Is this the year for France’s Julien Alaphilippe?
Already an impressive winner of the Strade Bianche, his final sprint won him one of the great races in cycling, the Milan-Sanemo on Saturday, finishing just ahead of Belgium’s Oliver Naesen and Poland’s Michal Kwiatkowski.
At 291 km, this was one of the longest races on the UCI World Tour in 2019 and had a major climb early in the race at the Passo del Turchino, but it was the final climb that made the difference.
Or rather, what happened after. On the Poggio, about 3 1/2 km from the finish, Alaphilppe attacked, drawing Kwiatkowski and three-time World Champion Peter Sagan (SVK) along. They were joined by five others as they descended and Italy’s Matteo Trentin then tried to break away with just 2 km to go.
But Alaphilippe had the sprint strength, while Sagan was boxed in, and ran past Matej Mohoric (SLO) to the line for the victory. Naesen had followed closely but couldn’t pass at the line and Kwaitkowski has moved up to third at the end.
Alaphilippe, 26, is only the third rider ever to win the Strade Bianche and Milano-Sanremo back- to-back after Fabian Cancellara (SUI) in 2008 and Kwiatkowski in 2017.
“I came with the goal of winning this race,” said the Frenchmen.” I’m just as proud of my win as I am of the work of my team today. What they’ve done for me is absolutely exceptional. I rode for the victory at the end bearing their dedication in mind.
“I recovered in the downhill after I sped up on the Poggio but I still thought it would be complicated to win considering the quality of the riders I was away with. I made a little effort to close the gap on Matteo Trentin as I knew he was very fast. Then I stayed calm and remained next to Peter Sagan. When Matej Mohoric launched the sprint, I knew I had to take his wheel straight away. Had he taken 20 meters, it would have been game over. I capped it off the nicest way I could. It’s pure joy.” Summary:
UCI World Tour/Milan-Sanremo
Milan to San Remo ~ 23 March 2019
(Full results here)
Final Standings (291 km): 1. Julien Alaphilippe (FRA), 6:40:14; 2. Oliver Naesen (BEL), 6:40:14; 3. Michal Kwiatkowski (POL), 6:40:14; 4. Peter Sagan (SVK), 6:40:14; 5. Matej Mohoric (SLO), 6:40:14; 6. Wout van Aert (BEL), 6:40:14; 7. Alejandro Valverde (ESP), 6:40:14; 8. Vincenzo Nibali (ITA), 6:40:14; 9. Simon Clarke (AUS), 6:40:14; 10. Matteo Trentin (ITA), 6:40:14.