Kristoff Wins Milan-San Remo
Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) is the first Norwegian to win Milan-San Remo. The Olympic road race bronze medalist powered away from the lead group in the final 200 meters to win the hilly, 294-km classic in 6:55:56. Fabian Cancellara (Trek) took second, and Ben Swift (Sky) finished third.
The riders battled cold and rain as well as each other. From the beginning, attacks took place, and Maarten Tjallingii (Belkin) and Jan Barta (NetApp-Endura), got clear. Matteo Bono (Lampre-Merida), Nathan Haas (Garmin-Sharp-POC), Nicola Boem (Bardiani-CSF), Antonio Parrinello (Androni Giacattoli), and Marc de Maar (United Health Care) joined the pair and the septet led the field by seven minutes at 35 km and 10 minutes after 45 km.
Cannondale did most of the work leading the chase. On the Passo Turchino, hail pelted the riders and the temperature dropped to five degrees Celsius. At this point, the break led the bunch by eight minutes.
GreenEdge, Giant-Shimano, and Trek joined Cannondale at the front. Ahead, attrition took its toll. With about 100 km remaining, cramps struck Boem; thirty km later, Haas fell off of the pace with a mechanical problem. The bunch gnawed at the escapees’ advantage, which was down to six minutes at at the approach to the Capo Mele.
When the field reached the Capo Berta, the break had three riders. Water soaked the roads, but on the approach to the Cipressa, several inches of water covered the road.
Bono was dropped on the Cipressa. The peloton was at 1:30, and Cannondale was leading it. The Italian squad’s pacemaking shelled riders. With 25 km left, Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) attacked. He caught and dropped Bono and then reeled in and dropped Tjallingii and De Maar. Other riders attempted to bridge up to the Italian, but he led the peloton by 0:49 with 15 km left.
Sky joined Cannondale at the front. With 10 km to go, Nibali’s lead had dropped to 0:20, and at the base of the Poggio, his advantage was 0:13.
Lotto-Belisol took up the chase and reeled in Nibali with nine km remaining. Gregory Rast (Trek) led Cancellara to the front and then attacked. Enrico Battaglin (Bardiani-CSF) joined Rast, but the pair was caught just before the summit. Lars Petter Nordhaug (Belkin) and Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) countered, but the peloton snuffed out the move on the descent.
At the base of the descent, John Degenkolb (Giant-Shimano), a favorite to win, punctured. With two km left, Omega Pharma-Quick Step and Katusha led the 20-rider strong peloton. The Russian squad took the group into the last km. Philippe Gilbert (BMC) attacked on the left side of the road, and 2009 winner Mark Cavendish (Sky) attacked early on the right. The Norwegian, however, blasted into the lead to win by two bike lengths.
Kristoff has knocked on the door of supreme success for some time. He has won his country’s road race championship, stages of Three Days of De Panne, an Olympic bronze medal, and earned top-10 placings in Milan-San Remo, the Tour of Flanders, and Paris-Roubaix. Today’s win, however, is the biggest one of the Norwegian’s career. The Katusha man put it down to teamwork. “The team did incredible work,” he said. “Katusha was absolutely amazing during the entire race. Each of my teammates was great. Luca Paolini helped me a lot in the final to get a good position for the sprint."
"It was a very difficult and unpredictable sprint. A sprint after 300 km is different from one after 200 km. Normally, I don’t lose much power even on a long stage. I saw Cavendish, who started his sprint, so I started mine, too. For the last 150 meters I had super power and was able to hold the others off. I was super happy when I saw I’d taken the win. It was the best moment in my life. Right now I’m enjoying this moment and I’m super happy. It’s the highlight of my career. “
Paolini echoed Kristoff’s statement. He said, “I feel like a winner too. Alex wins not just thanks to me but to the entire team. They protected us throughout the day. He’s fast. When I saw he was still there on the Poggio, we gave everything for him. I was happy to work for him.”
Kristoff will appear in other classics. Will he have the success that he had today? Check in at www.roadcycling.com and find out!