One of the most exciting and prestigious races of the season, Milan-San Remo is the first Monument of the year.
Despite being known as the ‘sprinters’ classic’, the race would not be as prestigious as it is were it a straightforward procession to a bunch sprint, and instead the race is characterised by its tortuous length, thrilling conclusion and delicate balancing act between sprinters and attackers.
The introduction of La Manie in 2008 gave the advantage to attacking puncheurs, as a difficult, significantly-positioned climb to gain an advantage over those hoping for a bunch sprint. It contributed to a handful of more selective editions – Fabian Cancellara won from a solo break in 2008 and Simon Gerrans from a group of three in 2010, and in both 2011 and 2013 a group of seven contested the finish, won by Matt Goss and Gerald Ciolek respectively.
When La Manie was dropped in 2014, the organisers initial intention had been to make the route even harder by replacing it with the Pompeiana in a slot far closer to the finish. But that climb was deemed unsafe due to the possibility of landslides, so that since 2014 the race has featured neither climb.
Now the dynamic of the route has shifted comprehensively back to the sprinters. After Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) won the sprint from a sizable peloton in 2014, the finish was moved back to its traditional finishing straight of Via Roma, and another sprinter was triumphant in the form of John Degenkolb (Giant-Alpecin) in 2015 and Démare in 2016.
For the bold and the brave the Cipressa provides a potential launchpad for an attack at just over 20km from the finish, but for the more realistic it’s the Poggio.
At 4km in length and 3.7% in gradient, the climb is notorious for being relatively straightforward compared with most iconic climbs, but its fame derives from its position in the race. On the back of around 280km of racing the riders are exhausted upon reaching it, and, peaking at 5.5km from the finish, any rider who goes over the top first with a gap has a chance of zooming down the descent and holding off the sprinters for victory on the Via Roma.
The 2020 edition has been shrouded in controversy after a landslide damaged the road up the Poggio. It was initially stated that a 10 million euro investment would be needed to repair the road in time for the race. However, it has since been announced that this was overestimated and the race route will remain unchanged.
A women’s version – Primavera Rosa – took place between 1999 to 2005, but was cancelled by the UCI in 2006. The first edition, in 1999 was won by Italian Sara Felloni and the last, in 2005, by German Trixi Worrack.