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5 ways to win the Milano-Sanremo


300 km and 7 hours of suspense and tension, 300 km and 7 hours to wonder and then deal with how the race might unfold. In the end, however, the Milano-Sanremo is always decided in the last 15 breath-taking minutes. And, if we look at the last decade’s editions (2012-2022), the ways to win the Classicissima can be summed up in 5 categories, 5 ways to reach Via Roma with arms raised. To the riders looking to win it, we suggest taking good notes.

1. Bunch sprint

By “bunch”, we mean a surviving group of 25/40 riders who manage to hold on on the Poggio, with many of the top sprinters still in it. In 2014, 2015 and 2016, the race turned out just like that, with the sprinters battling it out on Via Roma and the victory going, however, not to the fastest, but to the one who had saved an extra drop of energy. That man was Alexander Kristoff in 2014, John Degenkolb in 2015 and Arnaud Démare in 2016.

2. Small group sprint

On the Poggio, someone will give it a try, it’s mathematic! After all, it is the last chance to take glory away from the pure sprinters. Attacks are not necessarily decisive but can often allow groups of 6/8/10 or 12 riders to break away and compete for victory in a narrow sprint. This happened in the legendary 2013 edition, shortened due to the weather and cold, when a group of seven athletes formed between the Poggio and the previous section of the Via Aurelia made it all the way to the finish. It was one of the most bitter defeats for Peter Sagan, beaten by centimetres by a surprising Gerald Ciolek, with Fabian Cancellara in third place. Similar epilogue in 2019, this time on dry roads, when Julian Alaphilippe sprinted clear of a small group of 11 riders, with Oliver Naesen second and Michal Kwiatkowski third.

3. Finisseur move

In recent times one remembers the sprints of Filippo Pozzato in 2006 or Fabian Cancellara in 2008, but the last was that of Jasper Stuyven in 2021. The Belgian attacked at the bottom of the Poggio descent, some 2,400 metres from the finish, and managed to fool the peloton led by Caleb Ewan on Wout Van Aert. Knowing how to seize the right time is crucial at Milano-Sanremo, and after tackling the Poggio ‘at full throttle’, there are often a few seconds of stalling to take a breather. If you still have the legs, that’s the right moment to try and pull straight to the finish.

4. Attacking on the Poggio and arriving in a group of 2/3

When two or three riders come to battle it out for victory after managing to break away on the Poggio, it really means they are the strongest that day. It happened in 2012, when Simon Gerrans outsprinted Fabian Cancellara and Vincenzo Nibali after they had gone away on the climb, but also in the exceptional finish in 2017, when Peter Sagan suffered yet another Sanremo mockery, as the Slovakian was beaten by Michal Kwiatkowski at the end of a very tight sprint which also included Julian Alaphilippe, who came third. In 2020, when Sanremo was held in August due to Covid, Alaphilippe was again beaten, this time in a two-man sprint, by Wout Van Aert, at the end of a thrilling head-to-head.

5. Attacking on the Poggio and arriving solo

To be able to break away on the Poggio and arrive solo at the finish line, with the peloton chasing you at 50km/h with frothing at the mouth, is a feat for a champion. Few have managed to do so in recent decades, but Vincenzo Nibali’s show in 2018 is engraved in every fan’s memory. He attacked on the gentle slopes of the Poggio, almost silently, and was only caught after the finish, in one of the most beautiful days of his triumphant career. But the Poggio isn’t just a climb, it’s also a descent, and a very technical one too, all it takes is going back 12 months to recall the magical, almost insane, trajectories drawn by Matej Mohoric, who claimed victory ahead of all the favourites.

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