Matthews back on track after Milan-San Remo

Despite starting Milan-San Remo with just a day and a half of racing in his legs Michael Matthews (Team Sunweb) delivered a dogged, if not successful, performance to finish 12th on the Via Roma.

Earlier in the month, the Australian crashed during Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, soldiering on to the finish, but he was forced to abandon Paris-Nice after crashing on the first stage. In fact, Matthews was expected to miss several months of the campaign due his injuries but after another scan of an injured wrist he was given the all-clear on Wednesday to race Milan-San Remo.

He was still in contention on the Poggio – despite his lack of race miles – but when Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-QuickStep) unleashed an attacked that formed the winning move, Matthews was forced onto the back foot. A valiant chase saw him come within a few seconds of the lead group, and although Alaphilippe would continue his incredible run of form, the sight of Matthews almost making the front group would have greatly pleased his team.

“It was pretty crazy, especially after my last race where I had a massive crash,” he told Cyclingnews at the finish. “To come into this race, where it’s so hectic in the last 80 kilometers is pretty scary to be honest. I just tried to turn my mind off, not think about it, and just race.

“When it was such an easy race, the sprinters were hoping that it would be a bunch sprint in the final. A lot of the sprint teams came to the front to slow it down but then Astana put on some pace in order to spice it up a little bit. Then, all the fireworks started after the first half of the Poggio. It was QuickStep who lit it up and then set up Alaphilippe for his big attack.”

At that point, the lack of race miles finally caught up with Matthews and the Australian was forced to ride at his own tempo. Depsite losing ground to the favourites, the 28-year-old was still good enough to drop the pure sprinters and the rest of the trailing peloton. For a rider with just over 600km of racing – including San Remo – in his legs since the start of the year, it was an admirable performance.

“I was a bit pinned at the bottom when they started riding at the bottom and then I came good towards the middle. The plan then was for Tom [Dumoulin] to attack and I just tried to stay as far up to the front as I could but I was totally dead. This was my first race in two weeks, so it was a hard day.

“It’s still nice to be back. When Tom attacked I was on his wheel but I decided to leave a gap to see if he could do something with Alaphilippe and some of the others. I just tried to get over as best I could but I couldn’t get on the descent.”

Matthews would finish just one spot and a few seconds behind his teammate Dumoulin, and given his momentum and form coming into the race the Australian could take a significant degree of optimism from his performance.

“Today was better than I expected. I thought that I was going to be dropped on the Cipressa, so getting over the Poggio with some of the best guys is a positive for sure. We’ll just see where we go from here.”

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Vos powers to her first 2019 Women’s WorldTour win at Trofeo Binda

Former world champion wins sprint from breakaway group of eight as peloton closes to within seconds in tense final

Marianne Vos opened her 2019 account, winning an exciting edition of the Trofeo Binda in Italy on Sunday.

A winner of the race north of Milan on three provious occasions, Vos out-sprinted a small group of seven other riders, with Amanda Spratt (Mitchelton-Scott) second and Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (Bigla) third.

The final 10 kilometres had been hugely tense with the eight woman final breakaway escaping over the top of the race’s closing climb, but with Vos present it did not settle, no one wanting to go the line with her.

Attack followed attack, but none were able to make a meaningful gap, while behind them Sunweb led a concerted chase. Riding for 2017 winner, US champion Coryn Rivera, the they used their remaining riders to support her and entered the final kilometre just seven seconds down.

However, Vos had her CCC-Liv team mate, Ashleigh Moolman Pasio with her, and the South African worked hard to successfully hold the chasers off, with the majority of the chasing group finishing less than ten seconds down.

The race in the hills west of Lake Maggiore, used to be known as a climber’s race but in recent years larger groups have crested the final climb, 7.3km from the line, opening the race up.

A clear indication of the development within the women’s sport, the race remains perpetually exciting with a wide range of riders able to affect the result. 

The event also hosts the opening round of the Junior Women’s Nations Cup, which has previously been a happy hunting ground for British riders. This year British junior road champion Amelia Sharpe narrowly missed out on a podium spot, sprinting to fourth place.

How it happened

The 131.1km race started not far from the shores of Lake Maggiore, north of Milan, in the village of Taino and within six kilometres tracks were pinging off the front of the 132 woman bunch.

The speed of the peloton was so high nothing was allowed to go clear though, and the race was set to be one of attrition with the selections being made from behind.

The race consisted of one long opening loop into the tree clad hills, followed by four shorter circuits over the races’s two signature climbs of Casalzuigno and Orino.

On the long loop the short steep climb to Cunardo served to split the race, with a large group of around 60 women emerging. Then, on the ensuing undulations, a group of eight managed to get away, though with 90km still to go they were soon caught and Tayler Wiles (Trek-Segafredo) escaped solo, soon building a lead of 45 seconds.

As the leader passed the finish line for the second of six times, Diana Peñuela (Alé-Cippolini) and Mikayla Harvey (Bigla) attacked the bunch attempting to bridge to Wiles, who by then had only 30 seconds lead. However all they succeeded in doing was dragging the bunch up to the leader, and the race re-formed on the climb to Orino.

Half way up, and with 62km to go, for the second Women’s WorldTour race in succession, Mitchelton-Scott’s Grace Brown attacked the and gained a lead of 45 seconds, she was chased by Bigla’s Leah Thomas, though the latter failed to get on terms.

The next time round Brown crested the climb alone, but with a small advantage and she was eventually caught on the descent.

Each of the successive climbs to Orino whittled the peloton slightly and it was a smaller bunch from which former mountain bike world champion Jolanda Neff (Trek-Segafredo) attacked on the descent.

However, as the race hotted up, she was caught by a group of less than 50 when the race crossed the finish line 10 minutes ahead of the fastest schedule with two 17.8km laps to ride.

The penultimate Orino climb brought more pressure from the leading bunch, but it was on the final ascent that the winner emerged from the chaos of continued attacks.

Result

Trofeo Alfredo Binda Comune di Cittiglio: Tiano to Cittiglio (131.1km)

1. Marianne Vos (Ned) CCC-Liv in 3-27-07
2. Amanda Spratt (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott
3. Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (Den) Bigla
4. Anastasiia Chursina (Rus) BTC City Ljubljana all at same time
5. Elena Cecchini (Ita) Canyon-SRAM at .01 sec
6. Kasia Niewiadoma (Pol) Canyon-SRAM
7. Emilia Fahlin (Swe) FDJ Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope
8. Coryn Rivera (USA) Sunweb
9. Soraya Paladin (Ita) Alé-Cippolini
10. Erica Magnaldi (Ita) WNT Rotor all at same time nbsp;

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Fabio Aru to miss Giro d’Italia after surgery for constricted iliac artery

The Italian faces time off the bike with upcoming surgery

Italian Fabio Aru (UAE Team Emirates) will miss the 2019 Giro d’Italia, facing surgery for a constructed iliac artery in his left leg.

The 2015 Vuelta a España winner had already begun his season, but now must sit out for up to four months.

“From a certain point of view, I can only be relieved to have highlighted the problem; on the other hand, I am angry about the bad luck that has fallen on me for the umpteenth time and that will force me to miss the Giro d’Italia again,” Aru said.

“I will work to try to put an end to this dark period as soon as possible.”

The dark period spanned the past years. Aru sat out the 2017 Giro d’Italia that began on his home island of Sardinia due to a crash in training. Last year, he suffered through the race and abandoned on stage 19. After exams, he said that he is not gluten intolerant, but his body struggles to absorb pasta and carbohydrates.

The Vuelta a España did not go well and that frustration showed when he crashed and cursed the team’s bike sponsor live on television. Then he pulled out of the running for the Italian national team heading to the World Championships.

The numbers in 2019 began to worry him and the Emirates team.

“It is a feeling that I feel when I have to go all-out, while the symptom disappears at a medium pace, so much so that in training I get the basic numbers,” Aru added.

“After the start of the season, Aru again encountered difficulties in getting up to that normal level that he and the team hoped for,” team doctor Jeroen Swart said. “Recently, Fabio developed more specific symptoms related to his left leg: he felt feelings of weakness in the limb after intense training and in race efforts.

“In view of these symptoms, further medical tests have shown a constriction of the iliac artery in his left leg. This relatively rare condition is found in professional cyclists given the position adopted on their bikes and can develop progressively over a period of several years.”

Other riders had the same problem in recent years – including Joe Dombrowski (EF Education First) – and have returned to racing. The upcoming surgery will see Aru miss upcoming races the Volta a Cataluyna, the Giro di Sicilia and his season goal, the Giro d’Italia.

“In the coming days, with a date to be determined based on the availability of the hospital, Aru will undergo angioplasty surgery at the Nuovo Ospedale di Prato, after which he will have to observe an absolute rest period of one month,” said Swart. “For something like this, the return time is estimated at three or four months.”

Aru said, “I thank the team for the closeness shown this year and a half and for working with me to find the solution to the problems that have plagued me. We really hope this is the final chapter.”

He last won in the 2017 Tour de France and wore the yellow jersey. Since joining UAE Team Emirates, his best result has been a fourth place in a Tirreno-Adriatico stage.

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Sunday trading: Save £100 on a set of Giro Empire SLX shoes plus big deals on wheels

It’s Sunday, so it’s time for our latest pick of bargains from the online retailers

For this week’s instalment of Sunday trading we’ve found some seriously good deals on Giro Cycling shoes, including £100 off the excellent Giro Empire SLXs. To honour the Spring classics we’ve also found a deal on the Castelli Gabba jersey, the perfect short-sleeved wet weather top. Finally, because summer is truly only just round the corner we’ve also got a great deal on some deep section Shimano wheels.

The products featured have been chosen because we know they’re good quality and are an excellent offer at the price we’ve included (at the time of writing). Our tech team have unrivalled expertise and years of experience testing new products, so you can trust our recommendations – and we also know what represents a good deal. Where we’ve reviewed the product we’ve included a link to it so you can read more.

With each product is a ‘Buy Now’ link. If you click on this then we may receive a small amount of money from the retailer when you purchase the item. This doesn’t affect the amount you pay.

Giro Empire SLX were £289, now £188.99

Giro Empire SLX cycling shoes

Giro Empire SLX cycling shoes

Read more: Giro Empire SLX shoe review

The excellent Giro Empire SLX road shoes are currently discounted by a whopping £100 on ProBikeKit. We’re big fans of these shoes as they’re superbly comfortable, with a very supple upper and laces but a stiff carbon sole for putting down the power when it matters.

Buy now: Giro Empire SLX road shoes at ProBikeKit for £188.99

Giro Empire ACC were £259, now from £159

Read more: Giro Empire ACC review

Sticking with the Giro theme, these Giro ACC models are now discounted by up to 32%. They’re subtly different to the SLXs above due to a slightly harder upper and a different carbon sole. They still look amazing though.

Buy now: Giro Empire ACC shoes at Chain Reaction Cycles from £159.99

Shimano Dura-Ace R9100 C60 carbon wheelset was £1600, now £999

These 50mm deep carbon rim braking wheels are specifically designed to increase rigidity, stability and aerodynamics. 16 spokes on the front and 21 on the rear help increase stiffness for maximum ride speed.

Buy now: Shimano Dura-Ace R9100 C60 carbon wheelset at Merlin Cycles for £999

Castelli Gabba 3 at Tredz was £170, now £75

Read more: Castelli Gabba jersey review

The Castelli Gabba jersey has long been held up as the bad weather jersey, made famous at the Classic races. Now in its third iteration, the Gabba is constructed from the Windstopper X-Lite fabric with an updated DWR treatment for extra protection.

Buy now: Castelli Gabba 3 jersey at Tredz for £75

Buy now: Powertap P1 power meter pedals for £549.99 from Probikekit

More great deals:

Shimano Dura-Ace R9100 groupset was £1874.99 now £1049.99

Topeak Race rocket minipump was £28.99 now £19

Castelli women’s Pro Mesh sleeveless baselayer was £56 now £30.79

Topeak Aero Wedge saddle pack was from £21.99 now from £13.99

Continental GP5000 tyres pair with free inner tubes were £120 now £84.95

Specialized Body Geometry Sport mitts were £20.99 now £9.99

Shimano Ultegra R6700 10 speed chain was £31.99 now £21.99

Schwalbe G-One Evo Microskin 35mm tyre was £59 now £38.99

Tacx Bushido smart trainer was £549 now £284.99

Vermarck Lotto-Soudal bibshorts were £89.99 now £53.99

Assos Skinfoil sleeveless baselayer was £50 now £29.99

Specialized Echelon 2 helmet was £59.99 now £44.99

Endura Windchill II arm warmers were £25.99 now £20

Shimano SPD-SL cleats were £19.99 now £9.95

Endura Cairn short sleeved jersey was £34.99 now £7

Lazer Magneto M1 cycling glasses were £99.99 now from £37.99

Zipp Service Course bars were £109 now from £57.99

Shimano Ultegra R8000 cassette was £74.99 now from £49.99

Lifeline Pavo 2000 lumen front light was £170 now £69.99

Orange Seal Endurance sealant was £10.99 now £7.99

Specialized Road Comp shoes were £149.99 now £74.99

Don’t forget to look back for more fantastic Sunday Trading deals next week.

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Julian Alaphilippe on Milan-San Remo win: ‘This is a huge moment in my career’

The Frenchmen celebrates a major milestone having won his first Monument

Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quick Step) is celebrating a “huge moment” in his career after winning Milan-San Remo on Saturday (March 23) on Italy’s Mediterranean coast.

The 26-year-old Frenchman won his seventh race of the 2019 season and the first Monument in a career that is starting to rocket.

“I’ve got my special style in different races. I like that. I’ve won some good races but never won a Monument, it’s a huge personal satisfaction,” he said. “This is huge moment in my career.”

He attacked before the top of the Poggio and was joined by others, including Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe), before riding tactically in the six kilometres to San Remo.

>>> Five things we learned from the 2019 Milan-San Remo

Milan-San Remo is icing on a cake that included two stages in the Tour de France and the mountains jersey, Flèche Wallonne and the Clásica San Sebastián last year.

“I’ve still got some big dreams, I’ve not reached my best yet. I was close to a Worlds win, so I’d rather win a worlds than a Tour de France stage,” he continued.

“It’s simply a sensation of joy. It’s difficult to understand but I came here to win, it was my goal and the team’s goal, and we did it.

“I’m really proud to have won and of the way my team rode. We were solid and united in the final. Tim Declercq worked all day and then Zdenek Stybar was incredible.”



When the team’s sprinter Elia Viviani slipped away on the Poggio, it became clear that Alaphilippe was the sharp end of the Deceuninck – Quick-Step arrow. He had Stybar, but also stars like Philippe Gilbert firing on the front to soften his rivals before he attacked.

“I made a big effort on Poggio, then I tried to recover on the Poggio descent. I knew it’d be difficult to win with the rivals I faced but I stayed calm and made no mistakes, then I did a huge sprint,” he continued.

>>> Peter Sagan says he missed Milan-San Remo sprint while watching Alejandro Valverde

“The speed on Poggio decides the final of the race. If there’s a headwind, the sprinters can get over the Poggio with us. I asked my team-mates to be in top-three or max top-five at the start of the Poggio. We did that and went the speed we wanted. I tried to recover in the corners to not have to move up.

“I went from far out but then when I looked left and right, nobody was there. It was an incredible moment, as was celebrating with my team-mates after the line.”

Alaphilippe began the Monument as a star favourite following wins in Strade Bianche and two stages in Tirreno-Adriatico last week.

“I was the big favourite, people were talking about me even at Tirreno-Adriatico and so I felt it. But I trusted myself and stayed calm,” he said.

“I knew I had good form and recovered after Tirreno-Adriatico. I also knew the team was with me, so I stayed focused on what I had to do and what people expected from me. Living up to expectations is fantastic.”

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Five things we learned from the 2019 Milan-San Remo

From Alaphilippe’s first Monument to another near miss for Sagan, there’s plenty to talk about

Delighted Alaphilippe wins his first Monument

There’s no question as to who the best rider of 2019 has been so far. Just two weeks after landing one of the season’s first major Classics, Strade Bianche, Julian Alaphilippe won the season’s first Monument, Milan-San Remo on Saturday (March 23). That’s his seventh win of the season, which includes a couple more WorldTour-ranked stages at Tirreno-Adriatico, and is the highest total anyone has mustered so far.

For all his success, Milan-San Remo is the big one. It’s the Frenchman’s first ever Monument victory, having come so close in previous years by podiuming here two years ago, as well as placing second at both Liège-Bastogne-Liège in 2015 and Il Lombardia in 2017.

For a non-specialist sprinter like Alaphilippe, Milan-San Remo is a very difficult race to win. The odds are generally weighted in favour of sprinters, and many world class puncheurs (like, for example, Alaphilippe’s teammate Philippe Gilbert) spend their whole careers making strong, bold attacks in vain.

Julian Alaphilippe wins the first Monument of his career at Milan-San Remo (Photo: Yuzuru SUNADA)

But the 26-year old road a textbook race, attacking on the Poggio to instigate the winning move, drifting to the back of it to preserve his energy, and only emerging at the front again to time his finishing sprint perfectly.

Whatever happens from now on, this win ensures that Alaphilippe’s season has been a success. But you expect that he’s far from finished – with the Ardennes Classics to come, this purple patch looks set to continue.

Deceuninck – Quick-Step continue invincible streak

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, Deceuninck – Quick-Step once again rode a tactically perfect race, and once again came out triumphant – their fifth Classic victory already this spring.

On the Poggio, it became clear that they were all in for Alaphilippe. Zdenek Stybar and Philippe Gilbert moved to the front of the peloton to set a searing pace, and did not let up even when the team’s sprinter, Elia Viviani, began to fall adrift at the back of the peloton.

At the time, giving up such a strong card to play seemed like a considerable risk, but the team’s faith in Alaphilippe was justified when the Frenchman followed up an explosive attack with a superior sprint to win yet another Classic.



Cycling has rarely seen dominance of the kind Deceuninck – Quick-Step have enjoyed these past two seasons, and the team’s togetherness was summed up in one image at the finish – Stybar, Gilbert, Viviani and Yves Lampaert (all riders who set aside their realistic ambitions of winning themselves for the good of the team) crossing the line in unison, each with broad smiles painted on their faces.

An unusual finish

Most recent editions of Milan-San Remo tend to follow one of two clear templates – those that end in bunch finishes, and those in which a small breakaway on the Poggio succeeds.

This year, however, was unusual in terms of the size of the escape group that made it to the line to contest for victory. Alaphilippe instigated the action on the Poggio, but was followed by several other riders, and a total of seven crested the top together – him, Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe), Michał Kwiatkowski ( Team Sky), Oliver Naesen (Ag2r La Mondiale), Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma), Matteo Trentin (Mitchelton-Scott) and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar).

That group got even bigger when another flurry of stragglers led by Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb) bridged across on the descent, yet they remained cohesive enough to fend off the chasing peloton.

>>> Specialized and Peter Sagan collaborate on beautiful new S-Works colours

This being the third successive Milan-San Remo in which the sprinters were foiled – following three editions between 2014-16 which all ended in bunch sprints – you wonder whether the pendulum has shifted in favour of attackers over sprinters, perhaps because of smaller team sizes, or perhaps because of the wealth of quality puncheurs in the peloton at present.

Whatever the reason, the likes of Fernando Gaviria (UAE Team Emirates), Arnaud Démare (Groupama-FDJ) and Caleb Ewan (Lotto-Soudal) will need to devise a plan to control the attacks come next year’s edition.

Sagan frustrated again

One of the intriguing mysteries leading up to the race was whether Peter Sagan had the form and the fitness to at last win Milan-San Remo.

The former three-time world champion has been sick in the weeks preceding the race, and had not been his usual self in the early season races, with just one win to his name.

However, he was in the mix when the action kicked off on the Poggio, and circumstances seemed to have played perfectly into his hands as the 12-man group approached the finish. Was he finally about to claim victory in a race that had eluded him for the past decade?

Peter Sagan (right) suffered another near miss in Milan-San Remo (Photo : Yuzuru SUNADA / Pool)

That’s when things went wrong. He found himself at the front of the group on the Via Roma finishing straight, the worst possible position with all the other riders in his slipstream. After knocking off his pace, he was then slow to respond when Matej Mohorič (Bahrain-Merida) started the sprint, and was playing catch up while Alaphilippe made his explosive move, and ultimately had the settle for fourth place behind riders you’d usually expect him to beat in a sprint.

Coincidentally, one of the riders was Kwiatkowski, the same man who denied him victory at the 2017 Milan-San Remo. The Pole was third this time behind Oliver Naesen, a rider we associate more with the cobbled Classics, and who looked delighted with his unexpected second-place finish.

Earlier breaks animate race

Not a lot happens in Milan-San Remo before the breathless activity of the final half hour, so we were grateful to the riders who put their nose to the wind in the earlier stages.

Usually the Cipressa prompts attacks from hopeful outside bets, but this time no-one attempted to break out of the Astana and EF Education-First led peloton.

Things livened up on the descent, however, when Niccolo Bonifazio (Direct Energie) leaped out of the bunch. Given his credentials as a bunch sprinter, it was a surprise move, but the young Italian descended with real panache to briefly lead the race, before the inevitable upping of the pace on the run-in to the Poggio.

>>> Cost of Team Sky women’s squad would be ‘a drop in the ocean’ compared to men’s budget

For most of the day, a breakaway of ten riders lead the race, four of which were from the Novo Nordisk team. The group may never have had a chance of contesting for the victory, but it made for great publicity for the team’s mission statement to “inspire, educate and empower people affected by diabetes” – all four of their riders in the break (Joonas Henttala, Andrea Peron, Charles Planet and Umberto Poli) have type 1 diabetes.

Fausto Masnada (Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec) was the final survivor of the break, but his remote dream was also extinguished when the peloton swallowed him up on the Cipressa.

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Peter Sagan says he missed Milan-San Remo sprint while watching Alejandro Valverde

The three-time world champion fell short at the line again in the Italian Monument

Peter Sagan was hit by a slightly different curse of the rainbow jersey in Milan-San Remo, as he missed the sprint while watching his world champion successor Alejandro Valverde (Movistar).

The Slovakian again fell short in one of the Monuments missing from his palmarès, after he made the elite group with an attack over the Poggio.

But tactics on the Via Roma worked against him, as Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck -Quick-Step) won the sprint finish from an elite group and Sagan placed fourth.

“Deceuninck – Quick-Step did a good job on the climb and then Alaphilippe just was very strong,” Sagan said after the race.

“We kept him close and after I tried to do something with Kwiatkowski and Valverde but they just controlled the situation. After it was an unpredictable situation when we went down into San Remo.”

>>> Specialized and Peter Sagan collaborate on beautiful new S-Works colours 

In San Remo’s streets, cyclocross star Wout Van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) pulled back a move by Matteo Trentin (Mitchelton-Scott) and Sagan, who found himself on the front too early, became swamped.

“Matteo Trentin tried to attack in the last two kilometres and I just tried to close the gap. After another tried to attack and then Alaphilippe tried to attack, [Bahrain-Merida’s Matej] Mohorič attacked. Then we all came together,” Sagan said.



“I got a little stuck on the front for the sprint. It was a sprint from a low speed. When we opened the sprint, I was looking for Valverde and they passed me on the left and I was on the right. Alaphilippe had two bike lengths and it as hard to get him back.”

Alaphilippe won his seventh race of the season, cruising to a monumental win after recent wins in Strade Bianche and Tirreno-Adriatico.

>>> André Greipel to ride 2019 Tour de France as final wildcard places announced

Sagan already has a Tour of Flanders win and from 2018, a Paris-Roubaix victory. He has come second in San Remo twice already and now fourth twice.

“What can I do?” he asked.

“Milan-San Remo is totally different to the other Classics. I was on a good day, I thought I’d be worse.”

Next for Sagan is E3 and then the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix. Deceuninck – Quick-Step won this round, but can Sagan bounce back?

“Yeah,” he said. “We’ll see. I’ll try my best.”

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Unbeatable Julian Alaphilippe sprints to victory in Milan-San Remo 2019

The Frenchman was part of an elite selection that went clear on the Poggio

Julian Alaphilippe remains unbeatable as he took a sprint victory from an elite group in Milan-San Remo.

The Frenchman tore the race open with an attack on the Poggio, being followed by a selection of the strongest riders in the world.

As an 11-man group, including Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe), Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) and world champion Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), came into the final straight, Alaphilippe (Deceuninck – Quick-Step) opened his sprint and proved himself the strongest man, taking the first Monument of his career.

How it happened

The 2019 edition of ‘La Primavera’ followed an identical route to the previous two editions, over 291km from Milan to the Via Roma in San-Remo, 30km from the French border near Nice.

First heading south from Milan, the race hit the beautiful Liguria coastal region and turned west to follow the Mediterranean to San Remo.

Riders were faced with the familiar collection of climbs, starting with the Passo del Turchino 140km into the race, before the iconic run to the line.

In the closing 60km, the peloton raced over the Capo Mele, Capo Cervo and Capo Berta before the iconic duo of the Cipressa and Poggio.

The 7km-long Cipressa averages 4.1 per cent with a maximum of nine per cent, but has traditionally been deemed too far from the finish to act as a springboard to victory.

A 3km decent from the peak was followed by a 9km flat run to the final test of the day, the Poggio.

The 4km ascent, averaging just 3.7 per cent but hitting a maximum gradient of eight per cent has been the decisive moment in the previous two editions.

A technical descent of 3km sets up the final 3km flat run to the finish on the famous Via Roma.

In the opening kilometres a breakaway of 10 went clear and settled in for a long day out front.

Fausto Masnada (Androni Giocattoli – Sidermec), Mirco Maestri, Alessandro Tonelli (Bardiani – CSF), Guy Sagiv (Israel Cycling Academy), Luca Raggio, Sebastian Schönberger (Neri Sottoli – Selle Italia – KTM), Joonas Henttala, Andrea Peron, Charles Planet and Umberto Poli (Team Novo Nordisk) made up the move.

The break pulled out a 10-minute advantage at it’s maximum, with the peloton reeling them back to 5-40 with 100km left to race.

A slight tailwind of 7km/h assisted the riders along the coast, as the peloton wound the breakaway down to 90 seconds 40km from the line.

At the front of the peloton, much of the chasing was shared by Team Sky, Mitchelton-Scott, Trek-Segafedo and Lotto-Soudal.

The closing bunch sparked a reaction from the breakaway, as Schönberger attacked on the Capo Berta to delay the inevitable for a little long.

Maestri and Raggio caught up with Schönberger and were then joined by Masnada who attacked on the technical descent from the capo.

The remaining breakaway riders, Schönberger, Maestri, Raggio. Planet and Sagiv, held onto their advantage ahead of the bunch as Masnada committed to his solo dig, his gap falling to 40 seconds 30km out.

The teams driving the peloton set a rapid pace on the approach to the Cipressa, with Sky applying pressure and Groupama-FDJ joining the action for former winner Arnaud Démare.

The remains of the breakaway were caught at the foot of the penultimate climb, with Masnada determined to stay away but finally being caught half way up the Cipressa.

With 23km on the clock, we saw the first cracks in the sprinters as Dylan Groenewegen (Jumbo-Visma), on his debut at Milan-San Remo, dangled precariously at the back of the bunch but valiantly fought and was able to keep in contact over the top.

UAE Team Emirates and Deceuninck – Quick-Step made their presence felt as the race hit the top of the Cipressa,

Direct Energie sprinter Niccolò Bonifazio unleashed a huge attack on the descent, riding right on the edge and hitting the bottom 11 seconds ahead of the bunch with 17.9km to race.

The peloton split under the pace of the chase as around 30 riders formed the front group.

It came back together quickly, luckily for Caleb Ewan whose Lotto-Soudal team were caught out.

The 9km flat stretch to the foot of the Poggio looked like it would break the will of Bonifazio, but the Italian managed to extended the gap out to 22 seconds as teams were reluctant to chase 12km from home.

CCC Team, riding for Greg Van Avermaet, took control and brought the gap down to 10 seconds and Bonifazio was caught before the foot of the final climb.

Deceuninck – Quick-Step once again joined the front of the race, with Mitchelton-Scott and Lotto-Soudal riding alongside as the race hit the Poggio.

Michał Kwiatkowski, winner in 2017, moved to the front with team-mate Luke Rowe leading the race.

Zdenek Stybar took control with Julian Alaphilippe glued to his wheel.

World champion Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Fernando Gaviria (UAE Team-Emirates) were all present at the head of the race on the lower slopes.

Italian champion Viviani slipped a long way back in the peloton but looked to be holding his position 7km from the line.

Groenewegen clung on to the back of the bunch but looked in danger of being dropped.

Stybar buried himself 2km from the summit of the climb, but couldn’t discourage Alberto Bettiol (EF Education First) from attacking and pulling out a small gap.

Alaphillipe opened up and went straight past Bettiol, with Kwiatkowski and Sagan chasing.

The attacks opened up a gap with seven riders leading as Valverde, Matteo Trentin (Mitchelton-Scott), and Oliver Naesen (Ag2r La Mondiale) also made the selection at the top of the Poggio.

Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb) bridged across to the front group, as Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) formed part of a chasing group that had also gone clear of the peloton.

John Degenkolb (Trek-Segafredo) was hit by a mechanical on the descent, making his frustration evident.

Trentin attacked 2km out as the race hit the flat run to the line, with Wout Van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) closing down the gap.

Alaphilippe opened his sprint early and was able to pass Sagan who found himself boxed in.

Naesen was tied to Alaphilippe’s wheel but didn’t have the strength to come past, as Kwiatkowski gained quickly but had to settle for third.

The Frenchman crossed the line with his arms raised to win the first Monument of his career.

Results

Milan-San Remo 2019 (291km)

1. Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Deceuninck – Quick-Step, in 6-40-14
2. Oliver Naesen (Bel) Ag2r La Mondiale
3. Michał Kwiatkowski (Pol) Team Sky
4. Peter Sagan (Svk) Bora-Hansgrohe
5. Matej Mohorič (Slo) Bahrain-Merida
6. Wout Van Aert (Bel) Jumbo-Visma
7. Alejandro Valverde (Esp) Movistar
9. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Bahrain-Merida
10. Matteo Trentin (Ita) Mitchelton-Scott, all at same time

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Welcome to Yorkshire boss Sir Gary Verity resigns amid expenses investigation

Verity was a key figure in bringing the Tour de France to the UK and founding the Tour de Yorkshire

Sir Gary Verity has resigned from Welcome to Yorkshire amid an investigation into his behaviour towards staff and his expenses.

Verity, director of the Tour de Yorkshire, left his position as chief executive of the tourism agency on “health grounds”, it was announced on Friday (March 22).

He had been a key figure in bringing the Tour de France Grand Départ to Yorkshire in 2014, and founding the Tour de Yorkshire on the back of its success.

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Welcome to Yorkshire announced the resignation in a statement, adding that concerns have been raised in relation to his behaviour towards staff and his expenses, but that this was not directly linked to his departure.

Verity said: “Over the last ten and a half years I have always tried to set the highest standards of personal performance and leadership.

“Where this has been achieved, I am grateful and when, on occasions, I have fallen short, I apologise.

“My health is now my main priority. I ask for time and space to heal.

“It has been an honour and a privilege to lead such an inspirational organisation and work with such a creative and talented team

“I know that Welcome to Yorkshire will continue to go from strength to strength and achieve many fantastic things over the coming years.”

Welcome to Yorkshire said it has investigated the allegations against Verity and found he “made errors of judgement regarding his expenses at a very difficult time for him and his family.”

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The organisation said he has voluntarily agreed to reimburse Welcome to Yorkshire for the money owed.

Verity has been chief executive since October 2008 and was knighted in 2015 for “services to tourism and the Tour de France Grand Départ 2014.”

Earlier this year the 54-year-old was linked with the Premier League’s chief executive job and was reportedly in talks with the football organisation about taking on the role.

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Peter Sagan plays it cool before Milan-San Remo

Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) played down any pressure and expectation 24 hours before Milan-San Remo, suggesting that he was actually looking forward to the long day in the saddle and that again missing out on victory in the Italian Monument would not be a problem.

Sagan has twice finished second in the Via Roma, in 2013 and 2017, and has yet to add La Classicissima to his rich palmares. But he shrugged any suggestion he was some how under pressure.

“Maybe for somebody it’s a problem. But well, I think in general, in the world, we have much bigger problems than winning or losing a race,” Sagan said, suggesting patience is a virtue when it comes to winning Milan-San Remo.

“Milan-San Remo is a special race, perhaps you need to wait to win it. Maybe it’s not this year, then you have to try next year, and if it’s not next year… It’s like the World Championships; you have to wait for your year.

“I was already twice in San Remo where I thought I’m going to win for sure. You see how special this race is?” He asked.

Rather than gaining experience and learning the secrets of the Poggio, Sagan believes it’s simply a matter of waiting for your turn to come up, a matter of cycling destiny.

“It’s more a matter of consequences during the race, and luck, the right moments, timing, this kind of thing. Sometimes you can win the race and you don’t expect it,” he said, encapsulating the unpredictability of Milan-San Remo.

“Experience can help when I feel good and I’m going to be in the front. Or maybe I’m bad and my options change, just to survive.”

It was pointed out that Mario Cipollini had to wait a decade before he won his first and only Milan-San Remo.

“Yeah, you see,” Sagan said. “But Merckx, how many times did he win San Remo?”

Seven.

“Then you see how the difference,” he said, highlighting the unpredictability of the finely balanced Classic.

Sagan was speaking after attending the presentation of the latest and third edition of the Sagan bike and accessories collection made by Specialized.

He will ride a specially decorated version of the Specialized S-Works Venge at Milan-San Remo and use the same disc-brake bike for the much of the 2019 season, only switching to a disc-brake Specialized Roubaix for Paris-Roubaix.

“It’s a very beautiful bike, and very spectacular. Now it’s up to me to do something spectacular with it tomorrow,” Sagan said after designer Eric Nolan explained the under- and over-exposed theme that inspires the new colours.

Enjoying the seven-hour rider to San Remo

Sagan is one of he favourites to win Milan-San Remo, but he is actually looking forward to enjoying as much of the seven hours in the saddle as he can. We can expect him to ride relaxed in the peloton until the final 50 kilometres and the start of the coastal Capi climbs.

“If it’s beautiful weather like today, is an enjoyable race. It’s not like the Belgian Classics – Flanders or Roubaix,” he suggested with a cheeky smile.

“The Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix start after 10km or even km zero sometimes. There’s a big difference. Here you just start, you are going 100km, then you have the Turchino, where you have to be in the front, then after you come down to the coast, then you have another 100km to think just about riding, eating and drinking. The race starts in the last 50km. After 250km you start to be concentrated really in the race, what to do, how you feel – stuff like that. You can enjoy it, Milan-San Remo, and that’s nice.”

Sagan was more interested in the expected views from the saddle than discussing race tactics or his rivals, if the attacks will come on the Poggio or how the sprint in the Via Roma will unfold.

“We’ll see tomorrow…” He said, signing off.

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