Milano - Sanremo: March 20, 2021

In spite of the new lockdown in Lombardia it looks like this opener of the classic spring season is going ahead, albeit without spectators. Because of a landslide the Turchino was replaced by a new climb: the Colle del Giovo - long but not steep. This brings the total distance to no less than 299 km.

In a distant past this monument was won by climbers like Fignon and Chiappucci. Then came the era of the sprinters, with Zabel and Freire as multiple winners. More recently however the punching climbers have reclaimed the crown. As usual it will be a long, nerve-racking build-up along the Ligurian coast towards the Poggio, followed by a fast, technical descent and a flat finish on the Via Roma. Be prepared!



Climbs:
  1. Colle del Giove (126 km) [19.5 km; 2.6%]
  2. Capo Mele (51.5 km) [2.5 km;5.2%]
  3. Capo Cervo ( 46.6 km) [2.5 km; 4.1%]
  4. Capo Berta ( 38.8 km) [3 km;4.3%]
  5. Cipressa (21.6 km) [ 5.6 km; 4.1%]
  6. Poggio di Sanremo (5.5 km) [3.6 km; 3.7%]
Recent Winners:
2011: Matthew Goss
2012: Simon Gerrans
2013: Gerald Ciolek
2014: Alexander Kristoff
2015: John Degenkolb
2016: Arnaud Démare
2017: Michal Kwiatkowski
2018: Vicenzo Nibali
2019: Julian Alaphilippe
2020: Wout Van Aert

Multiple Winners:
7x Eddy Merckx
6x Constante Girardengo
4x Gino Bartali
4x Erik Zabel
3x Fausto Coppi
3x Roger De Vlaeminck
3x Oscar Freire
 
Astonishing to not see Peter Sagan among the recent winners. The previous years it was almost a surprise that he didn't win, now it would be a surprise if he did.
We could say the same thing, but to a lesser extent, about Michael Matthews. He has a slightly bigger chance at the moment, but still.

Anyone outside Wout or Mathieu would be a surprise.
Watch out for Ballerini though.
 
Reactions: Zoetemelk-fan
They should spice up these long flat races. Maybe like in biathlon, some target shooting and penalty loops every 50k.
Yeah, I think it has been more than a week since UCI's latest head-shaking new rule, so I guess it would be soon announced to be a feature in races with less than 80 altitude metres per 10 kilometres from April 1st. Maybe even live wild animals instead of set targets.
 
I’m hoping for a big finish where a reduced peloton is closing fast on the attackers on the Via Roma. But as Pantani Lives said, the sprinters haven’t won in years. It’s getting harder to see them even being competitive now that we are in the MVDP/Alaphilippe/WVA era. How is the gap going to even be meaningfully reduced if/when those guys are going all out?
 
Reactions: Sandisfan
Quickstep should race rather defensive, looking at Ala's recent results I wouldn't burn all the other matches just to launch him on the Poggio, where Wout and MVDP can probably go with him. Set a decent but ot brutal pace on the Poggio and let Ala him follow the Attack by the other big favourites without collaborating, while Ballerini is your man for a reduced bunch sprint. I can only see Ala winning a sprint against Wout and MVDP if he lets them do all the work before the sprint, so I wouldn't put all of my eggs in one basket.
 
Interesting will be the strategic approach of Quickstep here.
With Alaphilippe, Ballerini and Bennett, they have three potential top contenders.
Could be a strategy that Alaphilippe does not attack himself, but only goes along with the attacks of van Aert and van der Poel at the Poggio.
 
C'mon...it will be not a MSR without Ala accelerating like crazy on Poggio. I think Ala will launch his trademark sprint 500m from the top with Van der Poel following for sure. Don't know about Wout Van Aert. Last year he couldn't follow Ala on Poggio and got back on descent. If Ala and Van der Poel collaborate maybe this time he will not be this lucky.

Also, I agree that Ballerini is Quickstep best bet(I don't trust Ala beating Van der Poel in a sprint). I see him as the strongest sprinter right now and he will not have problems going over the top with the peloton. Bennett never contested the sprint in San Remo and I don't see a reason to be different this time.
 
I would totally go with Ballerini as DQS, if I didn't think that MSR is maybe Ala's specialty race. He finished this like what, 3 out of 4 times on the podium? For a race that can seem random to win this is kind of eye-catching. It depends, I suppose, what they think about his form. Is he at his best - then go for Ala. If he's not, put your eggs into the Ballerini basket and use Ala strategically.

Van Aert to win if this goes to a reduced bunch sprint. (30%) Van der Poel to win if it's a duo-sprint. (45%) Alaphilippe with a chance if this is a threesome. (8%) Ballerini with a chance to win when things get messy. (8%) Mads Pedersen as a surprise bet (3%), and oh, I would love Bernal to win this... will he be there (2%)?
 
Okay. And when I'm reading the recap from that year, it seems that cold and rain was an important reason for action before Poggio.

Even though we can expect a lot of action on Poggio, both the climb and descent, I'm really eager for some route adjustments in future versions. It's about time they at least tried something else for a couple of versions and rather returned to the current route if that failed.
 
I think one shouldn't underestimate Alaphilippe on the Poggio. MvdP and Van Aert might have had more impressive performances this year but it's not like Alaphilippe hasn't shown good shape either and I think the Poggio suits him more than the other two. I agree he isn't the favorite but I 100% think he has a better chance to win aggressively than some qs sprinter has in a reduced bunch sprint.
 
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Okay. And when I'm reading the recap from that year, it seems that cold and rain was an important reason for action before Poggio.

Even though we can expect a lot of action on Poggio, both the climb and descent, I'm really eager for some route adjustments in future versions. It's about time they at least tried something else for a couple of versions and rather returned to the current route if that failed.
I don't know. A few years ago I was among the people calling for a route change but the last few years the route started to work again. Prior to Kwiatkowski's win I felt MSR will start to become a sprinter classic with attackers only winning like 1 out of 10 races, but now the last 4 years in a row the race didn't end in a buch sprint so I'm inclined to say they shouldn't mess around with a formula that is currently delivering. I also wish there was more action on the Cipressa but as long as the finale is as good as recently I'm fine.
 
I don't know. A few years ago I was among the people calling for a route change but the last few years the route started to work again. Prior to Kwiatkowski's win I felt MSR will start to become a sprinter classic with attackers only winning like 1 out of 10 races, but now the last 4 years in a row the race didn't end in a buch sprint so I'm inclined to say they shouldn't mess around with a formula that is currently delivering. I also wish there was more action on the Cipressa but as long as the finale is as good as recently I'm fine.
The upside on today's route is that more than one type of rider can win.
The downside is that the first 290 km is mostly a waiting game for Poggio.

Is it possible to make some route adjustments creating action earlier than Poggio, but still keeping the upside?

My desired choice would be to change Cipressa with Pompeiana and try that for at least a couple of versions. Pompeiana is just barely steeper and about the same length but has a steeper section of a few hundred meters just before the top where it would be more plausible to attack than on Cipressa. And while the flat section between Cipressa and Poggio is about 9 km, the flat section between Pompeiana and Poggio would about half that distance.
 
Reactions: Sandisfan
Astonishing to not see Peter Sagan among the recent winners. The previous years it was almost a surprise that he didn't win, now it would be a surprise if he did.
We could say the same thing, but to a lesser extent, about Michael Matthews. He has a slightly bigger chance at the moment, but still.

Anyone outside Wout or Mathieu would be a surprise.
Watch out for Ballerini though.
I'm not a Sagan fan, but it would be fun if he took it this year when nobody expects it. And he probably still has a chance in most sprints if he's in the lead group going into Via Roma.

Maybe this could be the year of a VDP pre-Poggio attack?
 
Quickstep should race rather defensive, looking at Ala's recent results I wouldn't burn all the other matches just to launch him on the Poggio, where Wout and MVDP can probably go with him. Set a decent but ot brutal pace on the Poggio and let Ala him follow the Attack by the other big favourites without collaborating, while Ballerini is your man for a reduced bunch sprint. I can only see Ala winning a sprint against Wout and MVDP if he lets them do all the work before the sprint, so I wouldn't put all of my eggs in one basket.
Bennett has been putting a lot into preparing for this race so it looks like he is the chosen one if Ala gets pulled back in
 
The upside on today's route is that more than one type of rider can win.
The downside is that the first 290 km is mostly a waiting game for Poggio.

Is it possible to make some route adjustments creating action earlier than Poggio, but still keeping the upside?

My desired choice would be to change Cipressa with Pompeiana and try that for at least a couple of versions. Pompeiana is just barely steeper and about the same length but has a steeper section of a few hundred meters where it would be more plausible to attack than on Cipressa. And while the flat section between Cipressa and Poggio is about 9 km, the flat section between Pompeiana and Poggio would about half that distance.
I don't want Pompeiana. It will kill the sprinters and I still want to have these doubts. Will the likes of Kristoff/Demare/Degenkolb survive and beat the likes of Ala/VDP/WVA?
If you add Pompeiana, all the sprinters will drop there and we will remain only with the likes of Ala/VDP/WVA as possible winners.
 

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