Wout Van Aert, Julian Alaphilippe and Mathieu van der Poel are expected to light up the finale of Milan-San Remo with attacks on Poggio or even on the earlier Cipressa climb. However, expected spring-like weather and a stiff tailwind along the Ligurian coast could play a part in the denouement of the race.
For the last four years, the winning attack has gone away on the Poggio with the leaders just holding off a chase from the peloton packed with sprinters on the Via Roma. Arnaud Démare was the last rider to win Milan-San Remo in a bunch sprint in 2016.
The Poggio climb between the greenhouses that grow the famous San Remo flowers remains the key point of the race but the weather and especially the wind direction is also a major factor during the 299km race.
For the last ten days riders and teams have been carefully checking the weather forecasts for Milan-San Remo. Until recently, rain was expected across several days, including Saturday. The forecasts have changed significantly in the last few days, with a cool 6°C but sunny start expected in Milan at 10:00am with only a slight tailwind for the long ride south across the Lombardy plain to the coast.
The Maritime Alps are the breakpoint between the Lombardy winter and the Ligurian spring and the riders will enjoy temperatures of around 14°C when they descend from Colle del Giovo to Savona on the Mediterranean coast.
Blue skies and a warm sun are expected for the ride along the coast, with the Windfinder website indicating a 30kph easterly wind will blow the peloton along, allowing them to save their legs for the final part of the race.
The riders will also feel the tailwind on much of the Cipressa climb and on the nine kilometres of flat road that divide the Cipressa and the Poggio. The sprinters prefer a headwind on the climbs to stifle the attacks but a tailwind means the peloton should be generally fresher and more able to close down attacks via combined teamwork.
The Poggio twists and turns as it climbs the hillside overlooking San Remo. However only the early sections will be exposed to the eastern winds, with a cross/tailwind expected on the often decisive final sector to the summit of the Poggio and the famous sharp turn onto the descent. That could favour the attacks, while a higher speed will hurt the sprinters.
Deceuninck-QuickStep have several cards to play in this year’s Milan-San Remo, with world champion Julian Alaphilippe a contender if an attack goes away on the Poggio and then Sam Bennett and Davide Ballerini for an eventual sprint finish.
Italian directeur sportif Davide Bramati had clearly seen the weather forecast when he collected his riders’ race numbers on Friday afternoon and predicted a fast race.
“I expect a very fast race this year,” he told Ciro Scognamiglio of La Gazzetta dello Sport.
“We’re ready. We know there are some riders on great form and so we’ll see what we can do. We’ve done well in recent races and so we’ll keep trying.”
Asked about Ballerini’s chances, Bramati said: “Davide’s chances could emerge if there aren’t any gaps at the top of the Poggio.
“We’ll see who’s up there with the best riders and then after the descent back to the coast road if it’s going to be a sprint finish or not. We’ve all seen that the level of the riders is incredibly high, so I think it’s going to be a great Milan-San Remo.”
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