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Milan-San Remo: Alaphilippe out, Jakobsen in

Tirreno Adriatico 2022 - 57th Edition - 6th stage Apecchio - Carpegna 215 km - 12/03/2022 - Julian Alaphilippe (FRA - Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl Team) - photo Luca Bettini/SprintCyclingAgency©2022
Julian Alaphilippe (Quickstep-AlphaVinyl) in action at Tirreno-Adriatico last week (Image credit: SprintCyclingAgency)

World champion Julian Alaphilippe will not ride Saturday’s Milan-San Remo after coming down with bronchitis, his Belgian team have revealed.

The Frenchman won the Italian race in 2019 and is perfectly suited to the aggressive finale over the Cipressa and Poggio climbs but will miss the race for the first time in six years as he tries to make a rapid recovery and be at his best for the Ardennes Classics.

QuickStep-AlphaVinyl named sprinter Fabio Jakobsen in their seven-rider squad but played down their chances of success.

There is no place for 2009 winner Mark Cavendish in the line-up, with Belgium’s Yves Lampaert also out of action after suffering at Paris-Nice.

The seven riders making the selection for the Belgian squad are: Andrea Bagioli, Davide Ballerini, Mattia Cattaneo, Mikkel Honoré, Fabio Jakobsen, Florian Sénéchal and Zdenek Stybar.

"Milan-San Remo is an event we love and which we are always happy to race, but this year we know the chances won’t favour us, as we can’t count on Julian, who we hope will make a fast and complete recovery," said directeur sportif Davide Bramati.

"We have a young team at the start, featuring also Fabio, who has had a great season so far and will make his first appearance here. Despite not being among the favourites, we are still motivated to do a good race."

Alaphilippe crashed hard at Strade Bianche but recovered to race aggressively at Tirreno-Adriatico, going on the attack several times, including on the decisive mountain stage over Monte Carpegna.

He was expected to be the QuickStep-AlphaVinyl team leader for Milan-San Remo and try to take on Tadej Pogačar in the expected aggressive edition of La Classicissima. However his illness means he will be forced to watch the race from his home in Andorra. He is likely to return to racing at the Itzulia Basque Country stage race between April 4-9 as vital preparation for the Ardennes Classics.

"No Milano-San Remo for me on Saturday. Bronchitis + fever = X," Alaphilippe wrote on social media.

"Sad to leave the team, especially after a difficult week of racing on Tirreno where I felt the legs were coming back well despite my crash at Strade Bianche. Rest and patience on the program. See you soon."

Fabio Jakobsen had been pushing for a place in the QuickStep-AlphaVinyl squad for Milan-San Remo after six early season sprint wins but had failed to convince team manager Patrick Lefevere, who is well aware that the presence Pogačar leaves little hope for the sprinter in this year’s race.

"It's nothing to do with Fabio's talent or condition, I think that is high,” Lefevere had said during Paris-Nice. "But I've also seen this week how UAE Team Emirates and Jumbo-Visma race.

"You don't have to have studied to know how the race will be next Saturday: they will accelerate from the Capo Berta. And if they really fire on the Cipressa I don't think Fabio would survive

The loss of Alaphilippe means QuickStep-AlphaVinyl’s expectations of success are now far lower, with Jakobsen getting a chance to make his debut at Milan-San Remo and learn for future editions of the race.

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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.