On Saturday morning, were you glued to your computer monitor, watching Milan San-Remo and blowing off your family, brunch plans with friends, or group ride? If so, you were privy to what might have been the most exciting race of the season thus far, and possibly the most exciting Milan-San Remo in a long time. If you disagree or if you found this year’s Milan-San Remo lacking or unexciting, make your case here. We’ll try not to scold you (just kidding–well, maybe).
Today’s Monday Musette takes a look at Saturday’s 102nd running of La Primavera. Though there’s something distasteful about the outcome of a race being affected heavily by crashes, those that caused the splitting of the peloton into two groups before La Manie created an exciting and richly tactical race as teams were forced to assess their positions in front and behind.
1. Matt Goss deserves some huge kudos for a very impressive win. We listed him as a 4-stone favorite but had our doubts – would Paris-Nice, with its shorter stages and earlier finish, be appropriate preparation for Milan-San Remo’s 298-kilometers compared to Tirreno-Adriatico’s multiple 240-kilometer stages?
2. It’s hard to argue that Milan-San Remo does anything but favor sprinters, but to use Goss’s victory as evidence that only sprinters can win in San Remo is flawed – arriving in a small group of 8 after an aggressive attack-riddled ascent of the Poggio proves the flawed logic of pigeonholing Goss as a “sprinter.” If you’re following Fabian Cancellara’s moves in a select group of proven classics stars, you are more than just a sprinter. Is Goss a classics star in the making as well?
3. Goss’s development is starting to make Andre Greipel’s dismissal from HTC look like a pretty safe move. Though Greipel has yet to live up to some of the hype surrounding him, his performance at MSR was impressive. The German buried himself on the lower slopes of the Poggio to keep the four-man break of Steve Chainel, Yoann Offredo, Greg Van Avermaet, and Stuart O’Grady within striking distance of Phillipe Gilbert.
4. Speaking of burying himself, FDJ’s Chainel put in a huge effort before the Poggio dragging himself, teammate Offredo, O’Grady, and Van Avermaet off the front first group. It was one of the most impressive moves of the race.
5. As for one most impressive moves of the race, Lampre’s Michele Scarponi made an incredible bridge from the second peloton to the lead group at a time when it appeared that the following group had no strength or inclination to continue its chase. At first it appeared that Scarponi was slipping away just for the honor of finishing among the 40 or so survivors in the front group, but he remained active in the finale to finish 6th. Scarponi and Vincenzo Nibali’s performances bode well for May’s Giro d’Italia.
6. Fine performances abounded over the Poggio: BMC’s Greg Van Avermaet took advantage of an accelerating team car to attack his breakaway group and made a beautiful and desperate bid for freedom that survived until the lower slopes of the Poggio’s descent. Liquigas’ Vincenzo Nibali attacked repeatedly, finally breaking clear over the Poggio as a tired and limb-thrashing Yoann Offredo struggled to hold his wheel. Nibali’s move initiated the final selection, and few were able to react to the Italian’s powerful attack.
7. And, are you paying attention to Yoann Offredo yet? If not, you should be.
8. And what of our heroes? Phillipe Gilbert lets his legs do the talking but he may have tried to say a bit too much from the Poggio to the finish line – on the front for much of the Poggio, attacking after the descent, and finally, trying to sprint. A fine performance, no doubt, but perhaps a bit over-eager. Fabian Cancellara, on the other hand, raced very patiently, but re-learned a very difficult lesson from the 2009 World Championship Road Race: it’s difficult even for the best descender in the peloton to attack on a downhill. In an unusual twist, his 2nd place came thanks to an impressive burst which he called “the sprint of his life.”
For every inspiring turning of the pedals, though, there were some disappointing ones as well:
9. Garmin-Cervelo found themselves in a strong position after the splitting of the peloton with Heinrich Haussler and master tactician Andreas Klier in the first group. When all was said and done though, the race favorites played their hand wrong. They chose not to drive the second group to reconnect with the first, choosing to play Klier – who pulled out one attack before the Poggio – and Haussler, who missed the Nibali, Cancellara, Gilbert, etc. move over the Poggio in pursuit of Greg Van Avermaet.
10. What’s Heinrich Haussler’s excuse for missing the move over the Poggio? Garmin-Cervelo’s Vaughters attributes it to Haussler’s uneven, injury-riddled 2010 season, which left him without a Grand Tour in his legs.
11. Much like the Sidi ad, Milan-San Remo exposed Filippo Pozzato’s naked self. He was willing to chase down Phillipe Gilbert’s attack in the final kilometers, but could manage nothing more than fifth on the day. Maybe instead of his courage-symbolizing carp tattoo, he should have gotten a beta fish – maybe then he’d attack on his own.
12. Rabobank really missed Matti Breschel today. At peak fitness, he could have given Goss a run for his money.
13. And lastly, Farnese’s Takashi Miyazawa, the National Champion of Japan, had an emotional moment during a minute of silence for the victims of Japan’s earthquake and tsunami. He followed this by spending over 200 kilometers in the race’s early break. We tip our hat.
And you? What were your thoughts on Saturday’s Milan-San Remo? Share your comments below.