Good morning! It's been a little while, but we're back with another live blog.
Today it's Milan-San Remo, the first of the five Monuments and, at 294km, the longest one-day race on the calendar. We'll be providing updates throughout the day from the action in Italy (but only really when the racing heats up this afternoon!)
Until then, join me, Tom Davidson, as I gather some of the day's biggest stories for you. If you want to get in touch, don't hesitate to drop me a line on Twitter: @tdavidson
10:30 - Bianchi hits back at handlebar criticism
10:41 - Matej Mohorič returns to Milan-San Remo with dropper seatpost
10:56 - CPA elects new president
11:29 - Wout van Aert opts for 1x drivetrain for Milan-San Remo
11:57 - Annemiek van Vleuten calls for 'crazy long' women's Milan-San Remo
13:17 - Crashes for Julian Alaphilippe and Maciej Bodnar at Milan-San Remo
14:00 - Key updates from Milan-San Remo
Bianchi responds to handlebar criticism
Italian bike brand Bianchi has responded to criticism received online after Arkéa-Samsic's Hugo Hofstetter appeared to break not one, but two sets of handlebars during Thursday's GP Denain.
Images circulated online of Hofstetter's broken Bianchi Oltre RC, with some doubting the integrity of the materials.
The brand has since released a statement, writing that the damage to the handlebars was "caused by two different falls in which the rider was unluckily involved".
"In both cases, the incident caused a severe impact on the component."
The statement from Bianchi continued: "Like all Bianchi products, Oltre RC handlebars have successfully passed validation test protocols in accordance with International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 4210-5 regulations and are therefore safe to use by both our customers and professional athletes equipped with Bianchi.
"The possible breakage of a carbon fiber handlebar is a predictable condition as a consequence of a strong impact generated by uncontrollable dynamics."
Handlebar of Hofstetter's bike. #GPDenain pic.twitter.com/8g8g5XzRw9March 16, 2023
Matej Mohorič brings back dropper seatpost
Spotted at the start line this morning in Abbiategrasso, reigning Milan-San Remo champion Matej Mohorič has returned to the race with his dropper seatpost.
The Slovenian used the device last year on his race-winning descent of the Poggio. Can pull off the same feat this year?
“I’m aware that winning again is a very difficult task," he told the media. "But I think that I have good cards in my pocket and honestly a chance to win again. This race has a very a wide circle of favorites, many different riders can win, including Tadej Pogačar.”
Here's a reminder of Mohorič's daredevil descent last time round:
.@matmohoric kept the dropper seatpost a secret, even from his teammates 🤫Hear how the @BHRVictorious rider's genius plan helped him win Milano-Sanremo 2022 🤩 pic.twitter.com/QK7d5LrhgqMarch 16, 2023
CPA elects Adam Hansen as president
Cyclistes Professionnels Associés (CPA), a UCI-recognised rider association, has elected former pro Adam Hansen as its new president.
The 41-year-old Australian, a Grand Tour stage winner who used to ride for Lotto Soudal, will now be responsible for representing the association's members.
In a statement shared by the CPA, Hansen said: "Race safety along with the other issues that the riders have reported to me will be the first topics I want to work on with the board of directors."
The election was notable in being the association's first to take place online.
Previously, CPA elections were held in person, with the 2018 vote taking place at the World Championships in Innsbruck, Austria and yielding criticism from riders who weren't travelling to compete in the event.
#AdamHansen is the new president of the #CPA, the riders' association 👉 https://t.co/lX6S0cJy0g #WeAreTheRiders #StrongerTogether #Cycling pic.twitter.com/EI3yqHtev1March 17, 2023
Milan San-Remo: Nine-rider break forms, including race's first Ethiopian
We're two hours into Milan-San Remo, and a nine-rider breakaway has established itself at the front. The group currently has an advantage of almost three minutes over the peloton.
One of the day's escapees is 22-year-old Negasi Haylu Abreha (Q36.5 Pro Cycling), the first-ever Ethiopian rider to compete in the Monument.
The rest of the group is made up of: Alexandr Riabushenko (Astana Qazaqstan), Mirco Maestri, Samuele Rivi (EOLO-Kometa), Alessandro Tonelli, Samuele Zoccarato (Green Project-Bardiani CSF-Faizanè), Jan Maas, Alexandre Balmer (Jayco-AlUla) and Aloïs Charrin (Tudor Pro Cycling).
Wout van Aert opts for single chainring
2020 Milan-San Remo winner Wout van Aert has chosen a unique set-up for this year's edition, riding with a 52-tooth single chainring on his bike.
The Belgian has opted for Sram's 1x Red eTap AXS groupset on his Cervélo C5, ditching the inner chainring for La Primavera.
It's a big gear, yes, but the climbs at Milan-San Remo are far from the toughest on the calendar, and the pace is always high in the finale. If Van Aert needs easier gears, he can always rely on his 10-28t cassette at the back.
Just a single, 52-tooth chainring for Wout van Aert at Milano-Sanremo today 🚴🏻♂️_________🇮🇹 #MilanoSanremo pic.twitter.com/EoTMdPCatiMarch 18, 2023
Annemiek van Vleuten calls for 'crazy long' women's Milan-San Remo
If you're wondering where the women's Milan-San Remo is, well, there isn't one.
Not since 2005 have the women's peloton raced La Primavera, but now, race organiser RCS is working on bringing it back, and hopes to include it in next year's calendar.
"It should be a real challenge with the distance and the same final with Poggio and Cipressa. It should be crazy long, like the same as the men's race is long, and the same final.
"There's no reason why women, why we, could not do a 200km or 250km race. Let's start with 200km, which would be something new for a one-day race for women cycling. That would make it interesting."
The men's race, taking place today, is 294km in length and stands as the longest one-day event on the WorldTour.
Milan-San Remo: Past the halfway mark
The breakaway has just crested the Passo del Turchino, the race's midway point, and is now on the descent to the Mediterranean coast.
The nine-rider group's advantage continues to yo-yo around the three-minute mark.
Crashes at Milan-San Remo
While I popped out to buy some lunch (falafel and hummus wrap, for those wondering), there were a few crashes at Milan-San Remo.
The first involved the 2019 race winner Julian Alaphilippe (Soudal Quick-Step), who took a tumble at the top of the Passo del Turchino.
On the climb's descent, TotalEnergies rider Maciej Bodnar then hit the deck and took most of the skin off the top part of his thigh. The 38-year-old is continuing the race, albeit on a new bike after his back tyre and inner tube came fully of the rim of his first one.
Milan-San Remo: 100km to go
Sound the klaxon, we're into the final 100km in Italy. Predictably, not much has happened, and the nine-rider breakaway is holding a two and a half minute gap.
I'll now be shifting this live blog to focus on major updates from the race. If you'd rather watch it live, check out our handy guide to streaming Milan-San Remo.
🚁 TACATACA on the sea. #MilanoSanremo pic.twitter.com/kTr2N3CwIpMarch 18, 2023
Milan-San Remo (80km to go): Admittedly, we might have sounded the klaxon a little bit early. Still, there's a tailwind down the coast, so expect the decisive climbs to arrive sooner than you think.
The Is Milan-San Remo Exciting Yet? website is currently marked with a firm 'no'.
Milan-San Remo (73km to go): Intermarché-Circus-Wanty win the team bus race, but who will be the first rider across the line in Sanremo?
(Yes I'm sharing Twitter content because there's nothing happening)
After 4 hours of driving, our bus arrived first in Sanremo 🚌 #MilanoSanremo pic.twitter.com/LfL8zsn2wvMarch 18, 2023
Milan-San Remo (56.5km to go): The pace is starting to pick up. The breakaway's gap is tumbling. The race, it appears, is on.
While we wait for the three capi, here's an interesting bit of trivia for you all. Vincenzo Nibali, the last Italian winner of this race, is currently in South Africa gearing up for the Cape Epic - a 600km mountain bike event held over eight days. The prologue starts tomorrow.
Milan-San Remo (49km to go): We're over the Capo Mele. Capo Cervo and Capo Berta still to come.
The average speed in the last two hours of racing has been 50km/h.
Milan-San Remo (43km to go): Capo Cervo has been conquered. I'll level with you, these lumps in the road are so small that they're hard to notice.
Wout van Aert and his Jumbo-Visma team-mates are riding ominously near the front of the peloton.
Milan-San Remo (39km to go): Mark Cavendish (Astana Qazaqstan), a debutant winner of the race in 2009, is dropped on the Capo Berta.
Next up is the Cipressa in 10km.
Milan San-Remo (26.5km to go): We're onto the Cipressa, with Luke Rowe (Ineos Grenadiers) leading the pack.
For the descent lovers, here's Alaphilippe catching up the peloton after his crash earlier on today.
We could watch this from @alafpolak1 the whole day 😃#MilanoSanremo pic.twitter.com/Vqr5f8ScNNMarch 18, 2023
Milan-San Remo (26km to go): UAE Team Emirates take up pacing at the front. Tadej Pogačar rides patiently in tow.
It's worth noting that there were a few crashes on the approach to the climb, with Sam Bennett (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Jan Tratnik (Jumbo-Visma) both sliding out.
Milan-San Remo (22km to go): Ineos Grenadiers bring Filippo Ganna through to the front, but it doesn't look like anyone will attack on the Cipressa.
Milan-San Remo (21km to go): Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Deceuninck) leads the descent of the Cipressa. Caleb Ewan (Lotto Dstny) is still in the mix, but the Australian's team-mate Arnaud De Lie appears to be struggling.
Milan-San Remo (17.5km to go): As the pace starts to ease up, Nils Politt (Bora-Hansgrohe) launches an audacious dig on the left-hand side of the road.
Milan-San Remo (14.5km to go): The attack was short-lived for Politt, who is caught by the bunch.
Milan-San Remo (10km to go): This is getting tense. Fred Wright (Bahrain Victorious) cranks up the speed, but all the race favourites are lingering near the front. Poggio to come in just a few kilometres.
Milan-San Remo (8km to go): Bahrain Victorious lead onto the Poggio. Mohorič looks poised to go.
Milan-San Remo (7km to go): Tim Wellens (UAE Team Emirates) forces a split at the front of the race. Pogačar, Ganna, Van Aert, Pedersen and Van der Poel all at the front.
Milan-San Remo (6.4km to go): Pogačar attacks! Who else?
Ganna, amazingly, is the rider on his wheel.
Milan-San Remo (5.4km to go): Van der Poel attacks over the top of the Poggio, drawing out a gap to Pogačar, Van Aert and Ganna. Here comes the descent. Hold tight.
Milan-San Remo (3km to go): Van der Poel powers on alone at the front. Van Aert leads the chase but the gap isn't coming down. It's probably around five seconds.
Milan-San Remo (1km to go): Under the flamme rouge and Van der Poel is really digging deep. The gap is six seconds.
Milan-San Remo: Mathieu van der Poel wins! The Alpecin-Deceuninck rider attacked as he crested the Poggio and held off his rivals on the descent into Sanremo. Ganna comes second, with Van Aert completing the podium.
Full race report to follow.
Milan-San Remo: That's a third Monument victory for Mathieu van der Poel, adding to the two he had already earned at the Tour of Flanders.
If you want to know what he had to say after his latest feat, head over to our race report.
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