Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo) gatecrashed the Milan-Sanremo party to take the biggest win of his career as the first Monument of the season was settled over an uber-thrilling last kilometre.
All week, the anticipation has been huge. Would Wout steal it on the Poggio? Would Mathieu go long-range on the Cipressa? Would Julian swashbuckle his way to the finish line?
But THIS IS CYCLING. Anything can happen and it frequently does, much to our delight. With the favourite’s teams controlling the pace and keeping a beady eye on each other, the opportunities grew for the unexpected to happen.
After nearly 300 kilometres of riding, Milan-Sanremo wasn’t decided until the finish line with Belgium’s Jasper Stuyven proving to be the strongest and the smartest, crossing that finish line ahead of Caleb Ewan (Lotto-Soudal) and Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma). The Trek rider’s do-or-die move bagged him the biggest – and most thrilling – win of his career, while we got to revel in a truly surprising and exciting race finish.
How it went down
Milan-Sanremo is a race of anticipation. First, there’s the week-long speculation about who will win the race and how it will be won. Then, from the KM 1, that anticipation gets turned up slowly, building from a mild hum to a full-on ear-shattering roar.
The only thing you need to know about the first 250 kilometres is that they existed. They sapped the legs, drained the energy and unsharpened some minds. Little of note happened that we could see but, as Nathan Haas points out, there was plenty to think about.
So while the peloton was staying calm, for us fans, there was the majesty of springtime Italy : sunlit historic towns, little bars you’d like to visit sometime and plenty of swimming pools in back gardens.
Shaping the race
Ahead of the Cipressa, Jumbo-Visma, Alpecin-Fenix and Deceuninck-QuickStep took responsibility for keeping the peloton in check. Paul Martens (J-V), Tim DeClercq (DQS) and Senne Leysen (A-F) rotating, as if by magic, at the front for, well, hours.
There was a strong feeling that Mathieu van der Poel would try a big attack on the Cipressa. As the race hit that penultimate climb, Jumbo swarmed to the front and kept the pace high to dissuade the Dutch National Champion from deploying his wattbombs. Jumbo’s pace was so furious that it caused problems for some of the pure sprinters. Who, given the way the race turned out, would have loved to be in contention later on.
Ineos Grenadiers were next to take control as the race headed to the Poggio and on that final climb, the eventual shape of the race formed. Julian Alaphilippe (DQS) tried to attack his way to freedom, Wout Van Aert went with him but the dynamic duo couldn’t give us a replay of last year’s edition.
WVA tried again but this time Caleb Ewan went with him. Yes, that’s right, the guy who looks so strong in any tight spot couldn’t get the little Aussie sprinter off his back wheel.
A group of 12 crested the Poggio and it looked like we could be in line for a bunch sprint. Jasper Stuyven decided he wasn’t going to wait for that (not with Ewan in the mix!). With 2.5 kilometres to go, he went for it, sparking a brief chase that fell apart quickly and, in the blink of an eye, the Belgian had a decent gap.
Soren Kragh (Team DSM) decided that Stuyven’s plan was a good one and headed off in his direction, making the catch fairly easily, while Stuyven looked to be tiring badly.
All the while, the group of favourites was bearing down on them and under the flamme rouge it looked like it would come back together. As Mathieu van der Paul made his move, Stuyven got a new lease of life and hit out for the finish. After 299 kms, Stuyven gave it everything he had left and crossed the line JUST ahead of Caleb Ewan to take the biggest win of his career. Wout Van Aert took third.
Just watch it, it’s good
Stuyven hit the deck, exhausted, after crossing the line but was very eloquent in his post-race interview:
“There’s three guys everyone was talking about. But we had a plan to go for it, for me to be up there. I felt good all day. I had to try all or nothing which I did. If it came to a sprint I’d finish 5th or lower. I went all in. I knew I could lose it all or get the biggest victory of my career. To win by one minute or one centimetre, it’s enough.“
Who’d have predicted this? Well, Andrew Rosch, actually. It was the chocolates that done it.
And the favourites?
Ah, the “big three”. Not their day I’m afraid.
Wout Van Aert at least got a podium step.
Mathieu van der Poel finished in sixth
Julian Alaphilippe was down in sixteenth
1 Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo) 6:38:06
2 Caleb Ewan (Lotto Soudal) same time
3 Wout Van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) s/t
4 Peter Sagan (yes really) (Bora-hansgrohe) s/t
5 Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) s/t
6 Michael Matthews (Bike Exchange) s/t
7 Alex Aranbruru (Astana-Premier Tech) s/t
8 Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain-seventious) s/t
9 Soren Kragh Andersen (Team DSM) s/t
10 Anthony Turgis (Total Direct Energie) s/t
The last word
A powerful thought
Sorry, wrong tweet. I meant this one
For full race review of the race, go to cyclingnews