The classics season got into full swing today with Milan Sanremo on the menu. With 291km La Primavera is the longest race in the World Tour calendar and a landslide forced the organizers to make it even longer this time around. Arnaud Demare (FDJ) dealt with it best, to take home the prestigious win on Sanremo’s Via Roma, after a strong attack by Edvald Boasson Hagen on the final kilometer.
The race got off to a fast start. 11 riders broke clear after 14km and built up a lead of more than 10 minutes. Jan Barta (Bora-Argon18), Roger Kluge (IAM), Maarten Tjallingii (LottoNL-Jumbo), and Matteo Bono (Lampre-Merida) were among the stronger and more experienced riders that made the break.
However, this wasn’t the story of the early stages of the race. A sudden landslide at the bottom of the Turchino left the organizers with no other option but to change the race course by adding another 9km to the already known 291km.
The break made it over the pass but as the race hit the coastline, the peloton picked up the pace. Jay Thomson flew the flag of our Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka at the front of the bunch and helped to bring the gap down to just 5 minutes with 100km to go.
From there on the gap wouldn’t grow again. Barta finally decided to end the breaks alliance and attacked with 30km to go. Only five riders managed to stay with him as the gap came down to less than a minute. Meanwhile, the peloton increased the pace with teams trying to position their leaders for the finale. This made for a nervous phase in the race and lead to a few crashes. Unfortunately, our African team was also involved in one of the crashes as Serge Pauwels went down.
The race was on at the Cipressa, less than 25km from the finish line on the Via Roma. With the break being reeled in, it was Giovanni Visconti (Movistar) who attacked together with Ian Stannard (Sky). The two opened up a small gap but were caught before the final climb of the day, the Poggio, after a strong effort by Steve Cummings.
Michal Kwiatkowski (Sky) then was next to attack, around 1km from the summit. He managed to defend a gap of 5sec for a couple of kilometers. In the peloton pre-race favorites Fabian Cancellara (Trek) and Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) lead the chase and finally made the junction to the former World Champion.
With 1km to go Boasson Hagen decided to give it a go. Our Norwegian Road Race Champion put the power down in what was an exciting finale but he wasn’t allowed to get away. The peloton chased him down on the Via Roma with only a few hundred meters to go. In the end Demare had the best legs left. Ben Swift (Sky) and Jurgen Roelandts (Lotto-Soudal) crossed the line in 2nd and 3rd. Boasson Hagen managed to hang on to finish just outside the top10.
Roger Hammond – Sports Director
We had some bad luck today, with a few crashes. It’s been a hectic race, I must say. Still, we held it together and had Edvald attacking with 1km to go, looking like the strongest rider in the front group. I can only imagine what could have been, if all would have been going well.
Edvald Boasson Hagen – Rider
It was a very tough race. The team was always there for me, in all the crucial moments. Jay did a really good job in the beginning of the race, with Steve and the others being there in the end. In the finale I saw that fast riders like Demare, Fernando Gaviria, and Ben Swift were still there, so I thought it was better to attack. Last week at Tirreno-Adriatico we’ve been in a similar situation. I didn’t attack then, which was a pity in the end. Today I tried my luck. It didn’t pay off, but that’s how racing goes.