News: Julian Alaphilippe wins Milano-Sanremo

The Frenchman Julian Alaphilippe sprinted straight into the history books after taking the biggest victory of his career in the Monument, Milan San Remo

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News: Julian Alaphilippe wins Milano-Sanremo

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The Frenchman Julian Alaphilippe sprinted straight into the history books after taking the biggest victory of his career on the Via Roma

Photo: ©Tim De Waele/Getty Images

On the Italian Riviera on Saturday afternoon, when after nearly seven long hours and a nerve-wracking finale, Julian Alaphilippe punched the air in celebration as he captured a memorable win at Milano-Sanremo and continued his period of unprecedented success, which sees him sit on seven victories amassed since the end of January, having taken a win at every single race he had started this season.

“It’s very difficult to realise what I achieved today together with this amazing team! There was pressure on me, but I knew the form was there and together with my Wolfpack teammates I did a perfect race. Tim pulled the entire day and then, on the Poggio, we tried to make the race very hard with Philippe and Styby, and afterwards I attacked as late as possible to forge a selection. On the downhill I tried to recover and remain focused, then in the last two kilometers I said that I want to win, and after closing the gap to Trentin, I continued to remain attentive, so when Mohoric went with 600 meters to go I said to myself it’s now or never. It’s unbelievable”, an emotional Julian Alaphilippe said to the melee of journalists at the finish.
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At 291 kilometers, Milano-Sanremo is the longest one-day race of the calendar, starting early in the morning, when the bunch leaves behind foggy Milan and heads to the sunny and vibrant Sanremo, as the race slowly unfolds for six hours, covering the Turchino and Tre Capi, before building up like an Alfred Hitchcock thriller for the final 30 minutes, which take the riders over the Cipressa and Poggio.

Tim Declercq confirmed his “El Tractor” monicker, taking the reins at the front of the peloton as soon as a ten-man breakaway formed and setting a steady tempo – which resulted in the escapees being brought back on the Cipressa – for more than 250 kilometers. The headwind on this penultimate ascent meant no attacks could be launched, the only move before the Poggio coming on the descent, where Niccolo Bonifazio (Direct Energie) opened a gap that eventually melted under the formidable impetus of Deceuninck – Quick-Step.

Belgian Champion Yves Lampaert then took over and led into the 3.7km-long hill, before Philippe Gilbert and Zdenek Stybar set a brutal pace that inflicted pain and suffering, stretching the field and dropping the sprinters. Once the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad champion peeled off the front, Alaphilippe attacked, tearing the bunch apart and creating the decisive split, eliminating the threat of a mass gallop in the process.

Eleven riders rushed towards the finishing straight with a clear gap over the remnants of the peloton, nullifying a late acceleration of Matteo Trentin (Mitchelton-Scott) ahead of the flamme rouge. The first to show his intentions was Matej Mohoric (Bahrain-Merida), who turned on the gas on the left side of the road. Sensing the opportunity, Julian jumped onto his wheel and opened his sprint with over 200 meters to go, holding off the charge of Oliver Naesen (AG2R) and Michal Kwiatkowski (Team Sky) and outclassing all his opponents as he dashed to the most important victory of his career.

“I am so, so proud of my team! Tim controlled the escapees since the start of the day, while Yves, Styby and Philippe protected and brought me into position on the Poggio. Before the race I asked them to make sure I was fifth wheel tops at the foot of the climb and they took care of it”, said the fourth reigning Tour de France KOM champion to triumph at the prestigious “La Primavera” when asked about the incredible amount of work laid down by his Deceuninck – Quick-Step, who left an indelible mark over the first Monument of the season. “At the finish, everybody was crying and I was so happy and delighted to be able to share this memorable moment of immense joy with them.”

Oliver Naesen: “I have no regrets. I did my best to be on the podium. I never made a mistake during the entire race. In the sprint, I had room to produce my effort. But I could never get past Julian’s rear wheel. I saw who was going to win Milan San-Remo, and I could do nothing about it. It’s a funny feeling. I feel very strong right now, I’m not stressed at all.

I’m comfortable and I try to encourage the same feeling for my teammates. We rode really well together all day, and we perfectly paced the Cipressa. After a very good Paris Nice, I was expecting to be in front today. With the legs I have right now, I cannot wait to race in Flanders next week with the E3 BinckBank Classic and Gent Wevelgem.

Michal Kwiatkowski: “That’s a good result to be on the podium. But when you’re so close to the victory of course you always think if you could have done anything better to win it – that would have been a dream today. Julian was the strongest rider today in my opinion. I think everybody saw what he did on the Poggio, and then having the legs to sprint that was quite impressive from him.

“Being again amongst the best riders in this front group was a nice feeling. There were plenty of attacks and I think that was a great race to watch. I’m really happy that Team Sky gave me the opportunity to go for another one.”

Matteo Trentin – 10th place: “The guys rode amazingly for me, I don’t think I saw the wind until the Cipressa. Quickstep decided to ride for Alaphilippe which was just what I wanted. When he went I felt really strong, I could close it ‘easily’, well as ‘easy’ as it can be, but then I was there. I was there with the final guys and I thought I would give it a go on the flat and hopefully they would look at each other, they didn’t. At the end, my bullet was that one, and it was gone. The legs were what they were, I was on the wheel of Peter Sagan but I think he had also used his legs earlier.”

Peter Sagan: I felt quite well today, not at my usual form, but better than the previous weeks. The finale of this year’s Milano Sanremo played out as I had expected. A big group reached the bottom of the Poggio and then a strong pace was set at the front with a number of attacks. I knew I had to be there, so I jumped in and closed the attacks when they happened. We split the peloton and we were about ten riders at the top of the Poggio. The bunch wasn’t able to bring us back in the descent, so it was a very reduced sprint. I would say it was a strange, very slow one and the final attacks were launched quite late. I was squeezed in and when I found space to sprint, it wasn’t enough. Thanks to my BORA-hansgrohe teammates for their great work today and congratulations to Alaphilippe for his victory.

Alejandro Valverde: “It’s been a spectacular Milano-Sanremo, both because of the high level of racing and the great weather – even a bit surprising, so warm for this time of the year. Being up there with the top contenders and finish inside the first group, after 20 days with no racing, is something to be really happy about. It’s been mostly flatout in the finale, with no respite, which helped create that selection. Even if I was gaining some terrain on those launching the sprint from the front into the final meters, I wasn’t able to gain back more places and had to stay content with that seventh place. Hats off to Alaphilippe for that huge victory. Now it’s on to this long travel down to Catalunya, another important race in this early part of the season for me, before some more big classics.”

Matej Mohoric: “We had studied the race tactics to help Sonny Colbrelli stay in the first positions in the finale. The race was tough and Sonny lost the wheels of the best on the Poggio. I stayed with Vincenzo and we tried to anticipate the sprint. We did not succeed, but I am happy with my 5th place. I feel good and go to Belgium with a certain optimism”.

Vincenzo Nibali: “I am happy with my Sanremo – as per tradition, the race started with Cipressa. On the Poggio there was a battle and I managed to return at the end of the descent with 2k to go. I tried to start before the others but I found myself closed and I had to settle for 8th position”.

Wout Van Aert – ”I thought that Trentin’s attack was the decisive one, but it came a little too early”, Van Aert said. ”Sixth is not bad, but the podium was very close. I felt great all day. On the Cipressa and the Poggio it went smoothly and I crossed the top among the first. This is a great debut in such a race and it has whetted my appetite. I will definitely come back here to aim for more. It is also a confirmation that we worked well during the training camp in Spain last week. This certainly gives confidence for the upcoming classics in Belgium. My form is good.”

Milan San Remo
1 Julian Alaphiliipe
2. Oliver Naesen
3. Michael Kwiatowski
4. Peter Sagan
5. Mohoric
6 Van Aert
7 Valverde
8 Nibali
9 Clarke
10 Trentin

45 Tao Geoghegan Hart
57 Steve Cummings
103 Luke Rowe
115 Owain Doull
157 Sam Brand
160 Dan McLay



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