For the third consecutive year, a bunch sprint was avoided with just 12 riders battling for the win after six hours and forty minutes of racing at the longest one-day race of the season.
Earlier in the day, ten riders formed the day’s breakaway in the opening 20 kilometers and with 291 kilometers on the cards, the peloton allowed the group to go ten minutes down the road.
The sprinters’ teams kept the race situation under control and as they approached the halfway mark of the race, the breakaway’s advantage was down to six minutes.
Van Avermaet remained protected by his CCC Team teammates throughout the race and enjoyed a relatively calm first 200 kilometers as the peloton edged closer to the breakaway.
The gap was down to two minutes inside 50 kilometers to go, at which point the battle for positioning was on at the front of the bunch as teams prepared for the decisive Cipressa and Poggio climbs.
The breakaway riders started to attack each other which saw Fausto Masnada (Androni) go solo at the front of the race, meanwhile the peloton was only one minute behind at they approached the foot of the Cipressa.
Masada was pulled back with 25 kilometers remaining and the race hit the reset button on the Cipressa with Astana Pro Team taking control, while Alessandro De Marchi made his way to the front of the bunch in anticipation of more attacks.
The reduced bunch remained together at the top of the Cipressa but as soon as attacks were launched on the descent, the race was on.
Having remained hidden for the whole day, the orange CCC Team jerseys became visible at the front of the bunch when Łukasz WIśniowski and Michael Schär took control at the front and brought back a solo move from Niccolò Bonifazio (Direct Energie).
Van Avermaet remained in the first half of the bunch on the Poggio but when attacks started with five kilometers to go, he was unable to jump across to the seven-man group.
On the descent and run into the finish in Sam Remo, the group swelled to 12 riders who battled it out in the sprint with Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-QuickStep) proving the strongest on the day, and Oliver Naesen (AG2R La Mondiale) and Michal Kwiatowski (Team Sky) rounding out the podium.
Van Avermaet was CCC Team’s first rider across the line in the reduced bunch, in 42nd place, 27 seconds behind Alaphilippe.
Quotes from the Finish Line
Greg Van Avermaet:
“The first 200 kilometers were quite easy. A good breakaway went away, we had good weather, and not so much wind, so all the action came in the end in the finale. I think I was just too far back on the Poggio. I tried to do an effort to get into position but because of Deceuninck-QuickStep pulling, with Gilbert and Stybar, it was really hard to take some places back and this killed me a little bit I think, in the end. Then, I just didn’t make it into the first group. For me, it’s a big disappointment that I was not in the first group as I normally should be in there.”
“I was feeling ok today, not super. I tried to do everything in the end because it was quite an easy day, so it can be hard to really feel how your legs are. I just tried to focus on the Poggio which was not really good I think. I know that I have been not in a good position two times on the Poggio, and two times they went to the finish with a smaller group, so it’s a bit the same as it was two years ago.”
Fabio Baldato, Sports Director:
“We are disappointed with today’s result as it was the exact race situation we were hoping for, with a small group attacking on the Poggio and staying clear. The team did a good job the whole day. We wanted to stay calm and save energy for the majority of the race and save ourselves for the final 30 kilometers which are always the most important in this race. The team moved up when they were supposed to and did a good job to protect Greg and position him. Unfortunately, on the Poggio, Greg was a little too far back and wasn’t able to go with the riders who attacked. In a race like Milan – San Remo, a matter of meters can make a difference and if you miss the move, there is no coming back from it. For sure, we are disappointed but we also know how hard it is to win this race. We are motivated to come back strong next week in Belgium.”
Milan > San Remo (291km)
Top 3: 1. Julian Alaphiilippe (Deceuninck-QuickStep), 2. Olivier Naesen (AG2R La Mondiale), 3. Michal Kwiatokowski (Team Sky).
CCC Team top 3: 42. Greg Van Avermaet, 58. Alessandro De Marchi, 86. Łukasz Wiśniowski