John Degenkolb (Giant-Alpecin) took the victory of the 106th Milan-Sanremo from a small group sprint. Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) took 2nd and Michael Matthews (Orica-Greenedge) had to settle for 3rd. For the 3rd year in succession MTN-Qhubeka p/b Samsung placed a rider in the top 10 with Edvald Boasson Hagen claiming 10th place.
Team MTN-Qhubeka p/b Samsung was a talking point throughout the day as Serge Pauwels animated the race by going on the attack from kilometer zero. Serge was joined by 10 other riders as over 290km of open roads lay before them. The escape group pushed on in the rain to open up a gap of just over 10 minutes during the course of the day.
With the Milan-Sanremo being the most prized victory for all sprinters, their teams were sent to the front to control proceedings. The long day out front for the escapees eventually took its toll as the lead gradually started to drop as we entered the final 100km of racing. Once the gap hit 2’00” Serge forced the pace with 3 of his breakaway companions while the remnants of the break were caught with 40km to go.
Although the sun had come out for the finale, the roads were still wet which resulted in a number of crashes over the final 30km. As a result of the crashes, 3 Sky riders were a few seconds clear of the peloton and their persistence on the front reeled in Serge and the final breakaway riders.
There was a natural acceleration over the Cipressa and Poggio which whittled the group down substantially to around 40 riders. Reinardt Janse van Rensburg, Gerald Ciolek and Edvald Boasson Hagen were all still in contention as the Poggio descent began with 5km to go. It was on the descent were misfortune struck Gerald and he was caught up in a big crash, ruling him and a number of other favorites out of the sprint. Edvald was clear of the carnage and the Norwegian was able to hold on for 10th place.
Edvald Boasson Hagen – Rider
It was really cold in the start but it got better after the Turchino. I managed to be up there in 10th place. I didn’t do a great sprint but I was happy to still happy to secure a top 10. Serge did a really good job to be up in the front and it helped us in not having to chase from behind. It was a pity our team was affected by so many crashes, it maybe would have been better a better day if this did not happen.
Serge Pauwels – Rider
The cold made it really hard today, for most of the day it was only 6 degrees and some parts only 4 but I was happy to be out front. It was maybe better to be in the break as you had to pedal all day and that was probably the best way to not get too cold. The plan was to be in the break if more than 10 riders went clear. First 5 guys attacked and then another 5 were making a move, when I saw this I jumped across. At least this way our guys were protected by having someone in front. I was happy to make it to the finish after a hard day.
Jens Zemke – Head of Performance
Today was a super tough day, 293km in 5 hours of rain and only 6 degrees. The boys did pretty well, we wanted to have Serge in the break and he did a fantastic job, being caught as one of the last riders on the Cipressa. The other boys looked after Edvald and Gerald. Gerald crashed on the last descent which was a real pity as he was in top shape. That left us with Edvald and Reinie in the front group. Edvald had to do a lot of sprinting in the wind and ended 10th which was a very good result and showed improvement. The boys are a little disappointed though as we hoped for a bit more.