At 291km, Milan-San Remo is by far the longest one day race on the WorldTour calendar, but is often divided into two distinct parts.
Unlike the Tour of Flanders or Paris-Roubaix, there’s very little opportunity to really attack on the flowing roads of the opening 250km of the race, with riders only really getting ready for action ahead of the climbs of the Cipressa (with around 25km to go) and the Poggio (with around 10km to go), where the race is really decided.
The difficulty is being able to match the power of attackers on the Poggio after such a long distance as puncheurs and climbers attempt to drop the sprinters.
After 2019’s edition on Saturday, which was won by Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) in a sprint from a small group that went clear on the final climb, Strava files of the pros allow us to see just what it took to stay in the mix right at the end of the race.
Michał Kwiatkowski (Team Sky) was the first rider to follow Julian Alaphilippe’s stinging attack on the Poggio (3.62km at four per cent) after his Quick-Step team had set the pace up the early slopes.
The Pole hit an astonishing 58kmh max speed on the flatter section of the climb towards the top, but despite averaging 37.3kmh all the way up he wasn’t able to take the KOM.
That accolade went to World champion Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), who rode the climb at 37.7kmh, averaging 413w throughout. The Spaniard put in a 30-second effort of 754w (max 911w) for around 30 seconds to follow the front group, which also contained Oliver Naesen (Ag2r La Mondiale).
Naesen, a much bigger rider than the likes of Valverde and Kwiatkowski, had to put out significantly more power to keep up with the lighter riders, averaging 501w on the Poggio.
In the same circa 30-second effort as Valverde, the former Belgian champion hit a maximum wattage of 1,199w with an average of 892w.
The group of seven that escaped on the Poggio were then particularly cagey on the descent with no-one willing to attack downhill.
While they still averaged around 49kmh throughout the descent, it was chasing riders like defending champion Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) who had to push on to make the catch before the final few kilometres.
The Italian, well known for his descending skills, hit an astonishing 88.9kmh (compared to 70kmh for Valverde) on the technical descent, averaging 56.8kmh as he bridged across to the leaders.
It was then down to a sprint amongst the front group on the Via Roma, with Alaphilippe ultimately coming out on top.
Naesen was able to take second place though just behind, with his Strava file showing he hit a top speed of 58.3kmh with a max power of 1,289w.
His 18 second sprint was slower than third place Kwiatkowski’s though, who, after starting further back, averaged around 60kmh in a 17 second sprint to just pip Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) to the podium.
It was Frenchman Clement Venturini (Ag2r La Mondiale) who was the fastest this year for the final sprint though to finish 24th, with the same time as some big name sprinters in Alexander Kristoff and Fernando Gaviria (both UAE Team Emirates) and Arnaud Démare (Groupama-FDJ). Each of them hit 64.6kmh in a 16 seconds sprint for the line.