Julian Alaphilippe won Milan San-Remo on Saturday afternoon, comfortably winning a sprint from a group of ten that went clear over the top of the Poggio. He was joined on the podium by Olivier Naesen and Michal Kwiatkowski.
This year’s first monument went according to the script, with a large break given plenty of room on the road and building up a sizable gap. The ten riders, including six Italians and four representatives of Novo Nordisk, were steadily reeled back in as the race hit the coast in perfect weather. Quick Step, UAE, Lotto Soudal and Groupama-FDJ were among the teams working at the front and by the foot of the Cipressa only Fausto Masnada was left in front.
Masnada was caught on the earliest slopes of the penultimate climb and there were few fireworks on the climb, though a daring attack on the technical descent saw Niccolo Bonifazio get a lead that crept out above twenty seconds, but he was soon brought back in and the field hit the Poggio all together. By the late stages of the race conditions were perfect with temperatures in the low twenties, a light headwind and blue skies, making a sprint seem likelier and likelier.
Deceuninck, however, had other ideas and Zdenyk Stybar and Philippe Gilbert were put to work on the front for Alaphilippe, even as their team-mate Elia Viviani lost his position in the strung-out peloton. The inevitable attack came towards the top of the Poggio and was set in motion by Alberto Bettiol. Alaphilippe quickly passed him and was joined on the descent by a group of highly-fancied riders, including Peter Sagan, Alejandro Valverde and Wout van Aert. Further riders would catch the group on the approaches into San Remo, with 2018 winner Vincenzo Nibali and Michael Matthews among the fancied riders to make the final group.
On the flat final 2km first Matteo Trentin and then Matej Mohoric launched attacks that were brought back with some ease, van Aert doing most of the work on the front of the group. There was a hiatus before the final sprints were launched as the group looked around but, with Sagan looking one way, Alaphilippe launched a sprint from the other side and went a few bike lengths clear and celebrated before he crossed the line, ahead of a fast-finishing Oliver Naesen, with his first monument podium.
Alaphilippe has long been a rising talent and enjoyed a superb 2018, winning La Fleche Wallone and Clasica San Sebastian, as well as the mountains classification in the Tour de France. Yet this marked his first monument victory, coming two weeks after he took Strade Bianche, the other major Italian one-day race of the spring. This was his seventh win of the young season and he’ll be a strong favourite for all the Ardennes races in April.
It is for his performance, and the continued dominance of the Deceuninck-Quick Step team (who’ve now won 19 races this year) that this otherwise unexceptional edition of Milan-San Remo will be remembered. It is hard to believe it’ll be the team’s last monument of the year, or the last of Alaphilippe’s career.
- Julian Alaphilippe, Deceuninck-Quick Step
- Oliver Naesen, AG2R La Mondiale
- Michal Kwiatkowski, Team Sky
- Peter Sagan, Bora Hansgrohe
- Matej Mohoric, Bahrain Merida
- Wout van Aert, Team Jumbo-Visma
- Alejandro Valverde, Movistar Team
- Vincenzo Nibali, Bahrain Merida
- Simon Clarke, EF Education-First
- Matteo Trentin, Mitchelton-Scott