Milan-Sanremo 2018 Preview

By David Hunter

Milan – Sanremo 294km

The first monument of the season.

Let me be honest, I’m not a fan of this race. I run the risk of offending some of you purists out there, but I just don’t get it!

We have only 2126m of climbing, in a race of 291km. I know people like to see riders gradually being worn down, but I’ll just start this preview at the Cipressa, this is where the race really begins and that comes after 264km!

The Cipressa is where we could see some tentative moves, it is 5.65km at 4.1%. Sprinters with bad legs leave the race at this point.

The best riders don’t have a problem with the Cipressa and the bunch is large at the top. After the descent we have 9km until the start of the Poggio. Normally, this would encourage attackers, but the last time an attack on the Cipressa won the race was in 2003.

Last year we did see a fast pace on the Cipressa and this did split the bunch, but there were enough domestiques to bring it all back together. The race is all about the last 500m of the Poggio.

The Poggio – To Attack Or Not To Attack?

The winning move can go at the top of the Poggio, but sometimes it comes back. In recent years, they have taken the Poggio at a very fast pace, deterring attacks until the very top. We then see those that don’t want a sprint trying to force a gap. To stay away, you need the group to work together and for the bunch to hesitate. Do you risk it all? Sagan did last year and he lost. Will he do it again?

Who’s Sick or Injured?

After a cold spell in Europe, lots of riders have suffered through Paris-Nice and Tirreno Adriatico. Other riders have been the victim of crashes. We start the race without Gaviria, Bouhanni, Degenkolb, Nizzolo and Kelderman. Riders who have recently been sick or injured include Kristoff, Matthews, Dumoulin, Colbrelli and Cavendish. It is not a healthy bunch!

Weather

It seems that only the weather can make this interesting. Rain has been forecast, but it doesn’t look very heavy. It will be cold, but most riders should cope fine.

Contenders

Peter Sagan – no current World Champion has won here since 1983. Luck has not been on the side of Sagan in the last two editions, Gaviria’s crash stopped him in 2016 and he was mugged by Kwiatkowski in 2017. Despite being one of the best ever cyclists, Sagan has “only” won one monument, the Tour of Flanders in 2016. If Sagan is going to be considered as the best there’s ever been, he has to win more monuments. The presence of Daniel Oss could be crucial, Sagan had no one to help him on the Poggio, last year. Oss will be there and capable of pulling back the attackers. Will this make Sagan wait for the sprint?

Elia Viviani – the Italian has started 2017 in sensational form, winning four sprints. He has often spoken about this being his dream race, but does he have the sprint after 290km? With Gaviria missing the race, he will certainly be QuickStep’s sprint option, but they have other cards too. I’m yet to be convinced that he can win this race.

Matteo Trentin – the Italian arrives with Mitchelton-Scott, apparently in a support role for Caleb Ewan. I don’t think Ewan will seriously challenge, making Trentin their main man. Trentin has a very impressive sprint, especially after a tough day in the saddle. He ended 2017 as one of the men to beat, but the new year started with a collarbone injury. After a slow build up, he should be firing on all cylinders for this race.

Michael Matthews – crashed in Omloop, his first race of the season. That has meant no racing since, making this just his 2nd race of 2018. No way he wins.

Arnaud Démare – winner here in 2016, although under a little bit of a cloud. 2018 has seen FDJ alter his schedule, with great success. He was 2nd in Kuurne and then took a brilliant win in the opening stage of Paris-Nice. It looks like Démare has the form to challenge for his 2nd title. In Davide Cimolai, he does have a rider who could help position him for the final sprint, this would be crucial.

Alexander Kristoff – I’ll be a little controversial here, Kristoff just isn’t that good anymore. Back in 2014, he won this race and took two stages in the Tour de France. In 2015, he won the Tour of Flanders and a stage in Paris-Nice. Since then he’s still won a number of races, but none of them have been “big” races. The Norwegian just isn’t fast enough compared to his rivals. Will he win a 2nd MSR title? No.

Andre Greipel – he struggles with the Poggio. Whilst all these “super” sprinters can smash up the hill, the big German struggles with the pace. I don’t see this changing any time soon.

Michal Kwiatkowski – the defending champion will not find it easy to retain his title. A breakaway on the Poggio doesn’t succeed very often, he’ll need to get very lucky! Last year he benefited from sitting on Sagan and making him launch the sprint, that won’t happen this year. If the Pole wants to win, he’ll need to attack and hope that Sagan doesn’t follow. He can then use his descending skills to hopefully stay away. Either that, or attack in the final kilometre and hope that no one has a domestique.

Julian Alaphilippe – he’ll have been very disappointed with his Paris-Nice results. The Frenchman looked like the strongest rider, but only walked away with two 3rd places. He was able to follow Sagan and Kwiatkowski in 2017, will QuickStep decide to use him in a similar way this year?

Greg Van Avermaet – it pains me to say, but the form just isn’t there.

Philippe Gilbert – the quest for five! The great Belgian has favoured a gradual build up in 2018. Make no mistake, he wants to be strong in this race. Gilbert is in the same position as the other attackers, he needs to get a big enough gap on the Poggio. Another negative is that most of the other attackers will be confident of sprinting faster than him. If Gilbert is going to win, he’ll probably have to arrive solo.

Luis Leon Sanchez – incredible current form, he’ll be one of the men looking to attack on the Poggio. After his start to 2018, a win would not surprise me.

Prediction Time

Please let there be big attacks on the Cipressa! I doubt this will happen.

50 man sprint, Peter Sagan wins. I think this will be an easy win for the world champion.


David Hunter

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3 thoughts on “Milan-Sanremo 2018 Preview

  1. Would like to see Sagan win but I think Kittel also has a chance If he survives Poggio and still in the main bunch he can win if there is a sprint to finish.

  2. I’m surprised you’ve written off Caleb Ewen. Admittedly he’s an outside bet, but he’s had a good result here before, showing impressive strength. if it’s a bunch sprint then he could be a surprise winner. I think he’ll do well.

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