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Thursday, March 16, 2023

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Milano-Torino team reports

We posted the report from seventh-place Jordi Meeus' Team Bora-hansgrohe with the results.

Here's the report from third-place Casper Van Uden's Team DSM:

The oldest race in the calendar, Milano Torino rolled out in relatively calm conditions compared to what the peloton has been subjected to in Europe over the past few weeks. The calmness of the weather was also reflected in the action for the first hour of the race as a breakaway of six riders established an advantage at the front of the race.

This soon changed heading after around 50 kilometres of racing though as a small chase group formed including Moritz Kärsten, with the breakaway around 2’50” ahead. This split didn’t last and the peloton set about working to bring the break back over the second half of the 192 kilometres parcours with Team DSM adding firepower to the chase.

With 125km complete the gap was down to 1’40”, then under 1' with 35 kilometres to race. The race was eventually all back together with 17 kilometres to go and from here the leadouts started. Team DSM did a great job in controlling the front of the race and keeping Casper van Uden in position heading towards the finish before dropping him off in the final few hundred metres. He bided his time before unleashing a powerful finishing sprint, crossing the line in third place.

Arvid De Kleijn wins Milano-Torino.

After the race, Casper van Uden commented: “It was really good today. We wanted to take control today and ride our own race and I think we did just that. The boys did really good work and we took the race into our own hands. In the final it started to get really hectic but we came quite early and chose our side and the boys kept me in front. We lost each other for a bit, but everyone worked fast to find each other again for the run into the last corner, where Alex and I took it first and second so we could ride our own lines which was good. I came to the front quite early but was able to go full gas and started my sprint after the last corner. It was good enough for third place and it was nice to give the boys and everyone back at HQ a podium, so that’s really good.”

Team DSM coach Luke Roberts added: “We went into the race very ambitions today, aiming for the win and had a strong team for a sprint. It was quite nervous in the beginning with the wind but the boys did a good job all day looking after each other staying up the front out of trouble. Coming into the finale we tried to hold that position as best as possible. It got quite messy with around 7 kilometres to go with the roundabouts and a small crash saw us broken up but the guys found each other again for the critical point and could set Casper up quite well for the final. All in all, it was a good effort from the guys and the team in general and we’re happy to have a podium result to top it off.”

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Danilith Nokere Koerse team reports

We posted the report from winner Tim Merlier's Team Soudal Quick-Step with the results.

Here's the report from second-place Edward Theuns' Team Trek-Segafredo:

Edward Theuns finished second at Danilith Nokere Koerse while Elisa Balsamo sprinted to fourth place after some bad luck for the team in the women's race.
Trek-Segafredo’s men’s team started the 193.6-kilometer race today with a clear leader in Edward Theuns and they stuck to their plan perfectly.

It was a chaotic with a number of crashes once the race reached the local laps around Nokere but the Team was able to maintain a strong position at the front of the bunch all day and, with the exception of Emils Liepins who was involved in a small crash on the final lap, everyone stayed out of trouble.

In the end, it was a small group of riders who went on to contest the sprint but after all the hard work of his teammates, Theuns was where he needed to be in final kilometers of the day and was able to challenge for the victory.

The Belgian rider came narrowly close to winning on home soil with his compatriot (and the national champion) Tim Merlier (Soudal – Quick Step) taking the top spot on the podium just ahead of Theuns.

Tim Merlier was the day's winner.

Reaction From the Finish Line:
“I knew it was going to be difficult to beat Tim. I was a little too big in the sprint. Shifting gears on cobblestones is not easy, so that was not an option. Tim has a great power sprint, it's very hard to get over him. Of course, I was hoping that he would stop, but finishing second was the highest result achievable.”

"I didn't actually see the crashes as I was always in the first positions of the peloton but a course like this always creates nervous racing but for me it was a good day. I was third in Le Samyn, second here so I am just missing that victory but I am happy to be on the podium here. Of course, I will keep trying to get that win and I hope it will eventually come. I am pleased with the way the team rode for me today, I am strong in a sprint like this so I am happy that I was able to get close and that I could reward the work of the team with a second place."

An unlucky day for our women’s team in Belgium

Elisa Balsamo took fourth place in the women’s race behind Lotte Kopecky, who attacked on the final lap to take a solo victory in Nokere.

However, the Italian national champion was agonisingly close to reaching the wheel of the Team SD Worx rider and only missed out on the move due to an untimely crash.

Balsamo’s teammate Shirin Van Anrooij – who was making her return to road racing in 2023 in Belgium today – helped bring her back to the chasing group but with teammates slowing down the chase, Kopecky was able to hold on for the win.

The battle for the minor places saw more bad luck for Balsamo as she was slightly boxed in on the right side and had to take a longer way around to find some clear cobbles before starting her final sprint to the line

Unfortunately Lauretta Hanson was also involved in a crash during the race and was taken to hospital for further examination. A more detailed update to follow.

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Team Bahrain Victorious to race Milano-Sanremo, bringing defending champion Matej Mohorič

Here’s the team’s update:

Bahrain Victorious looks forward to returning to the first Classic Monument of the season, the Milano-Sanremo, where Matej Mohorič took a legendary victory with an impressive descent last year.

Matej Mohorič wins the 2022 edition of Milano-Sanremo. Sirotti photo

The defending champion will lead a lineup that best suits the different scenarios that unfold at this race, especially in the finale, with the undulating course featuring the sequence of the Capi (Mele, Cervo and Berta), the Cipressa and the Poggio, followed by a tricky downhill towards the picturesque town on the coast of Liguria, where the traditional flat finish in Via Roma awaits the riders.

The start has been moved from the centre of Milan to a nearby town, Abbiategrasso, with a change in the first 30km that won’t affect the soul of this 294km length Monumental race, whose 114th edition will take place on Saturday 18th March.

“Milan-Sanremo has always been the most unpredictable race and the most difficult to win.” TBV Sports Director Franco Pellizotti confirms, “We arrive as the winner of the last edition; therefore, the expectations are high. But every year, it’s a different story in this race, and everybody now knows what Matej is capable of. Although he feels even better than in 2022, it’s not taken for granted that he can repeat what he did to win the Sanremo, and with the same outcome. He’s a clever rider, and he does not necessarily have to wait for the Poggio descent to try to win again. I believe that his skills can let him win this Monument in different ways.”

“I am aware that confirming the success will be difficult, but yes, Sanremo is open to various outcomes, and I think I can still have a chance to win it again,” says the 2022 winner Matej Mohorič. “Probably, I will be more controlled by the rivals, but I guess I still have good cards in my pocket”.

The unpredictability makes La Classicissima fascinating and challenging to plan the strategies. Therefore, Bahrain Victorious will have several cards besides Mohorič, according to how the race unfolds. As Pellizotti explains: “We have a solid squad, including fast wheels and climbers. Some showed good shape at the stage races they participated in recently. I’m talking about a rider like Nikias Arndt can be our jolly, and the experienced Andrea Pasqualon as a sprinter, while Jonathan Milan suffered a bit at Paris-Nice, where he was forced to abandon. Therefore we will see how he will feel on Saturday to understand which kind of race to expect from him. He will surely support the team at best, as always, like Fred Wright, both appearing at the start for the second time. Then our lineup is made strong by two key riders that can try a late attack: Damiano Caruso and Pello Bilbao. Damiano is a race veteran, while Pello is debuting in this Monument. I’m curious and thrilled to see him in action”.

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Team EF Education-EasyPost previews Milano-Sanremo

The team sent me this:

The finale of Milano-Sanremo is often the most exciting hour of the cycling season.

It kicks off after 242 kilometers of racing, 52 kilometers from the finish, on the Capo Mele, a short climb overlooking the Mediterranean. Then come the Capo Cervo and Capo Berta, before the ascent of Cipressa and the final showdown on the slopes of Poggio. From the summit of the Poggio, there’s just a screaming fast descent to the finish line in the seaside resort of Sanremo.

Map of the 2023 Milano-Sanremo

But first, Italians have to say their long goodbye to winter. Their springtime classic will start Saturday morning in the outskirts of Milano. As the peloton traverses the length of the Po Valley, from the cold mist of Italy’s industrial north to the Riviera dei Fiori, their spirits will begin to rise. This will be the 114th edition of the race they call The Spring Classic.

Mikkel Honoré is married to an Italian woman and knows what Milano-Sanremo means to her country. “For the Italian people, Milano Sanremo is La Primavera, the spring classic,” he says. “It is something special: the opening of spring. You go from Milan, where it is usually cold and a bit rainy, you pass the Passo Turchino, and you drop down to Genoa, where it is warmer, near the Mediterranean sea, so it is like going from cold winter to summer. It reminds most Italian people that the seasons are turning.”

Alberto Bettiol, Stefan Bissegger, Magnus Cort, Mikkel Honoré, Neilson Powless, Jonas Rutsch, and Łukasz Wiśniowski won’t waste a pedal stroke during the first half of this year’s race. They will eat and drink and stay out of the wind. Their Milano-Sanremo will only begin to bloom when they race out of the tunnel atop the Passo del Turchino and plunge down its switchbacks to the sea. At the top of that col, they will have raced 144 kilometers and have 150 kilometers left. Once they hit the coast, they will hardly have the chance to catch their breath, as the peloton stretches into a long line and swooshes through the cramped, colorful streets of dozens of seaside towns, rounding cliffside corners, up, down, heading west beside the Med.

“The intensity just builds up over hours,” says sports director Matti Breschel. “It’s almost like an Italian opera. You’ve got the violins playing at a slow pace, and then you add the bass and suddenly the drums kick in, and you’ve got the whole thing exploding, before the Cipressa. And then, the finale is just iconic. But the start has always been special. It is an early start, and as soon as the Italian speaker starts to talk, the pigeons start to fly, and you feel the sun a little bit, even though it is a bit chilly.”

At 294 kilometers, the sheer length of Milano-Sanremo makes the finale all the more explosive. The Italian classic is the longest race that our riders do, by far, and that makes it unpredictable.

“Everybody’s abilities change the longer the race gets,” says Neilson Powless. “It is not as easy as just knowing what you can do for four minutes on the Poggio with fresh legs as hard as you can go. It is almost like you are racing with different people after seven hours in the saddle. It is really about who has been able to handle the fatigue throughout the day well, who has been able to fuel well, and who has a strong enough team there to still put them in position for the last hills.”

Mikkel Honoré knows how hard it can be to manage your effort almost 300 kilometers into a Monument. “You can have the perfect preparation, perfect shape, and once you are there, even if you have done everything perfect, and correct, sometimes you can just go lights out and not have the legs and your body just won’t do what you want it to do,” he says. “You cannot miss even one or two percent when you start the climbs, but you can just have lights out after 300 kilometers.”

We’ll do everything we can to make sure that doesn’t happen. The whole team is committed to leading Neilson, Magnus, and Alberto into the final two climbs at the front of the peloton. The first decisive point is the Cipressa—5.6 kilometers long at 4.1%. Its summit is 21.5 kilometers from the finish. The race is rarely won there, but it is very often lost.

“It is all about positioning coming into the Cipressa,” Mikkel says. “The peloton is going to split and this year it is going to be even harder. It looks like we are going to have a tailwind, so there will be very, very fast climbing times, and I am sure that the climbers are going to make a very hard race to drop some of the fast guys. On the Cipressa, you need to start in a super good position and keep the wheels.”

Neilson Powless thinks that tailwind will be to his advantage. He, Alberto, and Magnus will aim to follow the best on the Cipressa to avoid the splits that are sure to open up on the climb and its descent. Then, they will go all in on the Poggio.

“This year, I am even more excited about it, because it looks like it will be a tailwind up both climbs, which will help the climbers,” Neilson says. “I think this is the best year to put in a bid for victory. I am hoping that I will be able to follow the best on the Poggio when the attacks go, and then we’ll also have Alberto Bettiol and Magnus there. They are faster at the finish than me, so if it is still a group and we are there they can have good trust in me to help with the sprint.”

Our riders will have to trust their instincts and communicate well. Because the finale is so dynamic, and sprinters and climbers and punchy riders are all raring to have a go, it is very hard to read the race and pick the right moment to attack. You have to have luck to cross the line first by the Casino Sanremo.

“It is something that is just there, but it is there in a split second and if you think about it, then the moment or the opportunity is gone,” says Matti Breschel. “Obviously, for sprinters it makes sense to wait, but only if you have teammates to pull the last three kilometers. And if you have the punch and you are in a good position, then there is no time to wait and you have to kind of seek your opportunity whenever the Poggio kind of kicks in. There is a moment, just before the top. I think it is like one kilometer before the top. There it gets a little bit steeper. That is where the big guys will attack and there is a really good moment, but then, at the bottom of the descent of the Poggio, the big guys can sometimes take a deep breath and all look at each other and we’ve seen attacks coming from behind that have managed to stay away with a couple of seconds. With Neilson going so well, we have to take advantage of his good shape. I think he can do a really, really good race. Magnus is also riding well. I know it is a big dream for him to win this race one day and this year he had perfect preparation or at least the confirmation that the shape is there. And then we have Alberto. We have a super strong team, so there is no real excuse.”

See you in Sanremo!

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