Race Report: Nibali foils spinters at Sanremo

After winning the last monument of 2017, the Tour of Lombardy, Vincenzo Nibali led with his heart by attacking on the Poggio to win the first monument of 2018, Milan San Remo

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Race Report: Nibali foils spinters at Sanremo

After winning the last monument of 2017, the Tour of Lombardy, Vincenzo Nibali led with his heart by attacking on the Poggio to win the first monument of 2018, Milan San Remo

The race began with a nine-man breakaway shaping the first 260km, most of them in the rain whilst behind the likes of Luke Rowe and a few other workers kept the gap within reach before the business end of the race was reached.

With 30km to go and the rain behind them, the last of the attackers were caught and the positioning for the Poggio was key. Mark Cavendish, despite a broken rib, was still in the mix but an unmanned bollard (a rather large one) saw him somersault out of the race in a high speed crash.

On the Poggio, pre-race favourites Peter Sagan (Bora – Hansgrohe) and Michal Kwiatkowski (Team Sky) were well positioned, as were several of the world’s leading sprinters. Then, with 6.5km to go, Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain – Merida) counter attacked to join Neilands and after a short time together, Nibali pushed on solo and descended as he does, flat out and putting time into the peloton.
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Nathan Haas (Katusha) chased and then Matteo Trentin (Mitchelton – Scott) did likewise whilst behind in the peloton, the speeding lead-out trains of Elia Viviani (Quick-Step Floors), Caleb Ewan (Mitchelton – Scott) and Arnaud Démare (Groupama FDJ), were clawing back the seconds to Nibali they entered the final few kilometres. It was touch and go Nibali but hold on he did, win ning the 190th Milano-Sanremo in style, with Caleb Ewan (Mitchelton – Scott) and Arnaud Démare (Groupama FDJ) second and third only metres behind him on the finish line.

Vincenzo Nibali, said in the press conference: “It hasn’t really sunk in yet, because it is all so unexpected. It was incredible. When the Latvian champion Neilands attacked, he asked me to collaborate. The team was riding for Colbrelli who was in great shape, but I saw Neilands was strong and when I saw we had opened a 20 second gap, I decided to continue that attack.”

“At the top of the Poggio, where the gradient is a bit higher, I accelerated and then pressed on. I believed victory was within my reach in the final part of the race when I saw the empty road in front of me. Even so, the final 2km were interminable. Before the race I had two key points which in mind: the Cipressa, if there was a breakaway group of 6, 7 or even 9, I’d try to get into it, but without working.”

“Then there was the Poggio, the most dangerous place, where an attack by Kwiatkowski, Van Avermaet or Sagan was likely. I was well positioned in the group behind Mohoric, waiting for someone to move, and to react to it, and that is what happened. In the final 50 metres, I knew I’d won. I could see the finish line ahead of me, and I made sure I enjoyed the victory.”

“With Peter Sagan, I’m a great friend. He said to me, “What are you doing, waiting for the sprint?” I didn’t know what to say. My role today was a stopper, working for Colbrelli. I wanted to understand what Peter was doing. When I saw he was strong, I knew I had to go because I had great form. Peter is unpredictable, and a rider like me has to arrive alone”.
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“In the past, if I finish with Alaphilippe, Kwiatkowski or Gilbert, I always finish second. I was very cold-blooded in my decision-making. I knew I was working for the team and when I attacked I said, I have to go alone if I’m going to do anything. It was a very good move, so it was with the head, but also with the heart because to arrive alone to the finish line after all those kilometres and after all the rain, it needed a lot of determination”.

“At the start of the season when I set my targets, its important to target races that really count. I felt I was behind in my preparation for Sanremo, but during Tirreno Adriatico my form grew and I was only lacking in the final 300m. I went home and rested, then I came to this Milano-Sanremo with great condition, which I only realised during the race. I finished last seasons by winning Il Lombardia, and started this season with Milano Sanremo. One day races are special for me, with make things difficult for me. Perhaps Milano Sanremo was the one I least expected to win because it doesn’t suit me. In the past I’ve attacked on the Poggio and made the podium, but I’ve always been beaten by a faster finish than mine, but I won and I am very happy.”

Caleb Ewan, said: “The boys were so strong, so in the end we can’t have any regrets. That said, I came here in good form, so of course I am a bit disappointed with second place. Matteo Trentin was very strong today and he gave it his best shot. He got close but it wasn’t to be because Vincenzo Nibali was the strongest today.”

Arnaud Demare, said: “The sprint was into a headwind so I knew I had to be patient. I got on the back of the Quick Step train but I could see we weren’t going to catch Nibali. He did something very special today, attacking into the headwind on the Poggio. Behind him Kwiatkowski attacked and Sagan brought him back, so the chase took time to organize. After the stage, it was something to be on the podium in front of a crowd of fans who adore him.”

Milan Sanremo: 1. Nibabli; 2. Ewan; 3. Demare 4. Kristoff 5. Roelandts, 6. Sagan

Others: 40. Scott Thwaites; 44. Ben Swift 73rd. Steve Cummings; 117. Ryan Mullen; 127. Ian Stannard; 136. Sam Brand; 146. Luke Rowe





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