Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) won the 2020 Milan-San Remo ahead of Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quick-Step), with the Belgian beating the defending champion in a two-up sprint to the line on the Via Roma.
The pair had got away after an Alaphilippe attack on the Poggio, and narrowly held off the peloton going into the final few hundred metres.
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Alaphilippe launched his sprint first from behind Van Aert in the final 200m, but he could do nothing to stop his rival from powering to the line just ahead of him.
Michael Matthews (Sunweb) managed to take third from the peloton behind, beating Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) into fourth place.
Van Aert adds the Milan-San Remo title to his impressive solo victory at the Strade Bianche last week.
How it happened
The 2020 Milan-San Remo set off from its unusual August start in the hot summer sunshine of northern Italy, with riders facing 305km on an unfamiliar route to San Remo. Gone were the Passo del Turchino and Capo climbs that defined the middle section of the normal route, with the peloton set to stay further inland before dropping down to the coast in the final 33km. From there the riders would fight it out over the traditional Cipressa and Poggio climbs before the finish on the Via Roma.
Those heading into the day’s breakaway would know they were facing long and hard day in the saddle, but seven riders took it upon themselves and rode clear of the peloton. The break of Alessandro Tonelli (Bardiani CSF Faizane), Fabio Mazzucco (Bardiani CSF Faizane), Manuele Boaro (Astana), Héctor Carretero (Movistar), Mattia Bais (Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec), Damiano Cima (Gazprom-Rusvelo), and Marco Frapporti (Vini Zabu-KTM), established a maximum gap of just over 6-30, with the peloton happily allowing them to remain out front.
The race averaged 43kmh through the first 100km, with little notable action as riders conserved their energy for the finale of the race. A crash in the middle of the bunch saw one of the pre-race contenders Matteo Trentin (CCC Team) forced to abandon within the final 90km.
The break’s advantage began to seriously slip as the race sped into the final 80km when they had just under three minutes.
As the peloton accelerated, the break’s advantage dropped down to 1-25 with 55km to go and it was just Bais, Tonelli, Frapporti, Boaro and Cima left out front
Quick-Step really began to drive the pace into the final 45km and that really did for the break, with Boaro the final rider brought back to the fold with just over 34km to go.
There was then a slight panic for last year’s champion Alaphilippe, as he punctured and forced to take a bike change with 35km to go.
The pace was very high heading towards the Cipressa with 30km to go, and Alaphilippe was just able to make it on to the back of the peloton before they hit the climb.
The run on to the Cipressa saw the first attacks in earnest, with Loïc Vliegen (Circus–Wanty Gobert) going on the early attack before being pursued by Jacopo Mosca (Trek-Segafredo).
The Cipressa saw a number of key sprinters dropped with the ferocious pace, including Caleb Ewan (Lotto-Soudal) and Fernando Gaviria (UAE Team Emirates). Eventually it told for Vliegen and Mosca too, with pair eventually brought back towards the top of the Cipressa.
Daniel Oss (Bora-Hansgrohe) was the next man to get away from the peloton on the descent of the Cipressa, and established a narrow lead of 15 seconds with 15km to go.
The peloton was much smaller after the climb, around 60 riders in pursuit of lone leader Oss. The Italian couldn’t hold his advantage though and he was eventually pulled back in to the bunch with just under 10km to go.
As they hit the final climb of the Poggio, Gianni Moscon (Team Ineos) was the first rider to attack, With Zdeněk Štybar (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) following him. Ciccone then joined them and the trio managed to get a small gap before Bora pegged them back.
It was then Gianluca Brambilla (Trek-Segafredo) and Aimé De Gendt (Circus-Wanty Gobert) who went away and established a small gap.
Quick-Step’s sprinter Sam Bennett began to be cut adrift, struggling to hold the pace up the Poggio, but just about held on to the back of the bunch.
De Gendt, who had done no work with Brambilla, then launched an attack with 6.6km to go. But behind the big names were now getting involved in the action, with Alaphilippe launching a stinging attack on his rivals with only Wout van Aert able to follow.
The Frenchman did manage to gap Van Aert to the top and began the descent alone, with Van Aert trailing a few seconds behind.
Alaphilippe seemingly wasn’t descending quite as capably on the technical descent of the Poggio as he has done in the past, with Van Aert able to bridge back across to him with 4.4km to go. The pair had just 10 seconds back to the pack.
They made it to the flat road after the Poggio together with six seconds in hand, working together in the final 2km to try and hold off the peloton.
Disorganisation in the peloton meant the chase didn’t close the leading pair as quickly as it could, but as they crossed under the flamme rouge the gap was now at seven seconds.
With no-one willing to fully commit to pulling Alaphilippe and Van Aert back though, it was down to those two to fight it out for the win. Van Aert led his rival into the final few hundred metres, but launched a powerful sprint as Alaphilippe made his move from behind.
He held his effort right to the line, with Alaphilippe unable to pull past and conceding the victory to Van Aert.
Milan-San Remo 2020: Milan to San Remo (305km)
1. Wout van Aert (Bel) Jumbo-Visma, in 7-16-09
2. Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Deceuninck-Quick-Step, at same time
3. Michael Matthews (Aus) Sunweb, at 2 seconds
4. Peter Sagan (Svk) Bora-Hansgrohe
5. Giacomo Nizzolo (Ita) Trek-Segafredo
6. Dion Smith (NZl) Mitchelton-Scott
7. Alex Aranburu (Esp) Astana
8. Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) CCC Team
9. Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Lotto-Soudal
10. Matej Mohorič (Slo) Bahrain-McLaren, all same time