Year after year, spring after spring, Milano-Sanremo does far more than act as a spectacular curtain raiser for a season of top-level one-day racing. Milano-Sanremo is one of cycling's Monuments, the five one-day races that have forged - and continue to forge - the history of the Classics for the last century and will surely do so into the next.
At close to 300km long, Milano-Sanremo’s most striking initial feature is its sheer distance. It is by far the longest one-day race on the UCI WorldTour calendar, taking the riders all the way from one of Italy’s industrial powerhouses, the city of Milano, to the glitzy coastal resort of Sanremo: by bike, a good seven to eight hours of steady to fast riding. The second striking feature of Milano-Sanremo is the level of anticipation surrounding Italy’s biggest one-day Classic. For both the local tifosi and cycling fans world-wide, la Primavera, as Milano-Sanremo is known, does not just announce the arrival of spring: it ushers in an eagerly awaited whole new season of top-level one-day racing.
In Italy, Milano-San Remo has also been called “La Classicissima” (the Classic of the Classics). It is a race for the sprinters, but other riders always have a chance too. The race route is long but not especially hard. However it is finely balanced, with the 'capi', the Cipressa and especially the Poggio: these coastal climbs in the final 50km offer chances for riders to attack. This is when the sprinters have to fight for survival and hope that their teammates and rivals will chase down the attacks so that the race will come back together and be decided in a sprint. This is often the case, but there is always a chance an attack can lead to victory. And that inspires attacks in every edition of Milano-Sanremo.
In 2014 the sprinters managed to control the attacks and fight for victory. Vincenzo Nibali was caught after going clear on the Cipressa, but Alexander Kristoff of the Katusha team was the best sprinter and after a cold and wet race he became the first ever Norwegian winner of Milano-Sanremo.
In 2015 Milano-Sanremo will return to finish in Via Roma, in the centre of Sanremo. Recent editions have finished on the seafront, three kilometres from the end of the descent of the Poggio. The finish in Via Roma is one kilometre closer, making the 2015 edition of Milano-Sanremo as finely balanced as ever.