Wout van Aert pips Julian Alaphilippe for the win with the chasing pack breathing down their necks. The Belgian does the double after his victory in Strade Bianche last Saturday. And that's his first Monument... the first of many, you'd think. Unlucky for Alaphilippe, who put up a fight and almost made it two in a row. But Van Aert is really in a purple patch right now - it would have taken something else to beat him today. Behind, it was Michael Matthews - in his first race back since Paris-Nice in March - who won the sprint for the final spot on the podium.
Wout Van Aert of Belgium and Team Team Jumbo - Visma / Celebration / during the 111st Milano - Sanremo 2020 a 305km race from Milano to Sanremo
Image credit: Getty Images
Peter Sagan and Giacomo Nizzolo complete the top five, while there was a spot in the top 10 for Philippe Gilbert.
Just five seconds now as they swing through a series of bends, looking over their shoulders. Van der Poel leads the chase with Ivan Garcia. They may be caught right at the death...
2km remaining - coming back together?
There are about 20 riders in pursuit and the gap is still under 10 seconds as they complete the descent and hit the flat roads on the approach to the finish. Benoot and van der Poel are on the front - and the gap is coming down... what tension!
4km remaining - Van Aert catches Alaphilippe
Two out ahead now after the Belgian joins the Frenchman on the front as they drop through the greenhouses on this twisting descent. Alaphilippe is giving it his all - and twice almost overshoots bends, narrowly avoiding the barriers. Behind, Matej Mohoric, who is renowned for his descents, leads the chase.
6km remaining - Alaphilippe goes!
Cometh the hour, cometh the man... Julian Alaphilippe puts in a huge surge to ride clear of all his rivals and go over the summit in pole position. He has a small gap over Wout van Aert over the top to set up a showpiece finale...
7km remaining - De Gendt on the attack (not that one)
Aime De Gendt is the Wanty rider and he's dropped Brambilla to open up a small gap.
8km remaining - Bennett on the ropes
Moscon makes the first move on the Poggio, swiftly followed by Ciccone. Then Marcus Burghardt comes to the front to restore some order for Bora and the bunch. Alaphilippe and Van Aert are there, as is Matthews. Lutsenko has been dropped. Brambilla the latest to put in a big dig with a Wanty rider. Still 40-odd riders in this pack. And Sam Bennett is now digging deep to hold on!
10km remaining - all over for Oss
Daniel Oss is swept up ahead of the Poggio as Ineos come to the front with Gianni Moscon and Michal Kwiatkowski, another former winner of this race. He's one of the favourites - perhaps more so than the aforementioned Swift - should the winning move come on this climb.
12km remaining - Swift leads British hopes
Team Ineos have become a bit more present. Their card today is Ben Swift, who loves this race: he's finished 3rd and 2nd before... could this be the day he finally wins Milan-San Remo? Deceuninck still on the front now ahead of the climb, with Oss's gap coming down. Nerves running high.
15km remaining - Deceuninck in pursuit of Oss, Van Aert in trouble
Bob Jungels is back on the front with four teammates - including both Bennett and Alaphilippe. Oss has 13 seconds to play with as he approaches the Poggio with no riders now in between. Groupama-FDJ have come to the front alongside Deceuninck-QuickStep and there's some chit-chat between the two teams as Mitchelton-Scott move to the front now. Their man today is Dion Smith for the sprint. Wout van Aert, meanwhile, is right on the back of the pack. Maybe a bridge too far for the Belgian?
19km remaining - Oss on the offensive
The tactic worked when he was paving the way for former teammate Van Avermaet in Paris-Roubaix a few years ago... and Daniel Oss has now opened up a gap on the flat after ripping down that descent like a bat out of hell. He had to unclip on one tight bend but it didn't scare him enough to take the foot off the gas. Can he act as a bridge here for Sagan? He's got two riders in pursuit - that man Mosca of Trek, again, and the Kazakh champion Alexey Lutsenko of Astana.
21km remaining - back together but strung out
Those attacks seem to have come to nothing as Bora's Daniel Oss leads the peloton over the top of the Cipressa. The pack is all stretched out - and that will only stretch further on the descent. Many riders will have a fierce battle now to get back into contention before the Poggio. We await an update on the fate of Ewan and Gaviria, plus the other sprinters who were struggling on that climb. Sam Bennett, however, is still in a good position near the front.
25km remaining - Ewan and Gaviria in trouble
It looks like it's not going to be Caleb Ewan's day... The Australian has been shelled out the back of the peloton, which is breaking up quicker than the Spice Girls in 1998. Trek, meanwhile, have sent another rider clear - Guilio Ciccone attacks in pursuit of his teammate Mosca, who still leads with Vliegen. Pogacar's move was neutralised but the Slovenian is still in a superb position. Perhaps he took his foot off the gas because news filtered through the radio of his teammate Gaviria's struggles... because, yes, the Colombian has also wilted in the heat!
27km remaining - Cipressa time!
The race hits the first of those back-to-back climbs on the coast. The Cipress is 5.6km long at an average gradient of 4.1%. The first move comes from Wanty's Loic Vleiglen with Trek's Jacobo Mosca in pursuit. But then the big news comes in the form of a counter attack from Tadej Pogacar! It's all kicking off here...
30km remaining - Van der Poel prepares
The Alpecin-Fenix team of Mathieu van der Poel put in a pull on the front alongside CCC with both the Dutchman and the golden helmet of Greg van Avermaet present and correct. The pace is scarily high as the road hugs the brilliantly blue shimmering sea. Jumbo-Visma now join the party as the pre-Cipressa jostling for position begins in earnest. Meanwhile, Alaphilippe is still being led back by teammate Declercq. Oh, and there's a crash! One of the Wanty riders goes down in the centrre of the road. Amazingly, only one rider goes down - and it's Danny van Poppel, who could have been a factor in the finish...
35km remaining - puncture for Alaphilippe!
The reigning champion needs a bike change after picking up a rear flat in a dusty segment of road. The Frenchman suffered six punctures in last weekend's Strade Bianche and so he's really not enjoying the rub of the green at the moment. But better puncture here than on the Poggio... Meanwhile, there are some dicey moments for a few riders as fans encroach dangerously close to the road as they hit the usual Milan-San Remo coastal road just as Boaro, the last man standing, is swept up. The race is on!
37km remaining - countdown to the Cipressa
The first big test of the 111th edition of La Primavera - besides 260km in sweltering heat - is getting closer. With the Cipressa less than 20km away, Boaro and Bais combine in the break to edge clear as the peloton closes in. Their move doesn't last long and we now have five of the initial break - Mazzucco appears to have disappeared - bravely holding on as they pass under the elevated autostrada and pass through downtown Imperia (not a scenic sight).
43km remaining - Naesen an option
Tucked in behind the Deceuninck train are the boys in brown shorts of Ag2R-La Mondiale. Their man today is Oliver Naesen, who I can't see winning, but whose chances many people fancy. He was runner up here last year to Alaphilippe. But his problem is that he will never win a sprint, so needs to go on the Poggio and hope no one comes with him. Just 17 seconds now for the remnants of the breakaway.
47km remaining - peloton strung out
Deceuninck-QuickStep continue doing what they do best - stringing out the pack and gobbling up errant escapees. The leaders have just 35 seconds now as the race zips through a series of hillside towns as it continues its fast drop towards the coast. It's that man Tim 'The Breakaway Killer' Declercq on the front. Sam Bennett, the Irish champion, is fifth in line. He'll never have a better chance at winning a Monument.
57km remaining - Trek make the first move
On the little ramp before the final descent towards the coast, Nicola Conci of Trek-Segafredo had zipped off the front of the pack in pursuit of the leaders, whose gap is down to 1'10". Conci is perhaps paving the way for a Shark attack later on from Nibali as the race enters a series of tunnels, the other side of which the riders will be able to see the glistening Mediterranean sea.
60km remaining - Carretero back in the pack
The lone Spaniard who was in the break has been swept up by the peloton, which is being led by Deceuninck-QuickStep on this descent. It will be interesting to see Sam Bennett being given a proper chance today. Formerly used as a Bora workhorse for Sagan, Bennett has never finished higher than 28th in four appearances in this race. But today he's Deceuninck's top dog - provided Julian Alaphilippe doesn't ping off on the Poggio - so he could win a maiden Monument.
70km remaining - over the top of the Colle di Nava
The leaders have gone over the summit and now start this steep, technical, twisting 9km descent. There will be another small bump and then the final drop down towards the Ligurian coast, where the race will pick up the usual route ahead of the Cipressa and Poggio. Back with the pack it's Bob Jungels, the perpetual Luxembourg champion, who sets tempo as the gap is recorded at 2'16" over the top.
73km remaining - ciao, Liguria!
The riders have now left Piedmont and entered Liguria. Meanwhile, Hector Carretero of Movistar has been dropped by the leaders as the gradient ramps up a bit on this seemingly interminable climb. So we now have six Italians in the lead with a gap of 2'45" over the pack. Interestingly, since they lost Trentin to that crash, Team CCC have sent riders to the front of the pack. Their main man is Greg van Avermaet now, the Olympic champion, who has never finished higher than 5th in Milan-San Remo.
79km remaining - it's going to be a late finish
The pace - perhaps owing to the heat, or the lack of races in the legs - is quite slow today and so we won't finish much before 6pm UK time. The gap is 2'15" for the seven leaders as they approach the town of Ormea. There's still another six or seven kilometres of this climb to go - although the Colle di Nava properly is only 3.9km at 3%. UAE-Team Emirates have sent their domestique Oliviero Troia onto the front, paving the way for their myriad leaders: Formolo, Pogacar, Kristoff and Gaviria...
87km remaining - Trentin down in crash
A touch of wheels on the side of the pack has seen five riders hit the deck, most notably Matteo Trentin and another Team CCC teammate. Sadly Trentin looks to be the worse off from this spill - and while the others get back on their way, the Italian, with his jersey torn, is now entering an ambulance. He doesn't look to be in any serious pain, but he clearly knows he can't carry on. Big blow for Trentin, who was one of the outsiders, and CCC, whose eggs will not be all put in Greg van Avermaet's basket.
For all his brilliance, Peter Sagan - the triple world champion - has only two Monuments to his name: the Tour of Flanders in 2016 and Paris-Roubaix in 2018. Because of his commitment to riding the Giro d'Italia this year, the new Covid calendar means the Slovakian will not be able to ride the cobbled classics this October. He will also miss Liege-Bastogne-Liege and the Ardennes. That makes today's race even more important for it could well be his only chance of winning a Monument this year. He's twice finished on the podium in this race - and three times finished fourth - but now really needs to deliver on his Via Roma promise.
Peter Sagan of Slovakia and Team Bora - Hansgrohe / Nice City / during the 78th Paris - Nice 2020
Image credit: Getty Images
100km remaining - combined effort in peloton
The Groupama-FDJ, Lotto-Soudal, Deceuninck-QuickStep and Jumbo-Visma teams of Arnaud Demare, Caleb Ewan, Sam Bennett and Wout van Aert - four of the main dangermen today - are on the front of the pack trading pulls. They have pulled the break to within five minutes now ahead of the second climb of the day.
105km remaining - hot hot hot!
We have live images now from the host broadcaster on Eurosport and all I can say is this: better them than me. While the rolling hills and vineyards of the Langhe region of Piedmont is very beautiful, the heat looks pretty unbearable for the peloton, which is currently trundling along 3'10" behind the seven leaders. We may get to see less of the Ligurian coast with this newlook route, but the countryside through the Tanaro valley as we approach the sea is far more stunning than the usual slog through Lombardia and up the Turchino.
115km remaining - gap drops below four minutes
As the race passes through Ceva ahead of the long drag towards the Colle di Nava it's time to do a quickpoll about who you think will win. If you vote "other" feel free to send me a tweet @Saddleblaze and let me know who you're backing, and why. The lead of the seven escapees is now 3'50".
WHO WILL WIN MILAN-SAN REMO 2020?
130km remaining - gap continues to drop
The leaders now have 4'25" to play with following the initial descent from that first climb. The roads heads up again for a few kilometres before another drop down ahead of the long approach over a false flat to the Colle di Nava, which is standing in for the Turchino this year. Other riders to consider today are the Dutchman Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) and his fellow cyclocross star Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma). Belgium's Van Aert was on top form last weekend when soloing to glory in Siena in Strade Bianche, and he showed his speed with a third place in Milano-Torino, so he clearly is one to watch whether from distance or in a sprint.
138km remaining - over the top of the climb
Back to La Primavera now and the break has crested the summit of the first climb and passed through the town of Niella Belbo. Their lead is just over five minutes. A reminder of the seven riders in this move: Italians Alessandro Tonelli (Bardiani CSF Faizane), Fabio Mazzucco (Bardiani CSF Faizane), Manuele Boaro (Astana), Mattia Bais (Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec), Damiano Cima (Gazprom-Rusvelo) and Marco Frapporti (Vini Zabu-KTM), and the Spaniard Héctor Carretero (Movistar). The Belgian Tim Declercq (Deceuninck-QuickStep) is not part of this move - so that report of him bridging over is erroneous. More likely, he's leading the peloton, setting a tempo for QuickStep's main man today, the Irish sprinter Sam Bennett.
Tour de l'Ain - Roglic wins stage 2!
And yes, it all went to plan for Jumbo-Visma with the Slovenian national champion zipping clear to take the win ahead of Bernal in the second stage of the Tour de l'Ain. That puts Roglic into the leader's yellow jersey. He made his move after Mollema had a mechanical issue in the final sprint. Bernal was second, Conti third and Quintana fourth.
Cracking finish in the Tour de l'Ain
Meanwhile, in France, Team Jumbo-Visma have really thrown down the hammer... they have three men in the leading group of seven riders which are approaching the finish. Steven Kruijswijk was out ahead but the Dutchman is now back with George Bennett as they bid to set up Primoz Roglic for the win. Team Ineos have just one rider there - Egan Bernal - after both Geraint Thomas and Chris Froome were dropped. Also in the lead group as Nairo Quintana, Bauke Mollema and Valerio Conti.
145km remaining - Gilbert fronts the peloton
Perhaps a sign that the Belgian isn't feeling up to joining the five-Monument club today... He's on the front of the pack doing some tempo-setting for his teammate Caleb Ewan, who was runner up recently in Milano-Torino and so clearly in good nick. The gap is down to five minutes now amid claims - perhaps false - that Tim Declercq has made his way into the break. To be verfied...
155km remaining - approaching first climb
The route change this year means there's no Passo del Turchino before the race drops down to the Mediterranean coast. Instead, we have two smaller climbs before a shorter section by the sea. The riders are now about to start the first of those bumps, the 20km climb up to Niella Belbo. At just 3% it's not too demanding so don't expect a shake-up quite yet. The seven leaders pass through the town of Rocchetta Belbo with a gap of 6'06".
160km remaining - can Gilbert complete his grand slam?
Only three riders have won all five of cycling's Monuments and they're all Belgian. Can Philippe Gilbert join his countrymen Rik van Looy, Eddy Merckx and Roger de Vlaeminck today? Gilbert's victory in Paris-Roubaix in 2018 put him one step closer to this rare feat - but in last year's Milan-San Remo he rode in support of his then Deceuninck-QuickStep teammate Julian Alaphilippe, who won on the Via Roma. This year Gilbert is with a different Belgian team, Lotto Soudal, and while they have a trump card in sprinter Caleb Ewan, Gilbert may have a licence to try from distance with an attack on the Poggio. Now 38, Gilbert won't have many more chances at winning the one Monument which eludes him, but he hasn't given anything away with regards to his form by finishing 25th in Strade Bianche and 72nd in Milano-Torino this past week.
Looking through the teams and UAE-Team Emirates really stand out. Not only do they have a former winner in the experienced Alexander Kristoff, they have the stellar talent of Tadej Pogacar making his debut. The Slovenian is a rider who could try his luck with an attack on the Poggio - as is the Italian Davide Formolo, who was second last week in Strade Bianche. Should things come to a sprint - which is very likely - then Fernando Gaviria showed his form with an emphatic victory in the Vuelta a Burgos last week. The Colombian could have won in his debut here in 2016 but crashed on the Via Roma when in a commanding position. The team also have Oliviero Troia and the experienced Max Richeze completing their strong six-man showing. No change in the race with the gap still around the six-minute mark.
205km remaining - gap stabilises
The peloton has not let this seven-man move get too much leeway, the gap pushing seven minutes as the race passed through the town of Alessandria before edging back down again. After the first 100km of racing the riders are now passing through Oviglio with the gap at 6'20". The pace so far is 43kph which is pretty zippy all things considered. 21-year-old Mazzucco is one of two Bardiani riders in this move and he's making his maiden Monument appearance out there in the sweltering heat (the mercury is pushing the mid-30s).
255km remaining - seven-man break
With the race heading out of Milan towards the south-west and into Piedmont, an early break of seven riders has formed. They are: 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). At the 50km mark our escapees have a lead of over six minutes on the pack.
Six-man teams in 305km race
The organisers have also reduced squad numbers to six in order to invite 27 teams to the 111th edition of La Classicissima, giving backdoor entry for Italian wildcards Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec and Bardiani-CSF. You can read a full preview clicking on the link below - including details of the new course, the form of the favourites, and the riders to watch.
So, it was meant to happen on 21 March, but here we are, almost five months later, in August, and finally we're getting to see La Primavera! Owing to the coronavirus crisis, the first Monument of the season is all change this year; it's still starts in Milan and finishes in San Remo, but other than that, the route is entirely different - save for the usual Cipressa-Poggio double act in the final 40km of what is now a stonking 305km race - the longest in the race's history. Here's what's on the menu...