Matthews left empty handed despite team effort - Milan-San Remo shorts

Matthews left empty handed after poor positioning

Michael Matthews and his Sunweb team were left empty-handed after an aggressive finale at Milan-San Remo. Matthews had gone in with high hopes after his podium finish of two years ago but missed the split when Peter Sagan attacked and then found himself out of position in the sprint for the minor places.

“The goal was for Michael to follow any attack on the Poggio and we worked towards that throughout the race,” explained directeur sportif Marc Reef. “Everything went well until that moment, when Michael wasn’t in the position to follow the attack that was launched. Although we didn’t get a result today we can all be proud of how well we carried out our plan.”

The Sunweb team was an ever-present force at the front of the bunch in the final kilometres of Milan-San Remo. Søren Kragh Andersen, Simon Geschke and primarily Tom Dumoulin took it in turns to up the pace on both the Cipressa and the Poggio.

“We tried to make it hard for the sprinters, otherwise we would have ridden up there easily, and it would’ve come down to a huge bunch sprint,” said Matthews. “Our plan was to get Søren and Simon at the bottom of the Cipressa and really push it, then when on the Poggio to have Tom pull to make it hard for the sprinters. They all did a really good job. I had really good legs today and their work really helped me to be able to keep the high speed and try to zap the sprinters.

“In the finale, I was boxed in so I couldn’t sprint. We did everything that we could and it was a really strong effort from all of the team today.”

Ewan: 10th gives me confidence that it can happen one day

Caleb Ewan will be somewhat happier with the outcome of Saturday’s race than his former teammate and compatriot Matthews. Ewan was making his debut at Milan-San Remo, a race that was longer than anything he’d done before.

There were some nerves for the 22-year-old, who was one of the Orica-Scott team’s sprint hopes along with Magnus Cort Nielson. However, he made it through to San Remo unscathed and slipped into 10th place ahead of Cort Nielson. With, potentially, a lengthy career still ahead of him, Ewan can take a lot from his performance.

“Going into the race having not done it before you never really know how you will get over the climbs but I felt pretty comfortable, so it gives me confidence for the future,” he said in a team press release. “It went pretty quickly actually. My legs feel alright. I think because the first part was easier, it didn’t tire me out too much. I guess it just weakens you a little bit.”

“I thought if I was on a good day and in good position on the climbs that I could be there in the finish. I felt good in training in the last week, but I knew it would depend on how it was raced and maybe today was a bit easier than other years. Today gives me confidence that it can happen one day."

Degenkolb falters on the Poggio

John Degenkolb (Trek-Segafredo) was one of the few riders that were able to react to Peter Sagan’s surprise move atop the Poggio. Degenkolb was in prime position and images of the world champion jumping clear of the bunch show a blurry but grimacing Degenkolb in the background.

Unfortunately for the German, his chase down of the move was a short-lived one when a struggling Colbrelli exploded in front of him. The break would go on to succeed and he was left to fight for the spots off the podium, finishing seventh on the line.

"We did a very good job," explained Degenkolb. "It did not work out 100 per cent as we wanted it, but still we were up front when it mattered. When it was really fast on the Cipressa, Jasper [Stuyven] did a phenomenal job to make sure we had a good position, and also for the descent. It was perfect.

"On the Poggio, Fabio [Felline] did the same for me, and when Sagan went, I was up there. The problem was [Sonny] Colbrelli was in between, and he blew up, and I could not close the gap anymore. That was unfortunate.”

The race was Degenkolb’s first Milan-San Remo since winning the race in 2015. He missed last year’s edition after he was involved in a head-on collision with a car during a training ride with teammates in Calpe last January. While there was some pleasure in a top 10 result, he was left with a lingering sense of disappointment.

"Of course, on one side I am really happy that I am up there again in the top 10, but on the other side, it's kind of a disappointment,” said Degenkolb. “I have the feeling I could have done more, but the good thing is that we have a lot of races coming up in the next period. I think the shape is really good, from the whole team, in general – not only from the guys at the finish but before with Koen [de Kort] and Greggy [Rast], who did an amazing job to hold us in position."

Poli impresses after late call-up

The 20-year-old Umberto Poli (Novo Nordisk) had not initially been destined to ride Milan-San Remo, but a call from his team boss, Vassili Davidenko, on Wednesday put him on course for the first Monument of the season. Poli had thought that Davidenko was joking with him but come Saturday it was all business as he found himself in the break as the youngest rider up the road.

Poli was one of 10 riders that jumped clear in the opening kilometres of the race and remained out front until the ascent of the Cipressa. The rider from Verona had been inspired to attack after a meeting with bike manufacturer Ernesto Colnago, who supplies the Novo Nordisk team with bikes.

“When this opportunity was presented to me on Wednesday, it was amazing,” said Poli. “Then this morning, I met Ernesto Colnago at the start, and he said to me, ‘You are young. Attack! Go in the breakaway. We knew that we didn’t have a rider for the top 10 or top 20, so we focused completely on the breakaway. All the riders worked well together in the break, and after about 235 kilometres, Massimo [Podenzana] recommended that I focus on recovering for the climbs. I listened to Pode and dropped back so I could save my legs, get over the two climbs and survive this nearly 300-kilometre race. When I finished, I was so extremely tired, but I feel so incredibly happy.”

Poli was one of the last riders to cross the line in San Remo, finishing 17:22 behind the winner Michal Kwiatkowski.

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