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Stuyven: We had a plan to go for it

Asked whether he told his Trek teammates that he would do what he just did, our winner said:
Van Aert outlines 2023 plans, wants to claim a 'big fish' in classics
24/11/2022 AT 14:26
"Of course not. There were three guys who were really strong and who everyone talked about but that didn't mean we weren't going to race for the win. We had a plan to go for it. I felt really good all day. The final was going really well. I was there on the Poggio with some fast guys so I knew that I had to try all or nothing. Which I did - because if I go to the line, I maybe finish around fifth to tenth place. And I prefer to go all in and take the biggest victory of my career. Maybe eight times out of ten we have nothing, but two times or even one time, I have everything. It's amazing. The boys put me in the perfect position at all the important bits of the parcours. It was a good gap. The legs were really empty at the end - but it doesn't matter whether you win by one minute or one centimetre."

Ewan: second for a second time

Just as in 2018, when Vincenzo Nibali held on by the skin of his teeth, Caleb Ewan was the fastest finisher but ended up empty handed. The Australian will be kicking himself after holding on over the Cipressa and Poggio, then winning the sprint - but still ending up in second.

Today's top five

1. Jasper Stuyven
2. Caleb Ewan
3. Wout van Aert
4. Peter Sagan
5. Mathieu van der Poel
The Dutch champion tired after launching his sprint and it was the Australian Ewan who was the best of the rest in the end - but he hadn't factored in that attack from Stuyven. The Belgian took his chances - he wasn't going to win in the sprint so he made his move when he could. Sagan rallied for a top five, pipping Van der Poel, with Matthews in sixth and Kragh Andersen dropping to ninth. Julian Alaphilippe, the world champion, could only manage 16th place on the day, with Sam Bennett in 52nd.

Victory for Jasper Stuyven!

The art of surprise at the bottom of the Poggio wins the day! Stuyven easily dropped Kragh Andersen in the sprint - and despite the others closing in after Van der Poel opened up his sprint, they left it way too late. What a win for the Trek-Segafredo rider - the biggest of his career.

1km to go: Flamme rouge

It's Soren Kragh Andersen who eventually rides across to Stuyven's wheel. They join forces under the kilometre-to-go banner - and they have a gap over the others, who are hesitating again...

2km to go: Stuyven goes solo!

Good move thre from Jasper Stuyven of Trek-Segafredo. He opens up a gap while the others look at each other - and the Belgian could do it. His lead is huge!

3.5km to go: Pidcock in pole!

What a debut he's having. Tom Pidcock was pushing on and he forced a split with four others. But it's come back together and it looks like the second group, too, has returned. One of the Wanty riders overcooked a bend and almost went over the wall and into the green houses.

5.5km to go: Over the top they go

It's Van Aert who leads this move over the top with the excellent Ewan in his wheel. There's about 10 riders in the mix - the ones I mentioned, plus Sagan is fighting back, Sonny Colbrelli, Aranburu... It's about 12 riders - but there's another chase group behind.

6.5km to go: Alaphilippe attacks!

It's the world champion who finally breaks the deadlock. Van Aert goes with him. Van der Poel is there, as is Pidcock, Trentin, Stuyven, Matthews, Ewan, Schachmann...

8km to go: Viviani out the back

Elia Viviani's Cofidis nightmare continues.... he's out the back. Tim Wellens, too, can't keep up with this pace by Ganna. At this rate it will come down to a sprint because Caleb Ewan is still in third wheel! Once Ganna peels off, it's Dylan Van Baarle who takes over with Pidcock in the mix too.
None of the expected attacks on the Poggio... That said, Alaphilippe and Van Aert are primed.

10km to go: Chaotic fight for positions

Ineos still have five riders as Ganna leads the pack onto the climb. Lotto have Ewan and Wellens there, it seems, while Asgreen is alongside teammate Alaphilippe. The race starts now!

13km to go: Back together ahead of the Poggio

The peloton had reformed after that large split on the Cipressa. Filippo Ganna has now moved up for Ineos so they have five riders. Van der Poel is coming forward as well, as are QuickStep. We have no idea if Bennett has sorted out his bike issues yet - some speculation that Van der Poel was spraying water over his disc brakes.

18km to go: Matthews and Demare primed

The French national champion and the Australian are riding just behind the Ineos quartet on the front as they complete the descent off the back of the Cipressa. It's a small "peloton" in the lead now - perhaps just 50 riders, with Sam Bennett and Mathieu van der Poel near the back. Bennett seems to have some issues with his bike. Van der Poel was helping him with something and he's now on the radio. A chasing group of around 70 riders is about 10 seconds back.

21km to go: Gaviria, Kristoff and Bettiol dropped

Some big casualties already including the former Flanders winner Alberto Bettiol and the Colombian sprinter Fernando Gaviria, who may have won his debut Milan-Sanremo in 2016 were it not for a nasty spill on the via Roma the year Demare took the spoils. And it's all going pear-shaped for UAE with Alexander Kristoff the latest to pop.
Ineos Grenadiers have now taken things up after Oomen pulled off for Jumbo to leave Van Aert isolated. They're approaching the summit and it's Luke Rowe doing the honours.

25km to go: Van der Hoorn out ahead

The Dutchman is the lone leader of this race after a dig from the break. Tonelli is the rider in pursuit - but he's about to be caught by the Timo Roosen-led peloton. And that's it now for both those two plucky escapees. Jumbo-Visma now lead through Sam Oomen, who has Van Aert in his wheel and then four Ineos riders right behind. Jumbo clearly want to make it as hard as possible for the sprinters so that there can be a preliminary whittle-down ahead of the Poggio.

27km to go: Cipressa time

The break hit the start of the Cipressa climb with just 20 seconds in the pocket. Ineos, Bora, Lotto, AG2R and QuickStep all have riders on the front of the pack when they squeeze through the bottleneck and start the climb. Tom Pidcock, who I mentioned was off the back earlier, is right in the thick of things now alongside Luke Rowe for Ineoa. Remember, the British team have a former winner in Kwiatkowski, and a double podium finisher in Ben Swift. Oh, and that man Pippo Ganna.

32km to go: Bennett back - but at what cost?

The Irishman is back in the bunch now after that massive chase back on. He would have used up a lot of energy there - energy he'd wanted to have used trying to stay in contention on the Cipressa and Poggio. Was that the moment Bennett's chances of victory went up in smoke? We'll find out over the next half hour...

35km to go: QuickStep split in two

With their sprinter Sam Bennett fighting back following a puncture, QuickStep eased up and came off the front. Stybar and Asgreen have since dropped to help pace the Irishman into contention, while Alaphilippe stays near the nose of the race with Ballerini and Lampaert. The break still have 1'25" as they approach Imperia following the Berta climb and some narrow roads through one of these many seaside resorts.

40km to go: Capo Berta - Bennett in trouble

The four leaders are now onto the last of the three capi climbs - the Berta. The gap is 1'30" as the peloton hits the first part. Ireland's Sam Bennett seems to have a problem - he swings to the side of the road and he needs a bike or wheel change. All the other QuickStep riders stay on the front so Bennett will have to battle back on his own.

48km to go: Break down to four

The leaders are now onto the Capo Cervo and three more riders have been dropped. So it's now Tonelli, Conci, Jorgensen and Van der Hoorn out ahead - but with only 1'25" to play with.

50km to go: Capo Mele done and dusted

There's a big concertina in the pack as the riders hit the start of the first of the capo climbs with the momentary slowing of tempo causing a crunch that will be keenly felt if you're near the back. They go over the top and that man Leysen has dropped back so it's QuickStep now holding the reins through the tractor aficionado, Declercq, who has Asgreen, the Danish champion, right there.

55km to go: Pidcock near the back

Paul Martens, the Jumbo-Visma rider who was on the front for a long time, has dropped back. Senne Leysen, the Alpecin-Fenex rider, is still on the front, but you'd expect him to pop as well, soon. The third Belgian in this trident, Declercq, is still there. Viel has been caught by the pack now, while British debutant Tom Pidcock is near the back. He's a huge prospect for Ineos Grenadiers, but this is a very long race and he may be feeling the pinch.

Meet Cancellara: The King Of The Cobbles

What has Fabian Cancellara, the legend of the spring classics, been up to since he hung up his wheels? GCN's Dan Lloyd headed to Switzerland to catch up with Spartacus and find out! You can stream this and more of the best cycling stories in the world exclusively on GCN+.

60km to go: Tre Capi coming right up

The riders have passed through Alassio which means the first of the three "capo" climbs is coming up. The break has just lost one rider with Mattia Viel being dropped with the gap coming down to two minutes. It's been fairly sedate so far - if you can say that about a race which might break the record speed - but now it's about to hot up.

70km to go: Team DSM to the fore

Michael Matthews is one of the favourites today - perhaps not in the same bracket as the big guns, but certainly knocking on their door. His DSM team have come to the front to help keep the tempo high in the peloton, who have that eight-man break at 2'30". They're tucked in behind a trio of riders from Alpecin-Fenex, Jumbo-Visma and Quick-Step (Tim Declercq, since you ask). Team DSM have a strong squad with the likes of Soren Kragh Andersen, Roman Bardet and Nico Roche riding in support of Matthews.

Van Aert first rider to double up since...?

The answer is, of course, Erik Zabel. The German twice won consecutive editions of Milan-San Remo - in 97/98 and 00/01 - with Belgium's Andrei Tchmil winning in between.

Gilbert to complete his grand slam?

One rider no one is really talking about is the Belgian Philippe Gilbert. The Lotto Soudal rider has won Il Lombardia, Liege-Bastogne-Liege, Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix so far in his long career and just needs Milan-San Remo to complete the full collection of Monuments. His team also has Caleb Ewan for the sprint and Tim Wellens for a long-pop so they have options. Can he do it? It's unlikely: the 38-year-old is no longer as punchy as he once was - and surely there's no scenario where he's denies riders of the calibre of Alaphilippe, Van Aert and Van der Poel.
I spoke to Gilbert recently for a feature on his Ardennes clean sweep back in 2011. Here's what the former Deceuninck-QuickStep rider had to say about his chances of winning Milan-San Remo before he retires in 2022, starting with the issue of sharing a team with one of the fastest sprinters...

Philippe Gilbert lors de Paris-Nice en 2021.

Image credit: Getty Images

"Of course, Caleb has a lot of ambition and he's also the best sprinter at the moment. But I'm also there to try to win. I think it's good to go to San Remo with different options and styles of riders because they the others know that Lotto won't only go for the sprint, they may also go for the early attack. At the end you don't know which card you're going to play. That was our success also at QuickStep because we could go early with Stybar, Lampaert, myself or Terpstra – and if that didn’t work, then we would always have some of the best sprinters behind. You let the others come back behind and it’s still a win for the team. When you play it like that, it’s always easier.
"If you take a picture of the bunch with 10km to go in Milan-Sanremo there are maybe 80 guys, 100 guys or more. In Liege it's maybe five guys. In Lombardia, maybe two guys for the last 10 guys. Flanders is the same – two or three guys the maximum. Sanremo is much easier to finish and being able to see the winner than Flanders or Liege.
"I might do that [win all give Monuments]. It's crazy. For me there's a lot of pressure also. It would be stupid for myself to say, 'Ah, I'm getting close but I'm not interested'. Of course, I have to be involved in that chase and see that it's possible. But I'm also realistic. I say, 'Okay, this race I cannot control'. It's not a race I can tell the guys the day before that I'm 90 per cent sure of winning. I will never be able to say that in San Remo."

95km to go: Pit stop for the peloton

The riders pick up some musettes so they can refuel. It's important to keep eating in a race as long as this - just one kilometre shy of 300km. The 1910 edition of the race played out in blizzards and rain, the winner crossing the line over 12 hours after rolling out of Milan.

100km to go: Crash! Boo-hoo-ani!

Frenchman Thibault Guernalec loses his front wheel on a tight left-hand bend, taking down Arkea Samsic teammate Nacer Bouhanni with him in the process. The latter is not happy as he yanks his bike out of a tangle with his compatriot's before continuing on his way.
Meanwhile, the peloton has reformed after that bizarre splintering. It's all strung out and the gap for the eight leaders is back up to 3'30".

105km to go: Big splits in the pack

We're not sure what's happened - the TV coverage was on an aerial mission to keep the local tourist board happy - but the peloton appears to have split into at least three groups. The leading group has eased up because it appears that Van Aert is in the second group and Alaphilippe in the third. It could have been something as benign as a mass call of nature. No one appears to be nursing any injuries so a crash is unlikely. And there doesn't appear to be much concern. Magnus Backstedt and Matt Stephens, in the Eurosport commentary box, are completely baffled. Perhaps it just fractured on the long descent?

110km to go: QuickStep near the front

The Belgian team really have all bases covered: the world champion Julian Alaphilippe for an attack on the Poggio, Ireland's Sam Bennett for the sprint, Italy's Davide Ballerini if Bennett gets dropped, and the likes of Kasper Asgreen, Tim Declercq, Yves Lampaert and Zdenek Stybar as the foot soldiers. The entire team is currently camped out near the front of the pack, with only a single Jumbo-Visma rider and a single Alpecin-Fenex rider ahead, setting tempo for their leaders Van Aert and Van der Poel respectively.
The gap for the eight leaders is 3'15". It's a clear, sunny day on the coast with a clement temperature of 15 degrees and not much wind to speak of - although we hear there's a cross-tailwind for the two climbs near the finish.

Who are the favourites?

For most people, we can look no further than the two previous winners - Julian Alaphilippe and Wout van Aert - and the swashbuckling Dutchman Mathieu van der Poel. It's fair to say that recent editions have played into the hands of these kinds of punchy riders who can attack on the Poggio and sprint on the via Roma - with Michal Kwiatkowski doing just that four years ago when he pipped Peter Sagan and Alaphilippe. Three years ago, Vincenzo Nibali's solo attack on the Poggio was enough - and it's been five years since we saw a bunch finish, won by Arnaud Demare.
With that in mind, the likes of Caleb Ewan and Sam Bennett - while not discounted - can't feature among the favourites. Below are my star ratings, which caused a bit of a stir yesterday - primarily because Van der Poel's four-star rating (most think he's a shoo-in and so should be five star, with Van Aert and Alaphilippe on four).

Right, let's get this Ligurian party started!

We pick up the race LIVE with 120km remaining from the whopping 299km on the menu. You haven't missed a huge amount. A break of eight riders is four minutes up the road - around half of what their maximum lead was at one point. They have just gone over the top of the first climb of the day. It's not the Turchino pass this year, but the Colle de Giovi after the ongoing pandemic caused a rejig from the traditional route. The riders will now drop down to the Ligurian coast before heading north-west towards San Remo via the three Capi climbs, the Cipressa and, of course, the Poggio.
Those eight leaders, five of whom are Italian, are: Nicola Conci (Trek-Segafredo), Andrea Peron and Charles Planet (Team Novo Nordisk), Mattia Viel and Filippo Tagliani (Androni-Sidermec), Alessandro Tonelli (Bardiani-CSF-Faizanè), Taco Van der Hoorn (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert) and Mathias Norsgaard (Movistar).

Broadcasting history to be made on epic day of racing

Eurosport x GCN will show Milan-San Remo in full this Saturday with every minute and every kilometre of professional cycling’s longest one-day race set to be screened live and uninterrupted for the first time ever. The first Monument of the 2021 season will be fully produced with all 299 kilometres available for fans to watch live and on-demand via, the Eurosport App and GCN+. Live and highlights coverage will also be provided via Eurosport 1 and Eurosport 2 in available markets.

Re-Cycle: When Christophe braved blizzards to win 'toughest bike race ever'

Bernard Hinault's win in ‘Neige-Bastogne-Neige’ in 1980. Charly Gaul on Monte Bondone in 1958. Eddy Merckx on Tre Cime di Lavaredo in 1968. Andy Hampsten's goggles on the Gavia in 1988. They were all a mere dusting of the white stuff by comparison.
The fourth Milan-San Remo is what the snow-shortened 2013 edition of La Classicissima might have looked like had it taken place outside the Extreme Weather Protocol and around one century earlier. That's to say that the snow blizzard-blighted 1910 edition was unequivocally of its time. No race since has come remotely close, nor ever will.
Where snowfall on the Passo del Turchino forced the riders of the 2013 edition to bypass the climb in the comfort of heated buses, slashing 50km from the route, their counterparts in 1910 were sent up what the eventual winner would describe as ‘the Pass of Death’.
Here, riders were seen swigging neat brandy, swallowing eggs and chewing on grass to stave off fatigue as snow and freezing winds engulfed those who had not already given up. After taking refuge in a mountain hut and borrowing a new pair of trousers from the owner, Frenchman Eugène Christophe eventually rolled over the finish in San Remo almost 12-and-a-half hours after setting off from Milan. It was a marathon that La Gazzetta called "not a race as such, but a demonstration of the specialist qualities needed to fight against the fury of the elements".
"It's a hell of a story," says David Guénel, a French cycling expert whose recent book recounts the life of Christophe's contemporary Lucien Petit-Breton, winner of the first edition of Milan-San Remo in 1907.
"The fourth edition of Milan-San Remo was probably the toughest bike race ever,” he continues. “Christophe needed six months to recover – think Hinault after Liège in 1980, but worse."
The Frenchman was the first of only four official finishers; the three others who crossed the line later were disqualified for hitching lifts in cars or taking trains. With the snow so thick that the riders were forced to push their bikes up the Turchino, you could hardly blame them.
Read Felix Lowe's terrific account of a day the likes of which we will never again witness in pro cycling.

Meet Cancellara: The King Of The Cobbles

What has Fabian Cancellara, the legend of the spring classics, been up to since he hung up his wheels? GCN's Dan Lloyd headed to Switzerland to catch up with Spartacus and find out! You can stream this and more of the best cycling stories in the world exclusively on GCN+.

How to watch the event

Milan-San Remo 2021 is live on Eurosport.
You can watch the race unfold on and the Eurosport app. You can download the Eurosport app for iOS and Android now.
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