Report & Reactions – Milan San Remo


John Degenkolb in tears of joy as he wins the Italian Monument Milan San Remo – Geraint Thomas almost steels the race with attacking ride

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Report & Reactions – Milan San Remo

John Degenkolb in tears of joy as he wins the Italian Monument Milan San Remo after Geraint Thomas almost steels the race with attacking ride over the final climb

After a brilliantly attacking finale to Milan San Remo, John Degenkolb (Giant-Alpecin) timed his kick best to claim the race nicknamed La Primavera, outsprinting 2014 victor Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) and Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEdge) rounding out the podium.


Photo: Milan SanRemo

“I still can’t believe it,” admitted Degenkolb after the race. “Today was amazing. It was really fast on the Poggio and I had to dig in and suffer there but my shape was good and the hard work over the past weeks and months paid off here”.

“I managed to make it into a good position over the top of the Poggio and avoid the crashes and then in the final two kilometres, it was just fighting for position and relying on instinct. Everything came together today”.

“The whole team team were great today keeping me out of the wind and making it as easy as possible. Then at the end Tom [Dumoulin] did a great job in getting me into position for the Poggio. I’m really proud of the result today.”


Photo © Tim De Waele / Team Katusha

The 199 professional riders rolled out the Piazza Sempione under rainy skies and cool temperatures for Milano-Sanremo, the first monument in cycling of the 2015 racing season and a whopping 293km.

A break of 11 riders went clear with Katusha Team on the front working to keep the main field within striking distance of the breakaway. With 50km to go, they still held two minutes, but the gap continued to fall as they approached the key final climbs of the Cipressa and Poggio.

Hitting the front ahead of the ‘Tre Capi’, with Britain’s Andy Fenn leading the line, Sky began to push the pace on the Capo Berta. Luke Rowe strung out the bunch and as the peloton plunged onto the slick descent, there were a number of crashes.

Both Ian Stannard and Salvatore Puccio hit the deck for Team Sky, with the confusion enabling the three Brits; Rowe, Thomas and Swift to go clear. With daylight behind them, the trio pushed on, with Rowe unleashing a heroic turn to ensure both Thomas and Swift were right to the fore as things came back together on the Cipressa.

The Katusha Team were on a mission of positioning Alexander Kristoff for the final but between the climbs of the Cipressa and the Poggio, Daniel Oss (BMC) and Geraint Thomas (Sky) attacked with Katusha’s Paolini continuing to lead the charge behind.

By the time the two leaders hit the Poggio and held their lead over the top, it was on the descent, that the chaos really saw the peloton explode. Another attack by Thomas saw ‘G’ go solo but his advantage was slashed by attacks on the Poggio.

Many of the favourites though were left sitting on the road as Michal Kwiatkowski (Etixx – Quick-Step), Zdenek Stybar (Etixx – Quick-Step), Philippe Gilbert (BMC Racing) and Gerald Ciolek (MTN Qhubeka) all came to grief on the final descent.

Thomas was caught but continued to drive the much slimmed down front group for his teammate Ben Swift. Paolini also continued his work at the front under the one-kilometre to go banner with 25-30 riders approaching the line together.

Once on the final flat run-in to the finish, the pace was raised by Katusha once again with last year’s winner Alexander Kristoff second wheel, but Degenkolb was where he needed to be in fourth wheel waiting for his moment.

As Kristoff opened up the sprint, John followed and then made his move just when needed to pull through for a convincing win by 3/4 of a bike length.


Alexander Kristoff second
Alexander Kristoff – “I think I started too early, maybe I needed to wait 50 meters later to start my sprint, but I had no other solution because I was in first position. Luca was really great today and he did impressive work on the Poggio and later in the final. I could not ask more from him. Honestly in one moment I thought I could win, but John was too fast in the end and I could not answer. I was on the limit. The finish was on a small uphill and in the end I was too tired” said defending champion Alexander Kristoff.

“The team was really great today. I thank all of the guys, and of course Luca. It was a hard day. I did not feel like I did last year but anyway I was still strong. On the Cipressa was a hard moment for me but the team supported me well. Later on the Poggio Luca went in front and provided me the rhythm I needed to get past those feelings. Of course I am a little bit disappointed but it is normal since I was very close to the win. But maybe later I will be happy, because it is 2nd place in Milano-Sanremo”.

Third for Bling Matthews
“It was a pretty cold and wet day today but we did what we had to do,” Matthews said after the finish. “The ORICA-GreenEDGE team supported me really well. As you could see on the Cipressa and Poggio climbs I had really good legs today so I am a little bit disappointed in the final.”

“I guess I have got to believe that it’s Milano-Sanremo and it’s my first attempt at going for a result here, so I have to be positive about that. I’m really thankful for the team in believing in me and helping me deliver this result.”

Fourth for Sagan

“It was a tough race, also due to the rain. But at least the weather was better than last year and in the final part of the race, the roads dried and the sun came out. I would like once again to thank my teammates because they worked really hard during the race. But at the end, although I was feeling very well and in form, I think I made a mistake, when I approached the final sprint too far down in the pack”, says Peter Sagan, who adds that his starting position made it difficult.

“I was too far down after the last corners, which meant that I had to overtake too many to be successful at the end. However, now I focus on the Cobbled Classics ahead and I must admit that I feel well and in good form. We will see how the next races play out”.

Cavendish below par
“I didn’t feel good at all” said former winner Mark Cavendish. “I had nowhere near the form I had a few weeks ago before I got sick,” Cavendish said. “But the team put me in good positions for the climbs. I kept fighting just for the chance to be there at the finish. A kilometre and half to go on Cipressa, when it was more flat, I had a mechanical. My chain went off. I used some energy I needed with my condition in order to close the gap on the descent”.

“Then before the start the Poggio I was behind a rider who lost the wheel in front of him for a moment, and at Milano-Sanremo any gap at all can cost you the race. On the Poggio you have to keep moving up and fight for position, and I didn’t have the energy to do the accelerations necessary at that point. The combination of how I felt and my energy expenditure catching back to the peloton after my mechanical just put me too far back. But at least everyone is safe and well after this race. It was a good race, and Degenkolb deserves the win.”

Crash for the World Champion
Kwiatkowski crashes – “Let’s hope tomorrow morning when I wake up from bed I won’t feel anything,” Kwiatkowski said. “But as of now I am feeling OK and I have to be happy about that. Bad luck today, especially that both of us were on the ground. The race looks different than what it could have been if that didn’t happen. We did it perfectly today, my teammates did a great job putting us into good position. For the first time at Milano-Sanremo I was there on the Poggio. We felt really comfortable. It was still a big group. When I heard Cavendish was no longer with us, I knew we both still felt good and who knows what can happen in this kind of race. Maybe we could try an attack or make the sprint ourselves. But again, bad luck, and not much I can do in this situation other than feel happy with my condition and that the crash was not worse.”

Crash too for Stybar
“Today I was really unlucky,” Stybar said. “I crashed twice. The first time I crashed on the downhill of the Capo Berta when other riders went down in front of me and I couldn’t avoid them. But I was fortunately able to get up and ride immediately. Then I crashed for the second time on the descent of the Poggio when someone crashed in front of Kwiato and I. At that point my race was over. It’s a pity because despite the first crash, the idea was to ride to the end of the downhill of the Poggio and see what we could have done”.

“I had good legs today and it’s a shame I couldn’t get to the finish and we couldn’t play all our cards, even if because arriving in Via Roma after 300 kilometers of riding the sprint is always strange and anything can happen. But OK, that’s cycling. I have a few scratches on my knee and ribs, but nothing serious. So after today we just need to turn the page and see what we can do at the next races.”

Fabian Cancellera
“If you look ahead of me there are six world-class sprinters, and I am the first non-traditional sprinter, in a way,” pointed out Cancellara. “I don’t have the absolute instinct to find the right spot and to know when you can feel when someone is coming, and I got a little bit locked in on the right side. I made a mistake there and it’s disappointing because I had good legs.

“I was in a really good place with 500 meters to go but then the riders came from the left side and closed me, and like professional sprinters they would never open the door again, and that was my own luck.

“I checked out who was behind me, and it was not right, and the moment was gone in a millisecond to make a late attack. This race is always the most tactical of the entire year, there are tons of possibilities, and maybe I waited too long in the sprint, or….there are more questions than answers.

“I was also lucky I didn’t crash because Philippe Gilbert crashed just in front of me in a corner and I almost went down. Like I said you need a lot of luck and tactics to come together at the end.”


1. John Degenkolb, Team Giant – Alpecin 6:46:16
2. Alexander Kristoff, Team Katusha
3. Michael Matthews, Orica Greenedge
4. Peter Sagan, Tinkoff Saxo
5. Niccolo’ Bonifazio, Lampre – Merida
6. Nacer Bouhanni, Cofidis, Solutions Credits
7. Fabian Cancellara, Trek Factory Racing
8. Davide Cimolai, Lampre – Merida
9. Tony Gallopin, Lotto Soudal
10. Edvald Boasson Hagen, MTN – Qhubeka

13. Ben Swift, Team Sky
19. Greg Van Avermaet, BMC Racing Team
20. Aleja Valverde Belmonte, Movistar Team
31. Geraint Thomas, Team Sky 0:00:12
37. Simon Yates, Orica Greenedge 0:00:23
45. Vincenzo Nibali, Astana Pro Team
46. Mark Cavendish, Etixx – Quick-Step
47. Andre’ Greipel, Lotto Soudal
55. Philippe Gilbert, BMC Racing Team 0:03:00
56. Zdenek Stybar, Etixx – Quick-Step
106. Zakkari Dempster, Bora – Argon 18
108. Jack Bauer, Team Cannondale – Garmin 7:08
130. Luke Rowe, Team Sky 11:37
157. Steven Cummings, MTN – Qhubeka
158. Alex Dowsett, Movistar Team
160. Sébastien Chavanel, FDJ 0:20:41

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