Ciolek puts up a valiant title defence effort at Milano-Sanremo, finishes 9th

After last year’s horrid weather at the Milano-Sanremo, the elements were again not favouring the riders this year. In a torrential downpour from start to finish, including hail and temperatures below 10 degrees Celsius, Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) would prove to be the strongest in the finale by taking the victory. Fabian Cancellara (Trek Factory Racing) had to settle for 2nd with Team Sky’s Ben Swift in 3rd.

Gerald Ciolek, the defending champion from Team MTN-Qhubeka p/b Samsung, would put up a valiant effort at defending his title. Always present and attentive at the front of the race, the German star would make it to the finish with the select group of strong men to contest the sprint finish. Ciolek would finish in 9th place in the fight to the line. More reason to celebrate came from the fact that Merhawi Kudus, the youngest rider in the race, would go on to be one of the 114 finishers after  just under 50% of the riders starting would abandon.

Sports Director, Jens Zemke was also pleased with the days result. “It was a similar day to last year with terrible weather. We were right up there in the action and Gerald was in a position to win again. Unfortunately he had no more support after the Cipressa like most of the other sprinters. He got boxed in and had to brake in the sprint.The team did its best though and Jaco and Kristian had great rides to not finish too far behind the winners.”

The early racing would see 7 riders, Nathan Haas (Garmin), Martin Tjallingi (Belkin), Nicola Boem (Bardiani), Marc de Maar (United Healthcare), Matteo  Bono (Lampre-Merida), Jan Barta (NetApp – Endura) and Antonio Parrinello (Androni Giacottoli) get off the front after just 15km had been completed. The peloton would let the gap balloon out to 11 minutes before any sort of tempo riding would begin. The bitterly cold and wet weather coupled with the sheer distance of the Milano-Sanremo would get the better of the break though. Without an increase in neither pace or in the difficulty of the parcours, the break would lose riders one by one as their strength depleted.

Eventually it was only Tjallingi and de Maar left at the front with 23km to go. Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) would attack the peloton and blow right passed the two leaders. Nibali would lead the race until half way up the Poggio where he would be caught and dropped by the front group that had been whittled down to only 30 odd riders after the Cipressa. A number of attacks would ensue over the top of the Poggio with nothing getting away.

Ciolek could be seen in the top 4-7 places consistently from the start of the Cipressa until the descent of the Poggio. In the run into the line, Kristoff had a perfect leadout from his team while Ciolek took the wheel of Peter Sagan (Cannondale). When the sprint opened up Kristoff was streaks ahead of everyone else while Ciolek would have to hit brakes with 100m to go after getting boxed in, eventually getting round to finish a fine 9th place.

“It was a super hard race in bad conditions. The team worked really well for me and i didn’t ride a meter in the wind before the Cipressa. We went quite fast up the Cipressa so i was also expecting a fast Poggio with attacks. It was very controlled until the top though so not much happened there. I am really happy with my race but I made a few mistakes in the sprint and got boxed in with 200m to go which was a bit disappointing. If i was able to do my sprint maybe a better result was possible,” said Ciolek.

Milano-Sanremo (Italy) – (23 March/UCI WT)

Gerald Ciolek (GER)
Ignatas Konovalovas (LTU)
Daniel Teklehaimanot (ERI)
Jay Thomson (RSA)
Jaco Venter (RSA)
Louis Meintjes (RSA)
Merhawi Kudus (ERI)
Kristian Sbaragli (ITA)

Staff: Douglas Ryder (Team Principal), Jens Zemke (Directeur Sportif), Dr Jarrad van Zuydam (Doctor), Dr Rob Child (Nutritionist), Bastian Buffel (Soigneur), Hagen Bernutz (Soigneur), Paolo Baldi (Soigneur), Jim Bryan (Mechanic), Daniele Nieri, Andreas Beck (Mechanic)

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