Frenchman Julian Alaphilippe of Deceunick-Quick Step claimed his first Monument victory as he outsprinted Belgium’s Oliver Naesen (AG2R-La Mondiale), and arch-rivals Michal Kwiatkowski (Team Sky) and Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) in the front group
of ten riders that had been formed on ascent of the Poggio at the initiative of the eventual winner. Alaphilippe has become the third rider to win Milan-Sanremo immediately following a Strade Bianche victory, along with the Swiss Fabian Cancellara
in 2008 and the Pole Kwiatkowski in 2017.
“I came with the goal of winning this race,” Alaphilippe revealed. “I’m just as proud of my win as I am of the work of my team today. What they’ve done for me is absolutely exceptional. I rode for the victory at the end,
bearing their dedication in mind. It’s a feeling of pure joy.”
Ten riders had formed a long-lasting breakaway from km 6 and by km 10 the group had created an advantage of one minute: Fausto Masnada (Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec), Mirco Maestri and Alessandro Tonelli (Bardiani CSF), Guy Sagiv (Israel Cycling Academy),
Luca Raggio and Sebastian Schönberger (Neri Sottoli-Selle Italia-KTM), along with the Novo Nordisk foursome of Joonas Henttala, Andrea Peron, Charles Planet and Umberto Poli.
“Alaphilippe was untouchable today. He was the strongest on the Poggio. He launched the sprint from very far away with a head wind against very fast riders like Kwiatkowski, Sagan and Trentin. He’s for sure the rightful winner." Oliver
The peloton organised a response once the time gap nudged above 10 minutes after 30km of racing with riders from Lotto-Soudal, Deceuninck-Quick Step, UAE Team Emirates and Bora-Hansgrohe setting the rhythm. Calm and sunny weather conditions helped as
they rode at a high pace to record the ninth fastest average speed in all 110 editions of Milan-Sanremo (43.624km/h).
The escapees covered the first three hours at almost 43km/h and kept speeding up as long as they managed to stay away: averaging 43.5km/h after the fifth hour and then 43.715km/h after the sixth hour. Masnada was the last man to surrender with 26km to
go at the beginning of the Cipressa climb, while the bunch was conducted by Astana, led by the Dane Magnus Cort Nielsen.
On the descent of the Cipressa, Niccolo Bonifazio (Direct Energie) – who is the ‘enfant du pays’ on the Italian Riviera – rode away solo for an advantage peaking at more than one minute, but the bunch was all together again
before tackling the Poggio. Zdenek Stybar upped the tempo in the iconic climb to launch an attack by Alaphilippe who was quickly followed by a trio of UCI World Champions: Peter Sagan and his predecessor Michal Kwiatkowski, and successor Alejandro
Valverde, along with European Champion, Matteo Trentin. None of the pure sprinters was able to stay in contact with them. Trentin was the last man to try to go clear from the group of ten leaders with 2km to go. Matej Mohoric (Bahrain-Merida), another
former UCI World Champion in both u19 and u23 categories, launched the sprint 600 meters before the finish line. Alaphilippe was lucid enough to realize it was the decisive move… and he still had enough in the tank to resist to the rush of
“I recovered in the downhill after I sped up on the Poggio but I still thought it would be complicated to win considering the quality of the riders I was away with. I made a little effort to close the gap on Matteo Trentin as I knew he was very
fast. Then I stayed calm and remained next to Peter Sagan. When Matej Mohoric launched the sprint, I knew I had to take his wheel straight away. Had he taken 20 metres, it would have been game over. I capped it off the nicest way I could.”
“Alaphilippe was untouchable today,” said the second placed Naesen. “He was the strongest on the Poggio. He launched the sprint from very far away with a head wind against very fast riders like Kwiatkowski, Sagan and Trentin. He’s
for sure the rightful winner. I had a lot of confidence going into this race but I was confident to make the top 10. I was hoping for a podium but I didn’t really expect it. It means I’m ready for a big win because the cobbled classics
in Belgium, my home country, suit me even more than Milan-Sanremo.”
Third placed Kwiatkowski was similarly full of praise for the Frenchman: “I dreamt to win Milan-Sanremo again but Julian was the strongest rider today,” he said. “I think everybody saw what he did on the Poggio. Having the legs to sprint
the way he did after that is absolutely impressive. It was a nice feeling for me to be with the best riders in the front group. I’m really happy that Team Sky gave me the opportunity to go for another one.”
Alaphilippe, aged 26, and only four days younger than Kwiatkowski when the Pole won on via Roma two years ago, claimed the 14th French victory in Milan-Sanremo: only Italy (51) and Belgium (20) have higher totals.
The young Frenchman’s achievement bookends neatly with that of the inaugural winner of the classicissima, who was also a Frenchman: Lucien Petit-Breton, in 1907.