As we have seen so often this season, the weather played a major role in the race. It was an absolutely horrendous day for the 104th edition of Milan-San Remo; nothing if not memorable. Oft-referred to as ‘La Primavera’, Milan-San Remo delivered anything but spring-like conditions. Freezing, snowy conditions forced race organizers to stop, restart, neutralize and reroute the race with nearly-frozen riders.
In fact the weather was so treacherous that the organizers were even obliged to neutralize a large portion of the race between Oviedo and Cogoleto, cutting out the Turchino climb due to excessive snow, and the Le Manie climb because the roads were way too dangerous with riders being driven roughly 50km down the road in their team buses. In case you missed it, here you can check out some action pictures of the “dante-esque” weather conditions …
“I felt really sorry for the boys. I wanted to tell them not to worry about it – to get off and stay off the bike. Instead, I had to do the opposite. I had to give them warm tea and food, encourage them to take warm showers and get them mentally prepared to go out there again. It was hard on my team and hard on the whole peloton” explained Neil Stephens, sport director at ORICA-GreenEDGE.
During the second part of the race, the weather stayed cold and wet, and more riders abandoned as the race went on. With 40km to go, the climbing finally started.
“Our strategy was necessarily completely changed by the events precipitated by the horrible weather. Thomas Löfkvist performed well over the Cipressa and the Poggio, but when the accelerations started coming from Cancellara and the other favorites, he did not have the legs to hang on in order to remain in contention on the descent of the Poggio. Similarly for Heinrich Haussler, he was poorly placed when the climb became most difficult and then did not have the legs to make the juncture before the descent” said Kjell Carlströml, Sport director at IAM Cycling.
A reduced peloton, by now shedding its extra layers of clothing, was determined to finish the race for honor. The cold conditions began to take a toll on even the best and big names, several pulling out due to the cold. The first attack on the Cipressa, led by Omega Pharma-QuickStep's Chavanel, was not successful, while surprisingly, Sky's Boasson Hagen fell off the back of the group. He was not the only one, as Greipel (Lotto Belisol) and Simon Gerrans (ORICA-GreenEdge) all lost the struggle to hang on.
A few meters after the Poggio, on the descent, Sagan (Cannondale) led a counter attack with Cancellara (RadioShack) and reeled in Chavanel and Stannard. Ciolek also made the move. They caught the two leaders with just less than 4km to go. Stannard jumped, but Sagan led the chase, and then took off on his own. Cancellara gave chase, with all coming together, until Stannard jumped again with 1.8km to go. The six came through the final kilometre with a sufficient gap, but it was the sight of Phinney tearing across that ignited the sprint and set the wheels in motion for Ciolek. Hats off Team MTN Qhubeka on taking their biggest and bravest win yet.