

Kwiatkowski did not race Paris-Nice or Tirreno-Adriatico and so will ride the Volta Ciclista a Catalunya to boost his form ahead of the Classics.

"My face says it all," the Pole tweeted after the race. "A bit of disappointment after a race in which my legs were back in business.

"Could have been luckier in the final, caught behind the crash halfway up Poggio. Nevertheless – flying to the Volta a Catalunya with good sensations."

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Stephen is the most experienced member of the Cyclingnews team, having reported on professional cycling since 1994. He has held the position of European editor since 2012 and previously worked for Reuters, Shift Active Media, and Cycling Weekly, among other publications.