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How to Win Sanremo

La Classicissima. A classic in the true sense. The first 250 kilometres a tense, fast ride, which we all inexplicably enjoy, the last 50 a sprint, never freewheeling, always at full pace. The sprinters sometimes grasp it, but it's often won in other fashions. But how?

It doesn't always end like this.
It doesn't always end like this.
Lars Ronbog/FrontzoneSport via Getty Images

It's 1907. Milan-San Remo is launched by Eugenio Costamagna, when the idea arose to have a major race, sponsored by Italian newspaper and catalyst for numerous races, La Gazzetta dello Sport, finishing in the city of San Remo, on the Ligurian coast. The route would take the hardy souls over the Passo del Turchino, which is still used in the race today, of course, and despite being the biggest climb in the race, is not seen as a huge threat to the sprinters, peaking 150 kilometres from the finish. The race itself was won by the double Tour de France winner, Argentinian-French Lucien Petit-Breton/Mazan, after attacking with Italian Giovanni Gerbi, and French compatriot Gustave Garrigou. The three fought out the race at the finish, with lack of co-operation letting Petit-Breton to escape, and win by 35 seconds from the two pursuers. Fourth place was half an hour behind. But onto the more likely outcomes.

A Sprint:

2014, 2009, 2005, 2004, 2002, 2001, 2000, 1998, 1997. Times in the last twenty years the race has ended in a bunch sprint, won by a bunch sprinter, with the same time as everyone else in the top 10. That's a percentage of 45%. It drops off greatly in the previous 80, the sprinters got stronger, leading to the introduction of Le Manie. Things that contribute to it include good weather, a headwind on the Poggio and a strong team. Zabel won 4 MSRs in a sprint, Cavendish one, and of course Kristoff last year.

Who can win with it: Alexander Kristoff, Mark Cavendish, Peter Sagan, Andre Greipel, Nacer Bouhanni, Arnaud Démare

cipo via roma Lars Ronbog/FrontzoneSport via Getty Images Lars Ronbog/FrontzoneSport via Getty Images

Photo by Lars Ronbog/FrontzoneSport via Getty Images

A Sprint from a Small Group:

We've all seen it. The fun way to win MSR. Seán Kelly and countless others who don't trust themselves to put out the watts in a bunch gallop are and were  exponents of this technique, you go away with a few friends at the top of the Poggio and hope like hell that the peloton can't organise a chase. This works best if you're a good sprinter, see Gerald Ciolek. You can go on the descent, like Kelly and Argentin in '92, or on the Poggio, like Fignon and Fondriest in '88.

Who can win with it: Gerald Ciolek, Edvald Boassen Hagen, Peter Sagan, Greg Van Avermaet, Fabian Cancellara, Grega Bole, Michal Kwiatkowski, Zdenek Stybar, Filippo Pozzato, Tony Gallopin, Tim Wellens, Juan Jose Lobato, Michael Matthews, Ramunas Navardauskas, John Degenkolb, Geraint Thomas, Matti Breschel.


Fotoreporter Sirotti

Win Alone:

This one 'ain't easy. By no means is it easy. For this to work you must attack hard, and ride at full speed in the wind for up to 20 kilometres. Nibali tries it every year. The last person to do it successfully was Giorgio Furlan (cough), attacking on the Poggio and beating Cipollini's surge for second by 20 seconds. Previously there were the attacks of climbers Claudio Chiappuchi in 1991, and Fignon in 1989, going between the two final climbs, something you'd be hard pressed to do today. There was also Francesco Moser and Giuseppi Saronni in the early '80s. It was of course more common in the early runnings of the race.

Who can win with it: Vincenzo Nibali, Fabian Cancellara, Michal Kwiatkowski, Rui Costa, Tom Dumoulin.

Win From The Break:

It's not unusual to see the breakaway take a win in cycling. Not even in a classic. But in a monument as prestigious as Milan-San Remo, it's quite surprising. This is all to the benefit of Marc Gomez, who in 1982 joined the 20-rider move, which by the Cipressa had been whittled down to three. Gomez, Alain Bondue and Claudio Bortoletto. Gomez attacked on the Cipressa, dropping Bortoletto, but Bondue, the fastest sprinter, led up the Poggio and looked like he had the race in his grasp by the time the riders started the descent. However, two slips on the notorious downhill sent him 10 seconds down, in second place to Gomez at the finish. Perpetual podium finisher at the race, Moreno Argentin, was 2 minutes behind in third place.

And finally...

Attack in the Snow, and Win by an Hour:

Eugene Christophe. The man credited for the yellow jersey. But this was his greatest exploit. Struggling up the Turchino, six minutes in arrears, he went into an inn, and refreshed himself. Rejuvenated, he struggled on, as all but four abandoned, to win the truly epic race by an hour. It's safe to say that this won't be repeated on Sunday.