Milano-SanRemo 2018, Nibali takes a terrific win!

Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain – Merida) takes the success at the 2018 Milano-Sanremo after 294 kilometers of racing. The 2014 Tour de France winner took a terrific win attacking together with Krists Neilands (Israel Cycling Academy) with over 7 kilometers remaining on the slopes of the Poggio. The Latvian soon dropped the lead but Nibali kept pushing passing through the top of the Poggio with 11″ of advantage over the bunch. Bahrain-Merida climber crossed the flamme rouge a handful of seconds ahead of the front of the peloton and succeeded in getting the victory with just 20 meters of advantage. Nibali is now holder of two Monument races and has won everything he could achieve on Italian soil. Caleb Ewan (Mitchelton-Scott) finished in second taking the bunch sprint over Arnaud Demare (Groupama-FDJ) and Alexander Kristoff (UAE Team Emirates).

In accordance with cycling fans’ biological rythms, Milano-Sanremo coincides with the beginning of Spring. The scenario at the start of the race presumably messed up most of the insiders: Milan welcomed the riders with heavy rain and a temperature of 7°C (44°F) and everybody knew that it was not going to be an easy day of racing. As soon as the official start was given, the peloton appeared to have decided to let the break go even further at this early stage in the race. In facts nine riders attacked along the first kilometers of racing and suddently opened a sensible gap over the bunch.

Mirko Maestri (Bardiani-CSF), Lorenzo Rota (Bardiani-CSF), Evgeny Kobernyak (Gazprom-Rusvelo), Guy Sagiv (Israel Cycling Academy), Dennis van Winden (Israel Cycling Academy), Sho Hatsuyama (Nippo-Vini Fantini-Europa Ovini), Charles Planet (Novo Nordisk), Matteo Bono (UAE Team Emirates) and Jacopo Mosca (Wilier-Selle Italia) were part of the group that had been leading the 2018 Milano-Sanremo for the most of its length. Matteo Bono and Mirko Maestri should have got a subscription in the breakaway at the Mondiale di Primavera: the first was part of the break in 2014, 2015 and 2016 and the latter attacked in the early stages of racing both in 2016 and 2017.

The nine-men group in the lead had a maximum advantage over the peloton of 7’07” with 250 kilometers to go. In the meantime the group wasn’t for sure pushing to chase the break and Team Sky and Bora-hansgrohe respectively positioned Luke Rowe and Juraj Sagan in the front: the British and the Slovakian weren’t aware of how long their effort would last. In facts they led the group – since the race went down to the Ligurian coast together with Tim DeClerq (Quick Step Floors) – until the race hit Capo Berta. What has been remarkable in the first four hours of racing with the exception of what I’ve already pointed out is a crash which occurred on the top of Passo del Turchino that forced Nikias Arndt (Sunweb) and Lukasz Wisniowski (team Sky) to give up and involved also André Greipel (Lotto-Soudal).

When the race went down to the coast the breakaway was just 1’30” ahead of the peloton, which decided to calm down and allow the leaders to re-open a wider gap. Indeed, the break passed through Varazze with 5’15” of advantage with over 115 kilometers remaining. The only change that affected the race until the leaders hit the hills was the weather: heavy showers fell in turns with sunny intervals. On the Capo Cervo slopes the break sitted 1’30” ahead of the peloton and the roads were already dry. In an handful of kilometers several men crashed and among them were Alexis Vuillermoz (Ag2r la Mondiale), Alexander Vlasov (Gazprom-Rusvelo), Simon Clarke and Daniel Mc Lay (EF Education First-Drapac).

On Capo Berta uphill only Van Winden, Maestri, Rota and Bono held a gap over the bunch, Kittel showed he was feeling uncomfortable with the race and Matteo Busato (Wilier-Selle Italia) together with Taylor Phinney (EF-Drapac) punctured. The peloton reeled in the break on the way to the Cipressa after 260 kilometers from the start. Groupama-FDJ was leading uphill and the tempo set by Ignatas Konovalovas made impossible for the punchers to attack. Nibali moved to the front just one kilometer after the pack headed the bottom of the climb, showing he was in a brilliant shape. Marcel Kittel definitively dropped the peloton and Ian Stannard (Team Sky) did the same.

In the end the Cipressa has been worthless for the purpose of racing. Nobody attacked and the group, led by Groupama-FDJ and Team Sky, headed all together the descent, in this way allowing their leaders to avoid taking a chance. In the meantime Carlos Barbero (Movistar) crashed and Michael Valgren (Astana) was affected of a puncture. As soon as the race got back to the coast the chaos broke out in the lead of the race: every team wanted to put the respective leaders in the front at the bottom of the Poggio. With just 10 kilomters to the end the bad luck affected Philippe Gilbert, Alexey Lutsenko, Alberto Bettiol and again Mark Cavendish: Dimension Data sprinter hit a traffic sign in the middle of a traffic island and crashed with spectacularity. 2011 World Champion hasn’t succeeded yet in ending a race without crashing since Dubai Tour.

Bora-hansgrohe hit the Poggio in the lead. Marcus Burghardt was setting such a high tempo that he opened a gap over the group. Jempy Drucker (BMC Racing) bridged the gap and the duo led the race for a while with just 20 meters ahead of the peloton. When Burghardt dropped the lead Krists Neilands attacked and Vincenzo Nibali suddently joined the Latvian. With 7 kilometers to go the decisive move was made: Nibali struggled in the lead and Neilands couldn’t keep the pace of the Italian and in the meantime in the back nobody succeeded in attacking from the bunch. Team Sky and Bora-hansgrohe led the chase and when Nibali doubled the Poggio his advantage held on at 11”. Matteo Trentin attempted to escape but he never opened a concrete gap while Nibali kept the same advantage once got back to the coast. Team Sky and Quick Step Floors struggled in the front of the pack. Once crossed the flame rouge Nibali sat only 7” seconds ahead of the peloton but at the end his efforts were enough effective to cross the finish line solo and taking in this manner an amazing success.

Milano-SanRemo 2018 results

1 NIBALI Vincenzo Bahrain Merida Pro Cycling Team 7:18:43
2 EWAN Caleb Mitchelton-Scott  ,,
3 DÉMARE Arnaud Groupama – FDJ  ,,
4 KRISTOFF Alexander UAE-Team Emirates  ,,
5 ROELANDTS Jurgen BMC Racing Team  ,,
6 SAGAN Peter BORA – hansgrohe  ,,
7 MATTHEWS Michael Team Sunweb  ,,
8 CORT NIELSEN Magnus Astana Pro Team  ,,
9 COLBRELLI Sonny Bahrain Merida Pro Cycling Team  ,,
10 STUYVEN Jasper Trek – Segafredo ,,

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