Milano-Sanremo: Bad Luck on the Poggio Descent
Etixx - Quick-Step riders Michal Kwiatkowski and Zdenek Stybar remained in good position heading into the descent of the Poggio in a hectic ending to 293km Milano-Sanremo on Sunday, but an ill-timed crash involving the UCI World Road Champion, the Czech Road Champion, along with Philippe Gilbert (BMC Racing Team) and Gerald Ciolek (MTN-Qhubeka), took those riders out of contention before the Via Roma arrival on Sunday.
John Degenkolb (Giant-Alpecin) won the reduced bunch sprint over Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) and Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEDGE).
Mark Cavendish, who won the race in 2009, did his best to stay with the peloton. He even made it back to the front of the peloton following the Cipressa in anticipation of the final climb. However, Cavendish was caught in a group that lost contact just before the Poggio. .
The original breakaway of 11-riders established a 1'50" gap at the 11km mark of the race and had more than a 10 minute advantage at one point. The leadership of the race was eventually down to just one rider, Matteo Bono (Lampre-Merida), with a small gap before he was caught. A crash on the Capo Berta gave three Team Sky riders a temporary advantage, but they caught the remaining riders of the original breakaway and then were also brought back by the peloton at the same time they caught Bono. Etixx - Quick-Step rider Stijn Vandenbergh did a tremendous job on the front helping to chase down the original breakaway during the day.
Daniel Oss (BMC Racing Team) and Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) animated the race following the Cipressa, but even those riders were caught with 4.4km to go on the descent of the Poggio. Not long after the Etixx - Quick-Step duo of Kwiatkowski and Stybar were spotted on the road involved in a crash.
Cavendish was the team's top finisher, in 46th place. All riders of Etixx - Quick-Step finished the race.
"I didn't feel good at all, I had nowhere near the form I had a few weeks ago before I got sick," Cavendish said. "But the team put me in good positions for the climbs. I kept fighting just for the chance to be there at the finish. A kilometer and half to go on Cipressa, when it was more flat, I had a mechanical. My chain went off. I used some energy I needed with my condition in order to close the gap on the descent. Then before the start the Poggio I was behind a rider who lost the wheel in front of him for a moment, and at Milano-Sanremo any gap at all can cost you the race. On the Poggio you have to keep moving up and fight for position, and I didn't have the energy to do the accelerations necessary at that point. The combination of how I felt and my energy expenditure catching back to the peloton after my mechanical just put me too far back. But at least everyone is safe and well after this race. It was a good race, and Degenkolb deserves the win."
"Let's hope tomorrow morning when I wake up from bed I won't feel anything," Kwiatkowski said. "But as of now I am feeling OK and I have to be happy about that. Bad luck today, especially that both of us were on the ground. The race looks different than what it could have been if that didn't happen. We did it perfectly today, my teammates did a great job putting us into good position. For the first time at Milano-Sanremo I was there on the Poggio. We felt really comfortable. It was still a big group. When I heard Cavendish was no longer with us, I knew we both still felt good and who knows what can happen in this kind of race. Maybe we could try an attack or make the sprint ourselves. But again, bad luck, and not much I can do in this situation other than feel happy with my condition and that the crash was not worse."
"Today I was really unlucky," Stybar said. "I crashed twice. The first time I crashed on the downhill of the Capo Berta when other riders went down in front of me and I couldn't avoid them. But I was fortunately able to get up and ride immediately. Then I crashed for the second time on the descent of the Poggio when someone crashed in front of Kwiato and I. At that point my race was over. It's a pity because despite the first crash, the idea was to ride to the end of the downhill of the Poggio and see what we could have done. I had good legs today and it's a shame I couldn't get to the finish and we couldn't play all our cards, even if because arriving in Via Roma after 300 kilometers of riding the sprint is always strange and anything can happen. But OK, that's cycling. I have a few scratches on my knee and ribs, but nothing serious. So after today we just need to turn the page and see what we can do at the next races."