Milan-Sanremo Review: Ooolala! A Monumental French Victory

If you would have told me before the start today that we would have MSR’s first French winner in 21 years since Laurent Jalabert, I would have laughed out loud. However, that is exactly what happened as FDJ’s Arnaud Demare came past Sky’s Ben Swift and Lotto-Soudal’s Jurgen Roelandts in a bunch sprint to win the 107th edition of Milan- Sanremo!

Rider of the Race

The rider of the race has to be our winner Arnaud Demare, who had the panache to chase back from a crash around 30km from the finish (the same crash as Michael Matthews) and still put himself in the perfect position to win. Demare’s persistence, attention, and grit enabled him to get back toward the front as the peloton hit the bottom of the Poggio and the race came back together. With Demare’s stage 1 win in last week’s Paris-Nice and FDJ becoming quite tasty team time-triallists (1st inLa Méditerranéenne and 3rd in Tirreno-Adriatico’s prologue), the Francophiles in our midst (um, just about everyone…) are getting very excited for the Grand Tours.

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De “Marred” by crashes

The last 40kms of the race were marred by crashes large and small as the pace picked up and teams fought for that elusive position at the front before the penultimate climb of the Cipressa. Many of the crashes seemed to include riders from the Cannondale squad as well as a few of the race favourites – in fact, we’re wondering if there were any Cannondale riders who weren’t in a crash today.

Orica-GreenEDGE favourite Michael Matthews was one of the unlucky ones as the pace picked up. His effort at getting back into the peloton for the finish showed a lot of heart, but his jersey showed a lot of blood and road rash and the chase back expended too much energy for him to be a contender in the bunch sprint.

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The most tragic fall came from Etixx-Quickstep favourite Fernando Gaviria, who touched wheels and hit the deck after the final bend in the last 100m or so, putting both world champion Peter Sagan and Fabian Cancellara off their stride and arguably costing them a top 10 place. Gaviria showed his disappointment by crossing the finish line in a flood of tears with his teammate’s arm around him. We can only wonder what would have happened if he’d stayed upright.

Tales of the unexpected

One of the things we love about MSR is that it’s very difficult to predict a winner, the weather, or anything else. Here are my three tales of the unexpected:

  • No riders seemed to attack on the Cipressa and the Poggio. We expected riders like Vincenzo Nibali and Alejandro Valverde to make the race difficult earlier but the closest thing we got was Ian Stannard and Giovanni Visconti gain maybe 25 seconds on the Cipressa, only to get caught on the flat before the Poggio. Stannard’s teammate Michał Kwiatkowski made it a bit more interesting toward the very top of the Poggio but Peter Sagan and Fabian Cancellara neutralised his attack with superb descending and brief attacks of their own and actually helped set up the bunch sprint.
  • The weather was outstanding (unless you count a rock slide that forced organisers to add an additional 10kms to the race). If you’ve followed MSR over the past several years, you know the riders had to be surprised by how nice the weather was, as if it wasn’t raining, it was snowing in the last few editions.
  • Fabian Cancellara, Peter Sagan, and Edvald Boasson Hagen didn’t finish in the top 10 while Filippo Pozzato and Heinrich Haussler did. Who saw that coming? Who knew they were even in the race?

Tales of the expected

While the unexpected is common at MSR, some things never change. Here are a few:

  • The last 20kms of the race are some of the most exciting in cycling. Will someone attack and get away? Who? When? Will it come down to a bunch sprint? That last half hour of racing always puts us on the edge our seats.
  • The winner is often a surprise. Like 2013 winner Gerald Ciolek, Arnaud Demare was an outside favourite but his name is a worthy addition to a long list of interesting winners. You don’t win a Monument – especially one as long and exhausting as MSR – by accident. Whoever crosses that line first worked hard for it, no matter what happened behind them. Chapeau!
  • Like buses, you wait for months for a Monument and then they come one right after another: Milan-Sanremo tees up Flanders, which tees up Roubaix, which tees up GLORY!!!

Top ten results

1 Arnaud Demare (FDJ) 6:54:45

2 Ben Swift (Team Sky) same time

3 Jurgen Roelandts (Lotto-Soudal) s/t

4 Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis) s/t

5 Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) s/t

6 Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) s/t

7 Heinrich Haussler (IAM) s/t

8 Filippo Pozzato (Southeast-Venezuela) s/t

9 Sonny Colbrelli (Bardiani CSF) s/t

10 Matteo Trentin (Etixx-QuickStep) s/t



3 thoughts on “Milan-Sanremo Review: Ooolala! A Monumental French Victory

  1. Continuing a great start to the season for FDJ.

    I actually hope that apparent accusations from a couple of riders that Demare received a tow back on after being involved in a crash don’t become the story here – it’d be a shame if the win is overshadowed.

    And on Sagan and Cancellara being put off their stride – that was some serious bike handling skills from the pair of them just to stay upright!

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