Milano-Sanremo: Two in the Top 10 for OPQS Out of Select Group in Difficult Conditions
Riding almost 300km — including the Cipressa and the Poggio — is difficult enough at Milano-Sanremo. The weather, which included cold temperatures and plenty of rain, made the Italian Classic even more brutal on Sunday.
The 2014 edition of Milano-Sanremo was a race of attrition. Riders, including several from OPQS, dropped kilometer-by-kilometer due to the weather conditions. Riders were dropping even more consistently over the Cipressa and the Poggio, where attacks were frequent and the pace lined out the peloton on both the ascents and the descents. Jan Bakelants of OPQS was there with Cavendish near the front going into that point, keeping the British Champion in good placing in preparation for a hectic final that could possibly result in a bunch sprint.
Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team riders Mark Cavendish and Zdenek Stybar braved the brutal conditions and finished 5th and 7th in the sprint finale out of a group that was down to less than 20 to 30 riders.
Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) won, with Fabian Cancellara (Trek Factory Racing) 2nd, and Ben Swift (Team Sky) 3rd.
"It was really so cold today," Cavendish said. "I felt incredible all day. I'd like to say I launched early in my sprint, but I don't think I had any other option. When Modolo (Lampre-Merida) went my only other option was to go then. It was too early, but I don't think I had much choice. I think maybe in other conditions, where I wasn't so cold, I would maybe have a little bit left and could have stayed longer. But I really decided to sprint and my legs just stopped. I sat down and my legs just didn't go anymore. Kristoff came back so, so fast. I gave everything and I managed fifth. But, I am happy with the form. A few of the guys were really cold earlier in the race. Iljo Keisse looked after me the whole day, riding in the wind for the first 150 kilometers. It was hard to even communicate, even looking around at any of the teams, it was so cold. Bakelants did an absolutely incredible job for me today. He rode the majority of the last 70 kilometers in the wind for me. Styby was there in the last climbs always staying with me. I felt super on the last climbs, but not really in the sprint. So, I am disappointed, but I can take some positives from today and look forward to the rest of the season. As for being there at the end of Milano-Sanremo, my team believes in me, I believe in myself, and that's the most important thing to me. Given the circumstances, I gave everything and don't think I could have done anything differently."
"This was my first time racing Milano-Sanremo," Bakelants said. "It was really nice, but really hard because of the conditions. There was a lot of rain and cold. Unfortunately we were down to only three guys. I tried to help Cav a lot, which I did, but it used a lot of energy and made it hard for me to be useful to him after the Poggio. Regardless, given my performance today this is a good thing. With maybe another guy there I could make it after the Poggio, but OK, that is how it is sometimes."
"Even with my background in cyclocross, it is something else to race one hour full gas than it is to race seven hours when it is raining like this," Stybar said. "You cannot compare it. We were on the start with really a very strong team. We could go on the Cipressa, and the Poggio, and just control. On the Poggio I don't think anyone had the legs to make the difference anymore, anyone that was in the group. I was expecting something from the big names like Cancellara, Sagan. I tried to jump on everything and was also on the wheel of Luca Paolini (Katusha). That was the plan. On the downhill of the Poggio we had a really strong Cav, so I went for him and we did the best we could. OK, he didn't make it in the final, but he was really good all day long. I think that I am in really good shape. I improved a little bit since Paris-Nice, I had no problem at all with the distance, which made me really very happy. I trained very hard for it, so I think the hard work paid off. Today I was good and now I have to recover mentally and physically. Once you are at the finish you have to switch off and think of the next race."