Frenchman Julian Alaphilippe continued his fantastic 2019 by winning the first Monument of the season, Milan-San Remo, in a thrilling twelve-man sprint. It was Alaphilippe’s first Monument victory. Alaphilippe was third in the 2017 Milan-San Remo and placed runner-up in Il Lombardia the same year.

The French star and his Deceuninck-Quick Step squad have been rolling, with Alphilippe taking Strade Bianche and stages of his first three stage races, including a brace at Tirreno-Adriatico where he came sixth overall.

The Course

It’s been said that not much happens in Milan-San Remo until around the final 20 of a taxing 291-km. That’s where the first of two key hills, the Cipressa, begins. Hard on the Cipressa’s heels comes the Poggio. Neither climb seems all that daunting: Cipressa is 5.6-km of 4.1 percent and the narrower Poggio, which crests with 4.5-km before the finish on the Via Roma, is 3.5-km at 3.8 percent. The descent off the Poggio among the greenhouses tests the riders’ skills and nerve. It was on this descent that Sean Kelly memorably caught and outsprinted Moreno Argentin in 1992.

It was sunny on the Ligurian Coast.

The Breakaway

Team Novo Nordisk was apparently thrilled to be at La Primavera, as it put four fellows in a breakaway of ten riders. By the time they reached the hardest climb of the course, Passo del Turchino, their gap was trimmed to 6:33 from around 8:00. Deceuninck-Quick Step, Bora-Hansgrohe, Lotto-Soudal and UAE-Emirates took turns pace making.

The clear skies made for lovely vistas. Heading southwest on the Ligurian Coast, the riders faced headwinds.

There are three Capo climbs from kilometre 239 to 255: Capo Mele, Capo Cervo and Capo Berta. It was on the last of these ascents that the breakaway began to fragment.

On Berta, fans with more enthusiasm than sense set brush alight with smoke flares.

Cipressa

Positioning was essential before the Cipressa. The breakaway was only 14-seconds ahead when the peloton hit the climb, and the bunch let the last fugitive survivor roast in the sun until halfway up. Astana and Groupama-FDJ led the way. A group of about 80 tipped over the crest. Twenty-one kilometres remained.

Niccolò Bonifazio of wildcard outfit Direct Energie, soon to be called Total, attacked on the descent. He soloed out front until 10-km remained, Lotto-Soudal and Deceuninck-Quick Step whipping the streamlined peloton.

Poggio

The Poggio kicked up with 9-km to go. Sky pulled for the first half-kilometre until Deceuninck grabbed the reins, its sprinter Elia Viviani too far back in the thin line.

Alberto Bettiol of EF Education and Direct Energie’s Lilian Calmejean kicked off the attacking. Alaphilippe skipped up the road and Peter Sagan, Alejandro Valverde, Michal Kwiatkowski, Matteo Trentin, Wout Van Aert, Oliver Naesen, Vicenzo Nibali and three others came over.

Descent of Poggio

Tom Dumoulin tried to bridge as the men in front dithered. Trentin went long from 2-km out, but was brought back at the red kite. Twelve men entered the last 500-metres intact and sprinted it out. Alaphilippe was just too strong for the other. Naesen was runner-up and Kwiatkowski rounded out the podium.

2019 Milan-San Remo
1) Julian Alaphilippe (France/Deceuninck-Quick Step) 6:40:14
2) Oliver Naesen (Belgium/AG2R) s.t.
3) Michal Kwiatskowski (Poland/Sky) s.t.

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