Degenkolb wins Milan-San Remo

As has so often been the case, the longest of the Classics fell to the man who spent the shortest amount of time at the front. At almost 300 kilometres,Milan-San Remo is a race of patience as much as it is of endurance, and John Degenkolb (Giant-Alpecin) showed both qualities in abundance as he emerged in the final 50 metres to claim victory.

Last year’s winner Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) had looked set to confirm pre-race expectations when he was ushered into the box seat by teammate Luca Paolini with a little over a kilometre remaining, but the Via Roma after seven hours of racing is a finishing straight like no other.

Kristoff was forced to open his effort from distance – or at least, sooner than he would have liked – and he was swamped in the final 100 metres. Degenkolb swooped past to take the spoils, while Kristoff just held off Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEdge) and a blanket of riders for second place.

Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo) was among them, and he had to settle for fourth after opening his sprint from quite a way back. The Slovak had shown his eagerness on the Poggio when he attempted to bridge across to attackers Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) and Geraint Thomas (Sky), and he even briefly found himself at the very front of the race with two kilometres remaining. A costly error, perhaps.

Degenkolb, by contrast, maintained a watching brief during that breathless finale, always well-positioned on the climbs, but never once exposing himself to the wind before it was absolutely necessary. His was an approach ripped straight from the Oscar Freire playbook and, as its wont, La Classicissima rewarded intelligence as much as it did strength.

“It was a really tough race, a beautiful victory. It’s a race that really suits me, it’s perfect for me and now it’s mine,” Degenkolb said. “The team helped me perfectly as far as the Poggio. I was always near the front positions on the descent and then I just gave it my all in the sprint.”

Kristoff’s words after the podium ceremony echoed the lament of so many beaten men on the Via Roma over the years. Milan-San Remo’s traditional finishing straight returned to the route this time around after an eight-year hiatus and, once again, that almost imperceptible rise to the line made a whole world of difference.

“Luca Paolini did great work for me. On the Poggio, he was fantastic and he practically brought me all the way to Via Roma. He led me out wonderfully and I gave it my all,” Kristoff said. “Unfortunately, Degenkolb passed me on a slightly uphill finishing straight. Those last 50 metres seemed liked they’d never end. Maybe I went too early…”

The Norwegian’s hopes had already seemed to be ebbing away on the Cipressa, where Team Sky and BMC’s aggression left him dangling at the rear of the reduced peloton like a loose tooth, but – not for the first time – Paolini was La Primavera’s best supporting actor. The bearded Italian kept Kristoff in touch there, and then led the bunch almost all the way up the Poggio, with Kristoff tucked on his wheel in second position.

With other fast men, including Mark Cavendish (Etixx-QuickStep) and André Greipel (Lotto Soudal) losing contact on the Poggio, the balance looked to be tilting towards Kristoff, though as ever in Milan-San Remo, there were late cameos and twists.

On the climb itself, Thomas, who was already off the front with Daniel Oss (BMC), powered away alone, while closer to the summit, Greg Van Avermaet showcased his form with a searing acceleration that saw him bridge across to the Welshman at the top of the descent.

Sagan and Matthews, meanwhile, also made an attempt to track the move in the company of Julian Arredondo (Trek Factory Racing), but ultimately found themselves caught in no man’s land and the race came back together on the plunge down into San Remo.

“I followed Sagan on the Poggio to stay with him but it wasn’t the moment,” Matthews said. “Kristoff was strong in the finale but I left it too late in the sprint. I had good legs in the finale, maybe I was the fastest. It’s one of the best results of my career but I’m disappointed.”

Such is the terrible beauty of Milan-San Remo, as Degenkolb could attest. Twelve months ago, a late puncture eliminated the German from contention, and he fought back the tears as he considered his turn in fortunes.

“One year ago it was the biggest disappointment in my career. I had the legs to be there and sprint like today like I did today but it took me almost a week to get over it,” he said. “When I look back now it’s really unbelievable, from the deepest to the highest point: that was the emotion.”

How it unfolded

For the third successive year, steady rain and low temperatures greeted the peloton as they lined up beneath Milan’s Arco della Pace and it was decidedly more winter than primavera for the entire trundle through the flatlands of Lombardy and Piedmont as far as the Passo del Turchino

As ever, an early break with a sizeable Italian contingent formed once the flag dropped and the eleven escapees - Jan Barta (Bora-Argon 18), Sebastian Molano (Colombia), Maarten Tjallingii (LottoNL-Jumbo) Andrea Peron (Novo Nordisk), Stefano Pirazzi (CSF Bardiani), Adrian Kurek (CCC Sprandi Polkowice), Matteo Bono (Lampre-Merida), Serge Pauwels (MTN-Qhubeka), Julien Berard (Ag2r-La Mondiale), Tiziano Dall'Antonia (Androni Giocattoli) and Marco Frapporti (Androni Giocattoli) – carried a lead of ten minutes across the mighty Po, shortly beyond Pavia.

Katusha and Trek Factory Racing were perhaps the most diligent of the pace-setters in the peloton in the opening 200 kilometres, and they ensured that the deficit was down to just five minutes by the time they crested the summit of the Turchino and began the drop towards the Riviera.

Mercifully, the rain abated as the afternoon progressed, and while it wasn’t quite spring on the Ligurian coast, the roads were at least almost dry by the time the race hit the capi in the final 50 kilometres. Those headlands fractured the unity of the break – Matteo Bono slipped away alone – but they also stirred Team Sky into action in the peloton.

Luke Rowe took up the reins on the Capo Berta, with Thomas and Ben Swift tucked in behind him, and when their teammate Salvatore Puccio’s wheels slid from under him on the descent, that trio found themselves with a gap over the peloton. Rather than sit up, Rowe elected to keep forcing the pace, and by the base of the Cipressa, they had picked off the remnants of the early break, though Orica-GreenEdge’s brief spell of chasing meant that the bunch was always within touching distance and they were caught as the climb began.

On the Cipressa, it became clear that Sky and BMC were determined to make the race as selective as possible in a bid to shake off the pure fast men. Silvan Dillier, Van Avermaet and Thomas, along with an impressive Zdenek Stybar (Etixx-QuickStep), enjoyed a brief rally off the front, and when that petered out, Lars Peter Nordhaug’s brisk tempo put Kristoff, Cavendish, Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis) and Greipel in difficulty.

Filippo Pozzato (Lampre-Merida) enjoyed a brief cameo on the descent, but as the road flattened out, Oss and Thomas forged clear. With Oss performing the bulk of the pace-setting, the duo established a lead of 30 seconds with 15 kilometres remaining, but it was shorn back to 17 seconds as they began the climb of the Poggio.

Once the gradient stiffened, Thomas struck out alone, and while Paolini was now leading the bunch in support of Kristoff, he was making no inroads into the deficit on the climb. 700 metres from the summit, Philippe Gilbert (BMC) launched a testing acceleration but it was his teammate Van Avermaet who eventually broke the deadlock, ripping clear of the chase group and setting out in pursuit of Thomas.

Van Avermaet would lead all the way down the descent – where Gilbert, Gerald Ciolek, Stybar and Michal Kwiatokowski all crashed out of contention – and then try to forge away as the road flattened out, only to relent inside the final two kilometres.

When Paolini took over in support of Kristoff and led a group of 30 or so riders past the famous fountain and onto the Via Roma, it began to feel like a case of what Yogi Berra would call déjà vu all over again. But one can never step in the same river twice, and this time victory washed over John Degenkolb.


Swipe to scroll horizontally
#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1John Degenkolb (Ger) Team Giant - Alpecin6:46:16
2Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Team KatushaRow 1 - Cell 2
3Michael Matthews (Aus) Orica GreenedgeRow 2 - Cell 2
4Peter Sagan (Svk) Tinkoff SaxoRow 3 - Cell 2
5Niccolo' Bonifazio (Ita) Lampre - MeridaRow 4 - Cell 2
6Nacer Bouhanni (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions CreditsRow 5 - Cell 2
7Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Trek Factory RacingRow 6 - Cell 2
8Davide Cimolai (Ita) Lampre - MeridaRow 7 - Cell 2
9Tony Gallopin (Fra) Lotto SoudalRow 8 - Cell 2
10Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) MTN - QhubekaRow 9 - Cell 2
11Jurgen Roelandts (Bel) Lotto SoudalRow 10 - Cell 2
12Matti Breschel (Den) Tinkoff SaxoRow 11 - Cell 2
13Ben Swift (GBr) Team SkyRow 12 - Cell 2
14Sebastian Langeveld (Ned) Team Cannondale - GarminRow 13 - Cell 2
15Tim Wellens (Bel) Lotto SoudalRow 14 - Cell 2
16Grega Bole (Slo) Ccc Sprandi PolkowiceRow 15 - Cell 2
17Paul Martens (Ger) Team Lotto NL - JumboRow 16 - Cell 2
18Sonny Colbrelli (Ita) Bardiani CSFRow 17 - Cell 2
19Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing TeamRow 18 - Cell 2
20Aleja Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar TeamRow 19 - Cell 2
21Michele Scarponi (Ita) Astana Pro TeamRow 20 - Cell 2
22Maciej Paterski (Pol) Ccc Sprandi PolkowiceRow 21 - Cell 2
23Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) IAM CyclingRow 22 - Cell 2
24Jon Izaguirre Insausti (Spa) Movistar TeamRow 23 - Cell 2
25Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Team Giant - AlpecinRow 24 - Cell 2
26Fabio Felline (Ita) Trek Factory RacingRow 25 - Cell 2
27Rinaldo Nocentini (Ita) Ag2r La Mondiale0:00:06
28Nathan Haas (Aus) Team Cannondale - GarminRow 27 - Cell 2
29Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Tinkoff Saxo0:00:09
30Luca Paolini (Ita) Team Katusha0:00:11
31Geraint Thomas (GBr) Team Sky0:00:12
32Mathieu Ladagnous (Fra) FDJ0:00:23
33Laurent Pichon (Fra) FDJRow 32 - Cell 2
34Yoann Offredo (Fra) FDJRow 33 - Cell 2
35Daryl Impey (RSA) Orica GreenedgeRow 34 - Cell 2
36Rein Janse Van Rensburg (RSA) MTN - QhubekaRow 35 - Cell 2
37Simon Yates (GBr) Orica GreenedgeRow 36 - Cell 2
38Silvan Dillier (Swi) BMC Racing TeamRow 37 - Cell 2
39Bram Tankink (Ned) Team Lotto NL - JumboRow 38 - Cell 2
40Ramunas Navardauskas (Ltu) Team Cannondale - GarminRow 39 - Cell 2
41Filippo Pozzato (Ita) Lampre - MeridaRow 40 - Cell 2
42Manuel Quinziato (Ita) BMC Racing TeamRow 41 - Cell 2
43Oscar Gatto (Ita) Androni GiocattoliRow 42 - Cell 2
44Jan Bakelandts (Bel) Ag2r La MondialeRow 43 - Cell 2
45Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana Pro TeamRow 44 - Cell 2
46Mark Cavendish (GBr) Etixx - Quick-StepRow 45 - Cell 2
47Andre' Greipel (Ger) Lotto SoudalRow 46 - Cell 2
48Matteo Montaguti (Ita) Ag2r La Mondiale0:00:51
49Jelle Vanendert (Bel) Lotto Soudal0:00:56
50Daniel Oss (Ita) BMC Racing Team0:01:18
51Lars Boom (Ned) Astana Pro TeamRow 50 - Cell 2
52Jose Rodolfo Serpa Perez (Col) Lampre - MeridaRow 51 - Cell 2
53Franco Pellizotti (Ita) Androni Giocattoli0:02:38
54Cyril Lemoine (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits0:02:52
55Philippe Gilbert (Bel) BMC Racing Team0:03:00
56Zdenek Stybar (Cze) Etixx - Quick-StepRow 55 - Cell 2
57Alexey Lutsenko (Kaz) Astana Pro TeamRow 56 - Cell 2
58Borut Bozic (Slo) Astana Pro TeamRow 57 - Cell 2
59Gerald Ciolek (Ger) MTN - Qhubeka0:03:38
60Marco Haller (Aut) Team Katusha0:04:38
61Gregory Rast (Swi) Trek Factory RacingRow 60 - Cell 2
62Mathew Hayman (Aus) Orica GreenedgeRow 61 - Cell 2
63Adam Hansen (Aus) Lotto SoudalRow 62 - Cell 2
64Julian Arredondo Moreno (Col) Trek Factory RacingRow 63 - Cell 2
65Sergey Lagutin (Rus) Team KatushaRow 64 - Cell 2
66Alessandro De Marchi (Ita) BMC Racing Team0:04:41
67Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Etixx - Quick-Step0:04:56
68Julien Vermote (Bel) Etixx - Quick-StepRow 67 - Cell 2
69Koen De Kort (Ned) Team Giant - Alpecin0:04:59
70Zico Waeytens (Bel) Team Giant - AlpecinRow 69 - Cell 2
71Kristian Sbaragli (Ita) MTN - QhubekaRow 70 - Cell 2
72Giovanni Visconti (Ita) Movistar TeamRow 71 - Cell 2
73Alexandr Kolobnev (Rus) Team KatushaRow 72 - Cell 2
74Danilo Wyss (Swi) BMC Racing TeamRow 73 - Cell 2
75Florian Senechal (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions CreditsRow 74 - Cell 2
76Jérome Pineau (Fra) IAM CyclingRow 75 - Cell 2
77Andriy Grivko (Ukr) Astana Pro TeamRow 76 - Cell 2
78Sam Bennett (Irl) Bora - Argon 18Row 77 - Cell 2
79Matthew Harley Goss (Aus) MTN - QhubekaRow 78 - Cell 2
80Heinrich Haussler (Aus) IAM CyclingRow 79 - Cell 2
81Jose Joaquin Rojas Gil (Spa) Movistar TeamRow 80 - Cell 2
82Manuele Mori (Ita) Lampre - MeridaRow 81 - Cell 2
83Marco Bandiera (Ita) Androni GiocattoliRow 82 - Cell 2
84Giacomo Nizzolo (Ita) Trek Factory RacingRow 83 - Cell 2
85Juan Jo Lobato Del Valle (Spa) Movistar TeamRow 84 - Cell 2
86Michal Golas (Pol) Etixx - Quick-StepRow 85 - Cell 2
87Branislau Samoilau (Blr) Ccc Sprandi PolkowiceRow 86 - Cell 2
88Bartlomiej Matysiak (Pol) Ccc Sprandi PolkowiceRow 87 - Cell 2
89Cristiano Salerno (Ita) Bora - Argon 18Row 88 - Cell 2
90Adriano Malori (Ita) Movistar TeamRow 89 - Cell 2
91Bert Jan Lindeman (Ned) Team Lotto NL - JumboRow 90 - Cell 2
92Jacopo Guarnieri (Ita) Team KatushaRow 91 - Cell 2
93Axel Maximiliano Richeze (Arg) Lampre - MeridaRow 92 - Cell 2
94Dmitry Kozonchuk (Rus) Team KatushaRow 93 - Cell 2
95Lasse Norman Hansen (Den) Team Cannondale - GarminRow 94 - Cell 2
96Enrico Battaglin (Ita) Bardiani CSFRow 95 - Cell 2
97Simon Clarke (Aus) Orica GreenedgeRow 96 - Cell 2
98Bartosz Huzarski (Pol) Bora - Argon 18Row 97 - Cell 2
99Javier Megias Leal (Spa) Team Novo NordiskRow 98 - Cell 2
100Jacobus Venter (RSA) MTN - QhubekaRow 99 - Cell 2
101Aleksejs Saramotins (Lat) IAM Cycling0:06:30
102Juan Pablo Valencia (Col) Colombia0:07:08
103Luca Chirico (Ita) Bardiani CSFRow 102 - Cell 2
104Roy Curvers (Ned) Team Giant - AlpecinRow 103 - Cell 2
105Lars Petter Nordhaug (Nor) Team SkyRow 104 - Cell 2
106Zakkari Dempster (Aus) Bora - Argon 18Row 105 - Cell 2
107Carlos Julian Quintero (Col) ColombiaRow 106 - Cell 2
108Jack Bauer (NZl) Team Cannondale - GarminRow 107 - Cell 2
109Bjorn Thurau (Ger) Bora - Argon 180:08:27
110Moreno Hofland (Ned) Team Lotto NL - Jumbo0:08:57
111Samuel Dumoulin (Fra) Ag2r La MondialeRow 110 - Cell 2
112Matteo Bono (Ita) Lampre - MeridaRow 111 - Cell 2
113Thomas Leezer (Ned) Team Lotto NL - JumboRow 112 - Cell 2
114Maarten Tjallingii (Ned) Team Lotto NL - JumboRow 113 - Cell 2
115Vicente Reynes Mimo (Spa) IAM CyclingRow 114 - Cell 2
116Marcel Sieberg (Ger) Lotto SoudalRow 115 - Cell 2
117Simone Stortoni (Ita) Androni GiocattoliRow 116 - Cell 2
118Brayan St Ramirez Chacon (Col) ColombiaRow 117 - Cell 2
119Edoardo Zardini (Ita) Bardiani CSF0:11:30
120Mark Renshaw (Aus) Etixx - Quick-StepRow 119 - Cell 2
121Jan Barta (Cze) Bora - Argon 18Row 120 - Cell 2
122Fabio Sabatini (Ita) Etixx - Quick-StepRow 121 - Cell 2
123Manuele Boaro (Ita) Tinkoff SaxoRow 122 - Cell 2
124Cesare Benedetti (Ita) Bora - Argon 18Row 123 - Cell 2
125Maciej Bodnar (Pol) Tinkoff SaxoRow 124 - Cell 2
126Serghei Tvetcov (Rom) Androni Giocattoli0:11:37
127Arnaud Demare (Fra) FDJRow 126 - Cell 2
128Benoit Vaugrenard (Fra) FDJRow 127 - Cell 2
129Christophe Laporte (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions CreditsRow 128 - Cell 2
130Luke Rowe (GBr) Team SkyRow 129 - Cell 2
131Hayden Roulston (NZl) Trek Factory RacingRow 130 - Cell 2
132Jonas Vangenechten (Bel) IAM CyclingRow 131 - Cell 2
133Jasha Sutterlin (Ger) Movistar TeamRow 132 - Cell 2
134Adrian Kurek (Pol) Ccc Sprandi PolkowiceRow 133 - Cell 2
135Julien Berard (Fra) Ag2r La MondialeRow 134 - Cell 2
136William Bonnet (Fra) FDJRow 135 - Cell 2
137Moreno Moser (Ita) Team Cannondale - GarminRow 136 - Cell 2
138Stijn Vandenbergh (Bel) Etixx - Quick-Step0:14:58
139Andrea Guardini (Ita) Astana Pro TeamRow 138 - Cell 2
140Ruslan Tleubayev (Kaz) Astana Pro TeamRow 139 - Cell 2
141Paolo Simion (Ita) Bardiani CSFRow 140 - Cell 2
142Christian Delle Stelle (Ita) Ccc Sprandi PolkowiceRow 141 - Cell 2
143Charles Planet (Fra) Team Novo NordiskRow 142 - Cell 2
144Robert Wagner (Ger) Team Lotto NL - JumboRow 143 - Cell 2
145Johan Le Bon (Fra) FDJRow 144 - Cell 2
146Joonas Henttala (Fin) Team Novo NordiskRow 145 - Cell 2
147Rick Flens (Ned) Team Lotto NL - JumboRow 146 - Cell 2
148Matteo Tosatto (Ita) Tinkoff SaxoRow 147 - Cell 2
149Bert De Backer (Bel) Team Giant - AlpecinRow 148 - Cell 2
150Jaroslaw Marycz (Pol) Ccc Sprandi PolkowiceRow 149 - Cell 2
151Albert Timmer (Ned) Team Giant - AlpecinRow 150 - Cell 2
152Chad Haga (USA) Team Giant - AlpecinRow 151 - Cell 2
153Tomasz Kiendys (Pol) Ccc Sprandi PolkowiceRow 152 - Cell 2
154Edwin Avila Vanegas (Col) ColombiaRow 153 - Cell 2
155Miguel Angel Rubiano Chavez (Col) ColombiaRow 154 - Cell 2
156Johan Vansummeren (Bel) Ag2r La MondialeRow 155 - Cell 2
157Steven Cummings (GBr) MTN - QhubekaRow 156 - Cell 2
158Alex Dowsett (GBr) Movistar TeamRow 157 - Cell 2
159Kevin De Mesmaeker (Bel) Team Novo NordiskRow 158 - Cell 2
160Sébastien Chavanel (Fra) FDJ0:20:41

Thank you for reading 5 articles in the past 30 days*

Join now for unlimited access

Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

*Read any 5 articles for free in each 30-day period, this automatically resets

After your trial you will be billed £4.99 $7.99 €5.99 per month, cancel anytime. Or sign up for one year for just £49 $79 €59

Join now for unlimited access

Try your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

Barry Ryan
Head of Features

Barry Ryan is Head of Features at Cyclingnews. He has covered professional cycling since 2010, reporting from the Tour de France, Giro d’Italia and events from Argentina to Japan. His writing has appeared in The Independent, Procycling and Cycling Plus. He is the author of The Ascent: Sean Kelly, Stephen Roche and the Rise of Irish Cycling’s Golden Generation (opens in new tab), published by Gill Books.

Latest on Cyclingnews