Milano – Sanremo saw the triumph of Jasper Stuyven. The Spring Classic took an unpredictable turn this year, not only with the victory of the Belgian cyclist, but also in terms of the route that had to be changed due to a landslide and the absence of the public for the second year running as a result of the pandemic.
Stuyven came ahead of Ewan and Van Aert, winner of the 2020 edition.
The greatest event of the season followed the usual route, despite having to go via Colle di Giovo instead of the Passo del Turchino, blocked by a landslide.
Let’s retrace together the main and most exciting moments of the event, organised also thanks to the support, for the second consecutive year, of Banca Ifis, the Premium Partner of all seven Great Classics of Cycling 2021 and Official Partner of the Gran Fondo “Strade Bianche” and “Il Lombardia”.
In 2021, Milano-Sanremo returned as a spring event: last year, the Classicissima took place in August and followed a largely different route due to Covid-19.
The race once again followed a classic route, with the exception of the Passo del Turchino, unfortunately unpassable due to a landslide. The Passo del Turchino was for years the most difficult stretch of the entire race and required a fair amount of willpower. However, with the passage of time, the climb, as well as being too far from the finish line, proved to be less of a challenge for modern cyclists.
This time, instead, there was a climb up Colle di Giovo and from there the route continued along the Aurelia to Albisola, the most spectacular stretch of the entire race. The last 112 km of the race followed the traditional route taking in the three Capes (Capo Mele, Capo Cervo and Capo Berta) before the ascent of the Cipressa, which has been part of the route since 1982, and that of the Poggio, the legendary ascent of the race which was added in 1960.
The race ended at the usual finish line in via Roma, in the centre of the city of Sanremo.
The route was different for the 2020 edition, with a detour that bypassed the municipalities of the province of Savona. The race crossed Lomellina, Monferrato and the Langhe, went up Colle di Nava, and then down towards Imperia to rejoin the customary route. In 2021, the municipalities of the Savona area were once again included.
Milano-Sanremo opened the season of the Classics with 25 teams of 7 cyclists each. Among the favourites of the race were Van Aert, the winner of the 2020 edition, Mathieu Van Der Poel, who triumphed in the recent Strade Bianche, and Alaphilippe, winner of the 2019 edition and reigning world champion.
This was why the victory of Jasper Stuyven came as a complete surprise, even if the Belgian had already proved his worth 5 years ago during the Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne, in which his skill and ability as a sprinter emerged.
Notably absent however was the winner of the 56th edition of the Tirreno-Adriatico, the Slovenian cyclist Pogacar, who had decided to take a break and prepare for the Tour of the Basque Country.
The Spring Classicissima saw the success of Jasper Stuyven, who surprised everyone with a sprint that allowed him to compete with the best, including the three favourites. During his sprint, Stuyven also vied with the Dane Kragh Andersen, who overtook the Belgian and can be said to have drawn him along the straight section.
It was just a matter of patience and perseverance: Stuyven was able to resist Caleb Ewan’s sprint at an unprecedented pace.
“I had held up well, but there were many natural sprinters and so I preferred to bide my time. I had no plan, I simply took a gamble. It was to be all or nothing.” These were the words of the winner of the 112th edition of Milano-Sanremo. Second place went to Australian Ewan who said: “I am a little disappointed to have come second, but I have no regrets. When Stuyven sprinted ahead, we looked at each other too much. I think that if I’d started any earlier in the sprint however I would have just ended up even further behind.”
Third on the podium was the favourite Wout van Aert, winner of the previous edition of the Classicissima, who complimented Stuyven: “There was also hesitation during the final part of the Poggio. With the team we acted tactically, but the last stretch is always unknown territory, we rely on instinct. But congratulations to Jasper“.
Behind Wout van Aert came Peter Sagan. The Slovakian cyclist had to make up for lost time due to the pandemic and, given his position the next step down on the podium, he seems to have overcome the difficult period well enough.
Surprisingly, Mathieu van der Poel, one of the favourites of the Classicissima and champion of the 2019 edition, finished fifth.
Despite the predictions and the favourites of the race, Milano-Sanremo always remains an unpredictable and exciting race.
Among the Italians, the best position was taken by Sonny Colbrelli who came eighth. Matteo Trentin came twelfth and Giacomo Nizzolo eighteenth. Nibali adopted a strategy that favoured his teammate and this paid off well, while Filippo Ganna supported the tactic of Team Ineos, together with Kwiatkowski and Pidcock, a tactic that however ended in disappointment, since none of them finished in the top ten. A sprint during the last stretch of Milano-Sanremo would have been enough however to allow him to achieve a much more memorable feat.
The Belgian Stuyven‘s unexpected victory is a dream come true for him, as his best finish in the historic Milano – Sanremo race was 10th place in 2018. Happy and incredulous, Stuyven said: “I still can’t believe I have won the Milano-Sanremo! At the last hurdle, just before the last corner, I tried to recover a moment, then I launched myself into my sprint. After the descent of the Poggio I saw that there were still some sprinters, I realised that I had to try to surpass them and so I did. It was not a strategy I had planned on, but rather I was acting on instinct. It’s incredible, I don’t know what to say!”.
We leave you with the rankings of the 112th edition of the Classicissima.
1 STUYVEN Jasper (Trek-Segafredo) 6h38’06”
2 EWAN Caleb (Lotto Soudal)
3 VAN AERT Wout (Team Jumbo-Visma)
4 SAGAN Peter (BORA-Hansgrohe)
5 VAN DER POEL Mathieu (Alpecin-Fenix)
6 MATTHEWS Michael (Team BikeExchange)
7 ARANBURU Alex (Astana-Premier Tech)
8 COLBRELLI Sonny (Bahrain-Victorious)
9 KRAGH ANDERSEN Søren (Team DSM)
10 TURGIS Anthony (Team Total Direct Energie)