In a classic Milano-Sanremo today, a nine-man breakaway shaped the first 260km, most of them in the rain. With 30km to go and the rain behind them, the last of the attackers were caught. At that point, pre-race favourites Peter Sagan (Bora – Hansgrohe) and Michal Kwiatkowski (Team Sky) were well positioned, as were several of the world’s leading sprinters. Then, with 6.5km to go, Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain – Merida) attacked. He crossed the Poggio alone with a 15-second lead and, despite a determined chase by Matteo Trentin (Mitchelton – Scott), followed by the speeding lead-out trains of Elia Viviani (Quick-Step Floors), Caleb Ewan (Mitchelton – Scott) and Arnaud Démare (Groupama FDJ), he held on to win to win the 190th Milano-Sanremo in style, with Caleb Ewan (Mitchelton – Scott) and Arnaud Démare (Groupama FDJ) second and third.
1 – Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain – Merida) – 294km in 7h18’43”, average speed 40.208km/h
2 – Caleb Ewan (Mitchelton – Scott) s.t.
3 – Arnaud Demare (Groupama FDJ) s.t.
The winner, Vincenzo Nibali, said in the press conference: “It hasn’t really sunk in yet, because it is all so unexpected. It was incredible. When the Latvian champion Neilands attacked, he asked me to collaborate. The team was riding for Colbrelli who was in great shape, but I saw Neilands was strong and when I saw we had opened a 20 second gap, I decided to continue that attack. At the top of the Poggio, where the gradient is a bit higher, I accelerated and then pressed on. I believed victoyr was within my reach in the final part of the race when I saw the empty road in front of me. Even so, the final 2km were interminable. Before the race I had two key points which in mind: the Cipressa, if there was a breakaway group of 6, 7 or even 9, I’d try to get into it, but without working. Then there was the Poggio, the most dangerous place, where an attack by Kwiatkowski, Van Avermaet or Sagan was likely. I was well positioned in the group behind Mohoric, waiting for someone to move, and to react to it, and that is what happened. In the final 50m, I knew I’d won. I could see the finish line ahead of me, and I made sure I enjoyed the victory. With Peter Sagan, I’m a great friend. He said to me, “What are you doing, waiting for the sprint?” I didn’t know what to say. My role today was a stopper, working for Colbrelli. I wanted to understand what Peter was doing. When I saw he was strong, I knew I had to go because I had great form. Peter is unpredictable, and a rider like me has to arrive alone. In the past, if I finish with Alaphilippe, Kwiatkowski or Gilbert, I always finish second. I was very cold-blooded in my decision-making. I knew I was working for the team and when I attacked I said, I have to go alone if I’m going to do anything. It was a very good move, so it was with the head, but also with the heart because to arrive alone to the finish line after all those kilometres and after all the rain, it needed a lot of determination. At the start of the season when I set my targets, its important to target races that really count. I felt I was behind in my preparation for Sanremo, but during Tirreno Adriatico my form grew and I was only lacking in the final 300m. I went home and rested, then I came to this Milano-Sanremo with great condition, which I only realised during the race. I finished last seasons by winning Il Lombardia, and started this season with Milano Sanremo. One day races are special for me, with make things difficult for me. Perhaps Milano Sanremo was the one I least expected to win because it doesn’t suit me. In the past I’ve attacked on the Poggio and made the podium, but I’ve always been beaten by a faster finish than mine, but I won and I am very happy.”
Second classified, Caleb Ewan, said: “The boys were so strong, so in the end we can’t have any regrets. That said, I came here in good form, so of course I am a bit disappointed with second place. Matteo Trentin was very strong today and he gave it his best shot. He got close but it wasn’t to be because Vincenzo Nibali was the strongest today.”
Third classified, Arnaud Demare, said: “The sprint was into a headwind so I knew I had to be patient. I got on the back of the Quick Step train but I could see we weren’t going to catch Nibali. He did something very special today, attacking into the headwind on the Poggio. Behind him Kwiatkowski attacked and Sagan brought him back, so the chase took time to organize. After the stage, it was something to be on the podium in front of a crowd of fans who adore him.”