Milan San-Remo

I never know how to truly feel about this race.

Once the peloton head to the coast and start to chase down the inevitable breakaway hopefuls it feels like the season has started in earnest.

This year there was a bit more excitement with the break holding that vital 1 minute per 10km left to race advantage until they went into the climbs at the back end of the race.

There were negatives. I felt a sort of inevitability about Tadej Pogacar just riding away from everyone to win either on the Cipressa or the Poggio and that made me sad.

People who win too often or are too dominant are now subjected to a scrutiny that exists in no other sport. The stars of tennis don’t have to continually justify their sporting cleanliness in the same way as cyclists.

I want to believe in Tadej. But the history of the sport means there is always an asterix. That’s just how it is and I hate those juiced up 1990’s cheat for that.

As it happened the rest of the race ganged up on Pogacar to ensure that he didn’t win. The speed of the race over the Cipressa, a pace set by both UAE and Jumbo, meant that the break was absorbed but that no-one could sneak away.

UAE kept this speed up on the flat coastal road between the final two climbs. In a way it telegraphed their team leaders motive and to no-ones surprise Pogacar jumped before half distance on the climb.

He was actively marked by Wout van Aert who later admitted that had stunted his ability to deliver maximum power at the finish. Mathieu Van der Poel on his first racing day of the season also committed much to stopping Pog from winning.

As they reached the top of the climb it was all fairly close with a large number of riders, including former winner and sprinter Arnaud Demare in contention.

The race was won on the descent with Matej Mohoric shrugging off that horrific crash he has last year in the Giro in Italy, by riding away on the tight turns using every bit of road and some driveway to get clear.

He was using an MTB seat post to get more aero but the way he rode I think he would have been too good for the rest on a chopper not a dropper.

He even survived dropping his chain in the last KM to out last the fast closing Anthony Turgis who will be desperate for a classic win soon to avoid becoming the next big thing not to win a big race.

Was this a brilliant race? Not really but then the drama in Milan San-Remo is always condensed into the last 10 minutes, not the proceeding 6 hours. However, we had a worthy winner and a positive performance to start the monument season, and I am happy with that.

RnkRiderTeamUCIPntTime
1 MOHORIČ MatejBahrain – Victorious5002756:27:49
2 TURGIS AnthonyTotalEnergies4002000:02
3 VAN DER POEL MathieuAlpecin-Fenix325150,,
4 MATTHEWS MichaelTeam BikeExchange – Jayco275120,,
5 POGAČAR TadejUAE Team Emirates225100,,
6 PEDERSEN MadsTrek – Segafredo17590,,
7 KRAGH ANDERSEN SørenTeam DSM15080,,
8 VAN AERT WoutJumbo-Visma12570,,
9 TRATNIK JanBahrain – Victorious100600:05
10 DÉMARE ArnaudGroupama – FDJ85500:11
from procyclingstats.com

2021 Worlds a race for the ages

Despite being, what I would call, a cycling buff, there are many instances where I can’t take in all of a race.

I have even written on this very website how the recent trend of tv coverage from flag to flag sometimes can feel like too much cycling.

The first instance of this trend I can remember was the 2015 Paris Roubaix where the first hour of action waiting for the break to form was much more entertaining that what went after it. So the television execs thought they’d hit on a successful formula and it stuck.

But for every race like that, there has been plenty where ‘sleepy’ would still be too active a description for the action.

Its content like that which gives commentators abuse on the internet. They can only call what they see and if nothing is happening the dead air is filled with less quality. Same goes for the racing.

But.

The 2021 world professional men’s road race yesterday was one occasion where if you invested the time at the start of the race, there were massive rewards at the finish.

The French national team rode the perfect race.

Unlike the Belgians who seemed to back both Remco Evenepoel and Wout van Aert before leaving home town rider Jasper Stuyven to content the finale, the raiding team from south of the border had a clear strategy.

They backed the defending champion to the hilt and were rewarded by his retention of the precious rainbow jersey.

From 140kms out Benoit Cosnefroy and Anthony Turgis were a total pain in the Belgians backsides with attacks and counter attacks forcing lots of chasing.

Italy were caught out in the first big split, something that might have contributed to a subdued finale from their main hope Sonny Colbrelli.

Mathieu Van der Poel was very subdued and was content to follow all day without having any impact on the race.

Julian Alaphillippe attacked four or five times to get his win with a number of these digs coming in the last lap and a half around Leuven.

He eventually wore them down with his desire to get clear and with Valentin Madouas working hard to help him establish his lead he was gone and gone for good.

The splinter group chasing him down had neither Van Aert, Tom Pidcock nor Van der Poel within it and didn’t have the power left to make the catch.

You can argue that Alaphillippe is all show and no content, but the wins he is racking up now make that point of view weak.

He is so entertaining to watch and his attack so wonderful to behold that you can’t help but be engaged and excited.

Last year he won with style. This year he won with persistence, style, panache and flair.

It truly was a world for the ages.

RnkRiderTeamUCIPntTime
1 ALAPHILIPPE JulianFrance6003505:56:34
2 VAN BAARLE DylanNetherlands4752600:32
3 VALGREN MichaelDenmark400190,,
4 STUYVEN JasperBelgium325150,,
5 POWLESS NeilsonUnited States275130,,
6 PIDCOCK ThomasGreat Britain2251100:49
7 ŠTYBAR ZdeněkCzech Republic1751001:06
8 VAN DER POEL MathieuNetherlands150901:18
9 SÉNÉCHAL FlorianFrance12580,,
10 COLBRELLI SonnyItaly10070,,
Top 10 from http://www.procyclingstats.com