Milan San Remo: Victory for Stuyven

A brave attack at the bottom of the Poggio by Jasper Stuyven, and some help from DSM’s Søren Kragh Andersen, saw the Belgian Stuyven win the fastest edition of Milan San Remo

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Milan San Remo: Victory for Stuyven

Jasper Stuyven timed his winning move perfectly, jumping away from a group of favorites and fast finishers at the bottom of the Poggio. The favorites hesitated, eyeing each other out of the race, and Stuyven powered away to the biggest win of his career. “I just knew I had to try, all or nothing. I prefer to do this than gamble for the sprint and finish in 5th or 10th place, so I prefer to go all-in. Most of the time it’s nothing; sometimes it’s all, and today it was all. It’s incredible. I don’t realize [what I’ve done] yet. I am just incredibly happy,” said Stuyven.

One rider managed to bridge to his wheel from the group. When Soren Kragh Andersen (Team DSM) came across, it actually helped Stuyven. “In the last kilometer, I saw Soren was coming so I tried to recover a little bit before the chicane,” explained Stuyven. “That gave me 300 meters to recover a little bit and that was necessary. I was hoping he would pull through, and he did.”

With the group full-gas in a desperate sprint behind him, Stuyven gave everything. “And then I started the sprint,” continued Stuyven. “I had nothing left in the legs, but it was enough.”

Yes it was. Stuyven even had time to throw his arms high, punching the air for the grandest finish line celebration of his career.

“To be honest, there were a lot of fast guys in the group at the bottom of the Poggio, and I had the instinct that I know if I can find the gap, it’s my strength that I can have a good finale. They were hesitating and I took a lot of speed in the last part of the downhill from the Poggio, and that was only instinct,” added Stuyven. “I was not going to go to the line with all these fast guys because you never know what you get. I actually said to a friend of mine that I was going to go all-in – all or nothing. There was no one with a teammate and that was also to my advantage. It was nice to find the moment and immediately have the gap and then just empty the legs to the line.”

The longest race of the year and the first Monument on the calendar, Milano-Sanremo, took place with the peloton faced with a gruellingly long 299 kilometre test with a tailwind. The opening three quarters of the 299km classic followed the usual script as an eight-rider breakaway headed down the road before the peloton capped their advantage at a maximum of 7’30”.

The gap began to tumble as the race past the half way point and the remains of the escapees were eventually reeled back on the slopes of the Cipressa. With a high tempo being set over the climb by various teams, no attacks materialised as the day looked set for a battle on the Poggio.

The pace was kept high into the Poggio as teams looked after their leaders and then it was then a waiting game until World Champion Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck – Quick Step) made his move as the summit approached. His attack drew 11 riders clear of the peloton with Matthews digging deep to follow the accelerations over the top and onto the descent.

Several riders attempted to escape on the downhill towards Via Roma, including Tom Pidcock in his first Monument but it was Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo) who gave everyone the slip, taking advantage of a lull in the action to open up a gap. As the chasing group stalled as they watched each other and no-one wanted to leave everything on the road only for rivals to take advantage, Stuyven and Soren Kragh Andersen raged onwards with Stuyven holding on for the win as the catch by the rest was made on the line.

Caleb Ewan (2nd) “The first time I finished second in 2018, I thought it was a good result as it was only my second participation in La Primavera. Now, it’s a major disappointment”, begins Caleb Ewan. “That second place in 2018 confirmed that I could potentially win the race one day and that is why most years, Milan-Sanremo is a main goal for me. I knew I was coming into the race with good form and this year, I really tried to improve my climbing. I even practiced that attack on the Poggio many times.”

“I was in a really good position during most parts of the Poggio and when they went, I was obviously suffering a bit but I still had enough left to follow them and I was actually quite comfortable. Of course, it would have been nice to have one teammate left in the final kilometres.”

“In this situation, it’s always a lottery and you just have to wait and take the risk. I took it and did what I needed to do to win. Jasper was just too far in front and I definitely don’t have any regrets. There was a lot of looking around and in the end, we waited just a little too long. But if I would have gone earlier, I maybe would have faded in the end. Nevertheless, it’s a disappointing result”, concludes Caleb Ewan.

Philippe Gilbert however, was not satisfied with his performance: “I am very disappointed. I thought I had good legs, but in the end I just didn’t have the energy to play a role in the race. It certainly wasn’t due to a lack of motivation, but I just missed a pair of good legs today. Of course, it wasn’t my best Milan-Sanremo, but it was still nice to have this day in the legs for the races to come.”

Wout Van Aert (Jumbo Visma, 3rd) Last years winner after a tactical end to Milan-Sanremo. Last year’s winner went on the attack with Julian Alaphilippe on the Poggio, but had to watch in the final as Jasper Stuyven stayed ahead of the group of favourites. “I had the legs to win, but I was caught”, Van Aert said. “Milan-San Remo is a very difficult course to win on and I gambled and lost in the final.”

“I also didn’t want to throw away my sprinting chances away to ride full gas behind Jasper with the rest in my wake. A lot of people were looking at me and that’s logical of course. On the Poggio I tried, but we were still with too many guys. I expected a bigger shake-up, but apparently the conditions were not tough enough. I’m disappointed that I didn’t win, but I don’t know if I could have done something different. All in all, I can’t be unhappy with this third place. My form is fine and I’m looking forward to the Flemish classics with confidence.”

Peter Sagan (Bora Hansgrohe, 4th) “It was a bittersweet Milano-Sanremo for me. On the one hand, I’m happy because I’m feeling better and my form is gradually improving, although there is still work to be done to reach a top level. On the other hand, I’m a bit angry because it was another Milano-Sanremo where I missed the chance to get a victory. We worked very well throughout the day, everybody in the team put in a great effort. When the attack was made on the Poggio, a small group went away and I was in the one right behind, together with other strong riders. We didn’t respond to the attack, either because we couldn’t or because we felt we would bridge the gap on the descent. In fact, the two front groups merged and it was clear we would go for a fast sprint finish. I gave my best in the sprint and finished fourth.”

Julian Alaphilippe (World Champion, Deceuninck – Quick-Step, 16th) The Frenchman, as expected, lived up to the expectations of being agressive, throwing the gauntlet down on the Poggio, one kilometre from the top of the iconic Ligurian climb. His powerful attack forced a major selection, just like in past editions, with only a dozen riders being capable of matching the solid tempo pushed by the rainbow jersey.

“I was focused on doing a good race the entire race and was always well-positioned in the bunch, which happened thanks to my teammates. They deserve a big bravo, because they were once again amazing in the way they rode at the front, chased down the breakaway and kept me out of the wind. I gave my best today, made my move on the Poggio, but it didn’t work out. I am not disappointed, because I did everything that was possible”, explained Alaphilippe. “I am content with my Italian campaign, which included that nice Tirreno-Adriatico stage victory, and I am now moving my focus to the Belgian Classics. I look forward to recovering and my next race, Dwars door Vlaanderen, at the end of the month.”

Tom Pidcock: (Ineos) “It went alright to be fair. It’s my first Monument, 300km, and I wasn’t really supposed to be there in the final! But I felt really good and I’m pleased with it, for sure – but I want more. I learnt a lot, the team rode really well, and I’m happy. It’s been a difficult week with slight tendonitis in my knee which made it hard, mentally. I couldn’t do the training I was supposed to so I didn’t come here with perfect preparation but I think I was pretty good on the day.”

“The team rode so well for me and Kwiato and I was able to follow on the Poggio. Then I thought I’d try a little attack on the descent to see if they’d give me a gap but I didn’t really know where I was going! So that didn’t really work so well. I was a bit too far forward going into the final and the line came up on me fast, but overall I’m happy. It’s a good result to take into the cobbled Classics.”

Mathieu van der Poel, one of the big favourites,was fifth. The Dutch champion nevertheless looks back on his match with satisfaction: “I don’t think I made a mistake anywhere. I had to make choices. I hoped to get on a wheel with a long sprint, but then a few more riders came over me. I was really on my knees.”

About the Poggio: “I was at the front but the pace was too fast to stay away and the group was still too big. That is why it was of no use to me to accelerate even more. We had already passed the most difficult part by then. It was real gambling in the end, but I still think the strongest won. If you can maintain that pace in this phase of the competition, you are the deserved winner. I would like to win Milan-San Remo myself. I still have a number of years, but today we see again that it is not the easiest classic to win.”

Michael Matthews (Bike Exchange): “I started quite far back [on the Poggio], but I eventually got to those guys [Alaphilippe and Van Aert] wheel, I knew those two were the strongest to attack on the Poggio. I knew I needed to be with them and ready to go and I could get to them and I could go with them once they attacked. When you saw the bunch of guys there, the sprinters that were in that bunch, I think he [Stuyven] rolled the dice with attacking and it was probably the best option for him to win the race”.

“I’m definitely not [happy]. I came here to win, and I’ve done this race so many times now and it’s just the same thing every year unfortunately, so close yet so far. I thought this year was going to be the one, I trained super hard for this and it just didn’t work out, so I’m definitely disappointed”.

Soren Kragh Andersen (Team DSM): “It was a fast day; a very fast edition with the tailwind,” explained Kragh Andersen at the finish. “I think we stayed calm in the first 200 kilometres and from then on it was a super hectic race. We tried to stick together as a team, even though it was difficult at times, but I think my teammates did a really good job and we were fighting for it throughout the day.”

“That helped me a lot to stay there and be there in a good position for the final. I tried to follow the big guys in the end and I was able to be there which was good. I was a bit surprised they let Stuyven go straight away, it’s always hard to predict. I attacked and closed the gap but was already suffering and from then on I made a few mistakes. That’s how it is and I’ll have to look back and learn from it. The shape is good and the team was riding well together so we’ll have to evaluate it, and we’re looking forward to our next races.”

Greg Van Avemaet 13th: A pre race favourite “That result is a pity, because on the Poggio I was able to compete with the best. The team mates have done a great job keeping me in a good position up front on the Cipressa and at the foot of the Poggio. An ideal starting position. I am also satisfied that I was able to follow the better ones on the Poggio. I was there ”, says the Olympic champion. “But it became a difficult job on the streets of San Remo. In the pursuit of Jasper Stuyven, I once closed a gap on Maximilian Schachmann and Michael Matthews, but I did not fully recover after that effort. ”

“Which makes me disappointed despite my good performance. The team did well, but that does not result in a top ten place. We have to make do with it. The fact that I held out on the Poggio is a boost for things to come.” Next Friday, Van Avermaet will start on the Belgian side of the classics with E3 Saxo Bank Classic. “Hopefully we can achieve a result in the next few weeks. The Flemish races suit my abilities a bit better than this Milan-San Remo.”

Alex Aranburu (Astana, 7th) “It was a really fast race. Really, really fast. On the Poggio, I started a bit behind so I had to get to the front. We were four or five seconds behind at the top of the climb but on the downhill we came together. In the sprint, I did what I could. It was a strange finish and it is what it is. But I am happy to be in the top ten again. I think I raced well and the team helped me to be in a good position in the finale. When you look at the names I finished with, then I think I have to be happy and to finish in seventh places two years in a row shows that this is a good race for me,” said Aranburu.

Matej Mohorič: “When they attacked on Poggio we tried to follow with Colbrelli and then on the descent we came back” Matej Mohorič says, describing how the final unfolded “We were on the limit of the chase and we couldn’t do a proper sprint. Anyway, Sonny could take a top ten result, finishing in 8th place and I was 11th. We tried but without success. Maybe, next time”.



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