Matthews back on track after Milan-San Remo
Sun, 24 Mar 2019 17:28:00 +0000

Despite starting Milan-San Remo with just a day and a half of racing in his legs Michael Matthews (Team Sunweb) delivered a dogged, if not successful, performance to finish 12th on the Via Roma.

Earlier in the month, the Australian crashed during Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, soldiering on to the finish, but he was forced to abandon Paris-Nice after crashing on the first stage. In fact, Matthews was expected to miss several months of the campaign due his injuries but after another scan of an injured wrist he was given the all-clear on Wednesday to race Milan-San Remo.

He was still in contention on the Poggio – despite his lack of race miles – but when Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-QuickStep) unleashed an attacked that formed the winning move, Matthews was forced onto the back foot. A valiant chase saw him come within a few seconds of the lead group, and although Alaphilippe would continue his incredible run of form, the sight of Matthews almost making the front group would have greatly pleased his team.


"It was pretty crazy, especially after my last race where I had a massive crash," he told Cyclingnews at the finish. "To come into this race, where it’s so hectic in the last 80 kilometers is pretty scary to be honest. I just tried to turn my mind off, not think about it, and just race.

"When it was such an easy race, the sprinters were hoping that it would be a bunch sprint in the final. A lot of the sprint teams came to the front to slow it down but then Astana put on some pace in order to spice it up a little bit. Then, all the fireworks started after the first half of the Poggio. It was QuickStep who lit it up and then set up Alaphilippe for his big attack."

At that point, the lack of race miles finally caught up with Matthews and the Australian was forced to ride at his own tempo. Depsite losing ground to the favourites, the 28-year-old was still good enough to drop the pure sprinters and the rest of the trailing peloton. For a rider with just over 600km of racing – including San Remo – in his legs since the start of the year, it was an admirable performance.

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Lefevere: Alaphilippe can win almost anywhere
Sun, 24 Mar 2019 16:35:00 +0000

Julian Alaphilippe’s triumph at Milan-San Remo may have been the biggest of his career, and the biggest of Deceuninck-Quick Step’s season so far, but team boss Patrick Lefevere sees much more in the Frenchman’s future.

After seeing his team’s plan carried out to perfection on the Poggio on Saturday afternoon, the veteran manager insisted that Alaphilippe can win almost anywhere, ruling out just one race, Paris-Roubaix.

"We knew he was strong, but the great thing is that he makes good progress every year," Lefevere said in an interview with Sporza. "Julian wins a bunch sprint in Tirreno-Adriatico – you could call that a surprise, but not in San Remo. And he beats the strongest riders.


"It’s become difficult to choose. Julian wins Milan-San Remo, he can compete in the Walloon [Ardennes] classics, and he was king of the mountains at the Tour de France. I think the only race that is not for him would be Paris-Roubaix, because he is lightweight. But I’m not quite sure.”

While Alaphilippe might not be suited to Roubaix, Lefevere did say that winning the Tour of Flanders is a possibility in future. Though “different cards” will be drawn this year, with QuickStep instead looking to Zdenek Štybar and Philippe Gilbert next month.

Lefevere said that now that his team have the first Monument of the year on their hefty win list – 19 and counting so far – the onus will be on other teams to make up for it.

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Mechanical on Poggio ruins Degenkolb's chances at Milan-San Remo
Sun, 24 Mar 2019 13:20:00 +0000

You could almost feel the frustration coming through the television camera as John Degenkolb (Trek-Segafredo) jumped – still riding his bike – up and down in anger on the descent of the Poggio. Degenkolb had done all he could to keep close to the climbers on the final climb of Milan-San Remo but a mechanical problem scuppered any chance he might have of getting back to the leading group.

After putting in a deep effort at the bottom of the Poggio to move up the main peloton, Degenkolb had lost contact with the front as the group split under pressure of the high pace set by the likes of Deceuninck-QuickStep. However, Degenkolb – whose bike was equipped with SRAM’s 1x 12-speed eTap groupset - dropped a chain on the descent of the climb.

Despite Degankolb’s best efforts, he could not get the chain back on, and with no team car anywhere near him, there was nothing he could do. Though he had been distanced, without the issue, Degenkolb believed that there was still an opportunity to bridge back the gap.


"The first monument of the year is done, and it’s actually a big disappointment for all of us," Degenkolb said in a video posted by his Trek-Segafredo team. "Until the bottom of the Poggio, everything went perfect. It was really good to arrive in good shape with good legs.

"My position going into the climb was not great, so I had to suffer a bit to stay in the group there and make a good position. Then, it split in front of me, but even then, there was still a chance to come back, I believe, and then I had a mechanical and then the race was over. I’m very happy how the team worked as great together as we did. I hope we can [get a] reward in the next races."

In the end, Degenkolb would finish in 84th place at 2:37 back while Gianluca Brambilla was the team’s best finisher in 34th place at 27 seconds behind the winner Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-QuickStep). Directeur sportif Steven de Jongh said that losing out to a mechanical problem at Milan-San Remo was a bitter blow.

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High-speed racing on the Poggio means sprinters miss out at Milan-San Remo
Sun, 24 Mar 2019 11:00:00 +0000

The warm spring weather and steady pace for much of Milan-San Remo seemed set to help the sprinters dominate this year’s La Classicissima, but in truth, it led to their downfall. The attackers were still strong and confident on the Poggio, and so able to blow the race apart and share the spoils on the Via Roma.

Eventual winner, Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-QuickStep) sparked the decisive selection of seven riders in the final kilometre of the Poggio, with only Vincenzo Nibali and Matej Mohoric (Bahrain-Merida), Simon Clarke (EF Education First) and Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb) able to get on during the descent and the final flat roads in San Remo. The pure sprinters and their teammates were distanced and dropped, leaving just 11 riders to fight for victory.

Few noticed but Alexander Kristoff (UAE Team Emirates) won the bunch sprint for 14th place on the Via Roma, some 27 seconds behind Alaphilippe. Magnus Cort (Astana) was just behind him, as was Kristoff’s teammate Fernando Gaviria, Giacomo Nizzolo (Dimension Data), Davide Cimolai (Israel Cycling Project), Sam Bennett (Bora-Hansgrohe), Caleb Ewan (Lotto Soudal) and Arnaud Demare (Groupama-FDJ).


There were 41 riders in the sprinters’ group, but they were all reduced to bit-part roles as Alaphilippe and the attackers stole the limelight.

In 2018, Ewan won the sprint for second place just a few bike lengths behind solo attacker Vincenzo Nibali. That confirmed he could one day win Milan-San Remo and he seemed on form this year after his move to Lotto Soudal. However, his race exemplified how the sprinters missed out on a shot at victory at this year’s Milan-San Remo.

“You could kind of feel it was going to be hard in the final because it was super easy up the Cipressa,” Ewan told Cyclingnews when arrived at the Lotto Soudal team bus.

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Van Aert continues to impress with sixth at Milan-San Remo
Sun, 24 Mar 2019 10:00:00 +0000

The Via Roma in San Remo played host to cycling's superstars on Saturday afternoon, with the likes of Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe), Michal Kwiatkowski (Team Sky) and world champion Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) all bested by the indomitable Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-QuickStep) at Milan-San Remo. And within that star-studded elite group was also Wout van Aert (Team Jumbo-Visma) – the 24-year-old three-time cyclo-cross world champion in only his third road race of the season.

The Belgian finished sixth, taking another outstanding result after his third place at Strade Bianche two weeks ago. At 291km, Milan-San Remo was the longest race Van Aert had ever ridden, but he has already shown that he knows his way around these mammoth road races.

Last year saw him debut at the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix, finishing in ninth and 13th place, respectively. He was on the podium at the late-season European Championships road race, too, held in Glasgow, Scotland, which was over 230km.


The bigger distances are therefore not new territory for Van Aert, who was racing at WorldTour level for the first time this year at Milan-San Remo. But as he rolled out in front of Milan's Sforza Castle on Saturday morning, surely not even the prodigy himself would've imagined that he'd be battling it out for the win seven hours later.

"That's a difficult question," he said at the finish, asked whether, ahead of the race, he'd thought he could be in contention for the win. "It's always in your mind, of course, but at your first attempt, you doubt yourself a bit. But I'm definitely happy that I made it into the final breakaway."

With 285km covered, and with just six kilometres left to the finish in San Remo, Van Aert was still up there, still fighting with the cream of the pro peloton at the top of the Poggio di San Remo. It was there, fighting into the headwind, and led by eventual winner Alaphilippe, that the winning group would be formed, and Van Aert felt right at home.

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Fabio Aru to miss Giro d'Italia due to iliac artery operation
Sun, 24 Mar 2019 07:18:00 +0000

UAE Team Emirates' Fabio Aru will now miss the upcoming Volta Ciclista a Catalunya, as well as May's Giro d'Italia, in order to have an operation on a constriction of the iliac artery in his left leg, his team has reported.

Aru was due to return to racing at next week's Spanish stage race having abandoned Paris-Nice in early March, but could now be away from racing for a number of months, until at least this summer.

The winner of the 2015 Vuelta a España's last victory came at La Planche des Belles Filles on stage 5 of the Tour de France in 2017, with the 28-year-old having since struggled to perform at the level he's used to.


Aru's iliac artery problem has meant that he has lacked "an adequate blood supply when trying to make a maximum effort. This problem, and resulting drop in power, during the Sardinian's most intense efforts [has] limited his performances", said a team statement released on Sunday morning.

"It is a feeling that I feel when I have to go all-out, while the symptom disappears at a medium pace – so much so that in training I get the basic numbers," Aru said.

"From a certain point of view, I can only be relieved to have found the problem; on the other hand, I am angry about the bad luck that has befallen me for the umpteenth time, and that it will force me to miss the Giro d'Italia again. I will work to try to put an end to this dark period as soon as possible.

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Top 10 for Trentin after trying his luck in closing stages of Milan-San Remo
Sun, 24 Mar 2019 05:52:00 +0000

European road race champion Matteo Trentin (Mitchelton-Scott) tried to escape the clutches of the leading group at Milan-San Remo on Saturday by jumping away with just two kilometres to go, only to be chased down by three-time cyclo-cross world champion Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma), and eventually finishing 10th.

The Italian played his card inside the final couple of kilometres, and for a moment looked as though he might have opened up a large enough gap to hold off his rivals, only to look back with just over a kilometre to go to see the canary-yellow-clad Van Aert bringing him back.

Once the front group was back together again, it was the turn of Bahrain-Merida's Matej Mohoric to try his luck with an attack, and while Trentin could then sit in the wheels while the Slovenian road race champion was brought to heel, ensuring that he'd be in the mix for the final sprint, the 29-year-old had by then burned all his matches, and had to be content with a place in the top 10.


"I was there with the final guys, and so I thought I'd give it a go on the flat and that hopefully they'd look at each other, but they didn't," Trentin said on his team's website.

"In the end, my bullet was that one, and it was gone. The legs were what they were; I was on Peter Sagan's wheel, but I think he had also used his legs earlier."

Trentin was full of praise for his Mitchelton-Scott teammates, who drew similar praise from head sports director Matt White.

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Bettiol and Clarke animate Milan-San Remo for EF Education First
Sun, 24 Mar 2019 02:23:00 +0000

The attack by EF Education First's Alberto Bettiol approaching the top of the Poggio at Milan-San Remo on Saturday drew a response from eventual winner Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-QuickStep) – which caused the race to explode into life. Bettiol's teammate, Simon Clarke, then gave chase, and secured a top-10 finish for the American outfit in the reduced-group sprint on the Via Roma.

"If you can attack on the Poggio it means you're strong," Bettiol told Cyclingnews at the finish. "And I felt good in the finale of the race. But it's also a huge disappointment because, when Alaphilippe caught me, I felt like a complete idiot because I realised I'd blown my chance. If I’d waited and saved my power for a little later, I could have perhaps attacked to go away with him."

Bettiol added that he'd suffered cramps at the recent Strade Bianche, which prevented him from riding as strongly there was he would have liked, and so feeling good at a key point of one of the world's most-famous races wasn't an opportunity that the Italian was going to let pass by.


"Milan-San Remo finally proved to be my moment, and I went for it," he said. "When the road eased, the Deceuninck-QuickStep riders spread across the road for a moment, and the pace dropped. I just went for it and can't even remember what the rest of the Poggio was like.

"But I didn't race intelligently," Bettiol admitted. "I just switched my brain off and went for it."

Behind him, Australian Simon Clarke had a good view of his EF Education First teammate's move, but also admitted that things may have played out differently if he'd been in slightly closer attendance.

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Valverde so near and yet so far at Milan-San Remo
Sun, 24 Mar 2019 00:07:00 +0000

Alejandro Valverde's seventh place at Milan-San Remo, which came as having been part of the 12-man lead group, was the Movistar rider's best finish yet at La Classicissima – a race that continues to elude and frustrate the world champion.

It was a case of so near, and yet so far: the 38-year-old Spaniard was right where he needed to be on the Via Roma, but was never really a challenger to 26-year-old winner Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-QuickStep), whose greater concerns as the line approached were AG2R's Oliver Naesen, 2017 Milan-San Remo winner Michal Kwiatkowski (Team Sky) and former world champion Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe).

"It's been a spectacular Milan-San Remo, both because of the high level of racing and the great weather," Valverde said on the Movistar website. "Being up there with the top contenders and finishing with the first group, after 20 days with no racing, is something to be really happy about."


Valverde's previous best result at what is the first Monument of the season had been 15th in 2016. It's a race that he has now ridden seven times during his career, and finished 24th there back in 2006.

He's won Liège-Bastogne-Liège – the Monument that takes place in the Belgian Ardennes each April – four times, and will target the Tour of Flanders for the first time during his career this spring, but Milan-San Remo continues to remain tantalisingly out of reach.

"It was mostly flat-out in the finale, with no respite, which helped create that selection," Valverde said of Saturday's race. "Even if I was gaining ground on those launching the sprint from the front in the final metres, I wasn't able to gain back any more places, and had to stay content with that seventh place.

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Milan-San Remo highlights: Alaphilippe’s masterclass
Sat, 23 Mar 2019 20:51:00 +0000

The yearly seven-hour battle between the sprinters and puncheurs that is Milan-San Remo has once again come and gone, and for 2019 we can strike another one up to the latter – the third in a row for that most versatile of rider groupings.

Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quick Step) was the man to continue the mini-streak on Saturday afternoon, pulling off a masterful display in the finale. The Frenchman was ably aided by his powerful Quick Step team on the final climb of the day, the legendary Poggio, before launching over the top.

He wasn’t alone though – far from it, in fact. The best of the best had joined him, with the last two winners Michał Kwiatkowski (Team Sky) and Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) up there, along with legends of the modern era Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), among others.


After navigating the potential treachery of the Poggio descent, there were attacks to deal with, first in the form of Matteo Trentin’s (Mitchelton-Scott) bid and then when the young Slovene Matej Mohorič (Bahrain-Merida) went for glory in the final kilometre.

But they were dealt with, and then it was Alaphilippe who was sitting pretty as the finishing line, decked in the garish orange of race sponsor NamedSport, loomed. First he sat on Sagan’s wheel, then Oliver Naesen’s (AG2R La Mondiale), then nobody’s.

That was the race, the first Monument victory of Alaphilippe’s five-year-old pro career. Naesen trailed in second, while Kwiatkowski earned a place on the last step of the podium. 87 seconds later, Alaphilippe’s teammates crossed the line together, hailing a masterclass.

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