Milan-San Remo review: Degenkolb strikes late

The Mighty John Degenkolb™ kept his nerve and his powder dry to seize victory in the final 50 metres of the drag race to the line along the newly reinstated via Roma, relegating the defending champion Alexander Kristoff to second place.

Rider of the race

There can only be one winner: the race winner John Degenkolb. Milan-San Remo is all about marshalling your energy, and your troops, wisely. It’s not a difficult race but the climbs come at regular intervals when the legs have already been sapped by 230km of racing. You also need patience and to resist responding too early to the inevitable flurry of attacks at the front of the peloton. Better still if you can get other teams, such as Sky and Katusha, to do the donkey work.

Degenkolb was well positioned throughout without ever putting his nose into the [head]wind before it was absolutely necessary. His approach was reminiscent of three-time winner Oscar Freire whose last victory in 2010 was snatched on the line from Tom Boonen‘s grasp. Today, just when we all thought Kristoff would be the first rider since Erik Zabel in 2001 to claim back-to-back victories, up popped Degenkolb.

To the winner the spoils on the via Roma (image: RCS Sport)

To the winner the spoils on the via Roma (image: RCS Sport)

What a reversal of fortune from last year when an inopportune puncture took the German out of contention. There were tears in Degenkolb’s eyes as he said:

One year ago it was the biggest disappointment in my career. I had the legs to be there and sprint like I did today. It took me almost a week to get over it. When I look back now it’s really unbelievable, emotionally I’ve gone from the lowest to the highest point.

Triumph from adversity and a new team nickname for The Mighty Degenkolb™: Competition Animal!

Four things we liked

1. It’s unpredictable. It’s the one monument many different types of riders could win. But the move back to the via Roma finish and the continued exclusion of the Le Manie climb meant it favoured a power-sprinter. You only have to look at today’s podium – or indeed the top ten places – all riders currently in fine form with wins, or at least top five places, already on their 2015 palmares. 

2. The weather and the parcours. Okay, the weather wasn’t great but it was so much better than the last two editions. It wasn’t too cold and the wet roads were already starting to dry out by the time the peloton hit the Italian Riviera where we were treated to fabulous and enticing shots of the coastline. I’ve ridden the coastal route from Savona to San Remo. It’s a very enjoyable 100km or so ride, nothing too arduous and the scenery is spectacular. The trick is to skip the 200km drag from Milan.

Into the final straight (image: Richard Whatley)

Into the final straight (Image: Richard Whatley)

3. The Milan-San Remo sportive riders. These [fool]hardy souls set off from Milan at midnight to ride the same parcours as the pros reaching the finish line just ahead of the professional peloton. A number rode as ‘old-timers’ in woollen kit, without wet weather gear and on old bikes. Rather them than me!

4. The Giro d’Italia. Flags were fluttering from every lamp-post reminding us that the Giro starts on 9th May in San Remo. Don’t worry, we haven’t forgotten, we’ll be there.

Of course, no trip to Italy would be complete without a coffee. Worth a trip to Italy any time as most of the pros would agree with me.

The race in numbers

25 – Number of riders finishing on the same time as the race winner.

23 – The number of curves on the descent of the Poggio in addition to its seven switchbacks.

2007 – The last year the race finished in the centre of town on the via Roma. Oscar Freire won from a bunch sprint.

7 – Previous winners in 2015 edition: Alexander Kristoff, Gerald Ciolek, Matt Goss, Mark Cavendish, Fabian Cancellara, Filippo Pozzato and Alessandro Petacchi.

General classification

1. John Degenkolb (Giant-Alpecin) 6:46:16

2. Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) same time

3. Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEDGE) s/t

4. Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo) s/t

5. Niccolo Bonifazio (Lampre-Merida) s/t

6. Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis) s/t

7. Fabian Cancellara (Trek) s/t

8. Davide Cimolai (Lampre-Merida) s/t

9. Tony Gallopin (Lotto-Soudal) s/t

10. Edvald Boasson Hagen (MTN-Qhubeka) s/t

Link: Official race website

Header image: RCS Sport

3 thoughts on “Milan-San Remo review: Degenkolb strikes late

    • Sheree says:

      I always have a good time at Milan-San Remo. I get over there early for coffee and Gazetta, pick where I’m going to stand to watch the action and sort out a restaurant for my musette. Race over there’s always the opportunity to catch up with a few friends before heading home to write my review.

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