Good morning, and a warm welcome to the Cyclingnews live race centre for the first Monument of the rescheduled season!
It’s Milan-San Remo, but not as we know it. We can still call it La Classicissima, but not La Primavera, as we’re not on the cusp of spring but rather the height of summer. The changing of the seasons is usually symbolised by the Turchino Pass and the descent onto the Ligurian coast, but that’s no more, as the mayors of Liguria rejected the race. We have a longer, hillier race, with smaller teams to boot. Still, the Cipressa and Poggio are comfortingly in place and should ensure the traditional format of slow build-up followed by breathless crescendo in a contest that’s finely balanced between the puncheurs and sprinters.
We’ll be right here covering the whole thing for the next eight hours or so. Buckle up.
Before we go any further, this is the time to have a read of our in-depth race preview. It’s written by Stephen Farrand, who’s covered every edition of Milan-San Remo since I was a toddler, so he should know what he’s talking about.
This is the scene in Milan this morning. Blue skies, temperatures nudging 30, socially distanced photographers, and no fans. The riders are signing on team-by-team and going through their pre-race rituals.
Some housekeeping. The riders will roll out of Milan at 10:40 local time, so in around 20 minutes. They’ll complete a neutralised sector of 10km (which in a 300km race is just mean) before the flag drops and racing proper begins at 11:00. Seven hours later, we’ll have a winner. I'll be talking at you the whole time.
The longest race of the year just got even longer. Another late re-route has taken the total distance from 299km to 305km (315 if you count the neutral). The distance is one of the defining characteristics of Milan-San Remo. It may not be the toughest parcours in terms of climbing (although there is more of it this year (more on that in a bit)), but it’s a true test of endurance and who can stay freshest for the finale. I think it was Mark Cavendish who explained that even one wasted pedal stroke can cost you dearly.
.@blingmatthews - @TeamSunweb ✅@eliaviviani - @TeamCOFIDIS ✅@GregVanAvermaet - @CCCProTeam ✅@mathieuvdpoel - Alpecin Fenix ✅#MilanoSanremo pic.twitter.com/rNywLfRfSyAugust 8, 2020
A bit more on the route, because it’s new and could significantly alter the dynamic of the race. Stephen Farrand has the details in that preview, but to summarise, no Turchino Pass, no long procession down the coast, and none of the Tre Capi climbs.
Instead, the route continues inland from Milan south west towards San Remo and only joins the coast with 33km to go. From there it’s familiar territory, with the Cipressa preceding the decisive climb and descent of the Poggio, where the puncheurs will go on the attack as the sprinters try to remain in contention and hope for a bunch finish on the Via Roma.
The inland route means there’s more elevation gain than usual, with the Colle di Nava climb looking an interesting proposition with 70km to go. We could be in for an even more selective affair in a race that hasn’t seen a proper bunch sprint since 2016.
As if there wasn’t enough change… one more for you. This year we have six-man teams. That’s because organisers wanted to invite two more Italian ProTeams to help them out during the pandemic. The rest of the teams have all lost a man and most aren’t happy since they only found out 10 days ago.
How will it affect the race? Plenty of reactions from riders past and present in this story.
So, in short, a longer, harder, less controllable Milan-San Remo.
The riders are on the start line... Here we go!
And we're off!
I’ve found the Cavendish quotes I mentioned earlier, and they’re gold.
"It's the only race that's always decided by fractions of a second – not because that's the winning margin, although that's often the case, but just because every fragment of time, every tiny movement, has an impact. There's no time to correct mistakes. Maybe it's an illusion, but it doesn't feel like that's how it works in other races. It's like the picture of every other race has 100 pixels and San Remo's has 10 million.
"It's a race that you can lose in the first one hundred kilometres. It seems so easy early on that you forget you need to save energy; a lot of guys are in the wind thinking it won't matter because the race seems so straightforward at that point. They forget that every single watt ends up being important in the finale."
That was from a piece in the issue of Procycling magazine that Cavendish himself guest-edited, and luckily we have the whole thing available to read on CN.
A dispatch from Milan from Stephen Farrand.
"29c and humid at start. Feeding will be a big factor," he says. "Teams expecting race to kick off with 70km to go."
Wout Van Aert on the start line a little earlier. I just can't see anyone else winning this race. Convince me otherwise.
Want to watch Milan-San Remo (while also following this live blog obviously)? Of course you do. Here's how you can do that.
We're chugging through the neutral zone and are just over five minutes away from the start proper.
Before we get going, now's your chance to have a look through the full and final start list. During the quiet early hours we'll take a closer look at some of the key teams' line-ups.
A slightly extended neutral zone, but the flag has dropped and we are racing.
It's a quick start, as you'd expect. The battle is on to form a breakaway.
We have an early break of six riders that's moving clear.
Here's the breakaway group:
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)
Marco Frapporti (Vini Zabu-KTM)
Mazzucco scrambled his way across after the originals had gone clear, so we have a seven-rider breakaway and the peloton looks happy to let it go as the gap moves out over two minutes.
Our top story today concerns the awful events in Poland earlier this week. Dylan Groenewegen has been suspended by his Jumbo-Visma team until the outcome of the UCI's disciplinary proceedings. The Dutchman has also given a tearful TV interview in which he apologises and says he can't contemplate racing a bike again for a good few months. Here's the full story.
290km to go
The breakaway move out to four minutes clear.
For a discussion on that Poland incident (including the balance of responsibility between Groenewegen and the race organisers/UCI/CPA) plus a look ahead to Milan-San Remo, here's Daniel Benson and Ed Pickering with our latest podcast offering.
Of course, the most important thing is Fabio Jakobsen's health. After some very worrying early moments, there has been more positive news, with the Dutchman now out of a coma, and with neurological issues seemingly ruled out. Still, he faces a 'long and arduous' recovery. Here's the latest on his condition.
Five minutes for the break now, and still growing. Let's have a look at a couple of line-ups.
Let's start with the team of the reigning champion: Deceuninck-QuickStep. Alaphilippe was flying last year but has played down his chances at these August Classics as he builds towards the Tour. Still, you can't rule him out. If it's a bunch sprint, Bennett will take it from there. His uphill solo win in Burgos was an indication of his form and ability to accelerate on punchy climbs. Jungels and Stybar offer interesting options, while Declercq and Asgreen can perform the early heavy lifting. It's a quality team, isn't it.
A first shot of our breakaway seven.
Lotto Soudal are another team with a clear sprinter+puncheur two-pronger. Ewan was second in 2018 and would be a big contender from a Via Roma sprint, but Gilbert is looking to make history with a Milan-San Remo title that would complete the set of five Monuments. The Belgian has finished on the podium twice but a key question is whether, at 38, and with a Paris-Roubaix victory credited with his transformation into a 'diesel engine', he still has the necessary explosiveness to get away on the Poggio.
151 Caleb Ewan
152 Jasper De Buyst
153 Frederik Frison
154 Philippe Gilbert
155 Nikolas Maes
265km to go
The seven breakaway riders extend their lead to 5:45 on these early flat roads into the Pavia province. Lotto Soudal and Groupama-FDJ are the teams marshalling the peloton.
The last time I live blogged Milan-San Remo, a certain Vincenzo Nibali snuck away on the Poggio, picked his way so gracefully down the descent, and celebrated while Ewan et al were unfurling futile sprints. It was brilliant. The Italian was in relaxed mood ahead of this year's race, and you can read his pre-race thoughts at the link below.
248km to go
6:30 is the gap now for our intrepid breakaway septet. It's been a largely uneventful start to the day but the average pace so far is a shade under 44km/h.
UAE Team Emirates have an interesting line-up. Gaviria can certainly win this race. He crashed on his debut in 2016 having made it over the Poggio and was second in the bunch sprint in 2017 behind the Kwiatkowski/Sagan/Alaphilippe trio. The man who was just ahead of him that day? Kristoff, who won this race in 2014. It will be fascinating to see what Pogacar can do here - or what the young lad can't do. Formolo is also in flying form after finishing runner-up at Strade Bianche. Richeze and Troia are there to support Gaviria.
251 Fernando Gaviria
252 Davide Formolo
254 Tadej Pogacar
256 Oliviero Troia
Such is the new normal, this isn't just Milan-San Remo day, but also Tour de l'Ain day and Tour de Pologne day, plus Czech Tour and Savoie Mont Blanc day for the real fanatics.
We also have live coverage of the l'Ain stage, so if you fancy following the famed Ineos and Jumbo-Visma tridents as they head into the Jura mountains, join my colleague Sadhbh O'Shea here.
The breakaway riders aren't putting in all this effort for nothing, and it's only fair we shine a spotlight on these race animators.
First up, Mattia Bais, a 23-year-old neo-pro who rode for the Friuli team before turning pro with Gianni Savio's Androni-Giocattoli team in 2020. Mattia describes himself as "a long-distance climber", according to an interview with a local paper in Trentino. "I defend myself very well on undulating courses, I have to improve in time trials, I'm already working to be competitive in that sector too."
His favourite rider is Alessandro De Marchi, and his brother, Davide, a year younger, is also a cyclist, currently with Friuli. Despite being in the early stages of his career, Mattia already has a fan club, run by his mate. That's friendship.
223km to go
After just over 80km, we're coming to Alessandria, where damage done by storms led to another last-minute re-route that added another 6km to the total distance.
Here was Peter Sagan at the start this morning. At one point, it was unthinkable to imagine his career without at least one Milan-San Remo victory. Now, things seem slightly different. He's still a rider of undeniable class but his status his somewhat diminished after just four wins (and no classics) in 2019 and a barren 2020 so far, not mention the rise of new superstars in Van der Poel and Van Aert.
I have doubted Sagan, which means Sagan will now win this race. Here are pre-race thoughts from the man himself.
Jumbo-Visma are working with Groupama-FDJ and Lotto Soudal at the head of the peloton. Here's their line-up. Amund Grondahl Jansen is a talented rider but this is all about WVA. Sometimes you just feel it's all pointing the way of one rider. It was certainly the case with Alaphilippe last year. Van Aert can handle the distance, will welcome the increase in elevation gain, and, as he showed at last year's Tour, has a vicious sprint. He made his debut here last year and finished sixth from the elite selection, and he's in flying form this time out after dominating Strade Bianche last weekend. It all adds up.
211 Wout Van Aert
214 Paul Martens
215 Timo Roosen
216 Antwan Tolhoek
205km to go
The race has been run off so far at an average pace of 43km/h. It's been a relaxed one but they've had a nice light tailwind.
Let's flick that breakaway spotlight back on. We have another neo-pro and MSR debutant up there. Fabio Mazzucco is just 21, he was born in 1999 (!) and yet here he is making his Monument debut.
He rode for the Trevigiani team last year and won a stage of the U23 Giro with a solo attack. That earned him an early pro contract with Bardiani, where he has already ridden some pretty big races, including Strade Bianche, Gran Trittico Lombardo, and Milano-Torino, all this month.
"I am a long-distance rider who defends himself uphill when it is not too steep," Mazzucco recently told SpazioCiclismo. "So far I have only done one race on the cobblestones, while I know that heavy courses are more suitable for me. The days when you can go in the break or go on the attack are suitable for me. Or at least they were in the amateurs. Here in the professionals, I don't know yet."
It's lunchtime for the riders. They've just been through the feed zone and are making their way through the contents of their musettes. The gap is stable at 6:30.
There are so many possible contenders today that narrowing it down to just 10 (the only acceptable amount for a list feature) was a tough task for my boss Daniel Benson. Find out who he went with...
Daniel made the call to leave out Oliver Naesen, who was on the podium here last year. He loves the long, fatiguing races and has been working on his (already pretty neat) sprint, so I've heard. He's still something of an outsider, since he's trying to time his top form for the cobbles in October.
181km to go
The pace has picked up in the peloton after lunch. The gap is down to 6 minutes as we head towards the hillier terrain.
We're heading towards the first climb of the day. It's the Niella Belbo and it's sort of playing the role of the Turchino this year. It's only around 3% in gradient but it drags on for nearly 20km, so it will sap the legs.
After that, there'll be another lengthy drag of a climb to the top of the Colle di Nava with 70km to go. Then we'll head down to the coast for the more familiar Cipressa and Poggio.
Stephen Farrand spoke earlier to Matteo Trentin, who is vice-president of the Italian riders' association. He had some strong words about the Jakobsen indicent.
"My feeling is that everybody is to blame for the crash: we all lost as riders, as race organisers, the CPA riders' association, the UCI, the teams and cycling in general lost too. Nobody can say it was not their fault or they don’t have some responsibility."
Full story on the way.
The gap to the seven breakaway riders has nudged back out to 6:30.
Speaking of the break... next man up: Marco Frapporti. That should be a more familiar name, and not just because there's also a Mattia Frapporti. The Italian has been around for a while now, treating us to a host of breakaways, and he celebrated his 35th birthday in March.
It's all change for him this season, as he ended a seven-year spell at Androni to move to Luca Scinto's Vini-Zabu team. "The relationship between us ended somewhat abruptly for technical reasons. Savio had in mind a precise idea on how to manage and set up my season, which I didn't agree with at all," he recently told DirettaCiclismo.
Frapporti felt he could still play more of a leading role than Savio thought, so he seized a fresh opportunity at Vini-Zabu, where he's helping himself to more breaks while also supporting the team's leader Giovanni Visconti. "I feel great trust in me from everyone and, with this assumption, there will be a way to do well on a personal level as well. In my heart, in fact, I believe that I can also collect something more than in recent years, where I mainly played a supporting role ."
148km to go
We're on the lower slopes of the Niella Belbo and it's still all calm. Frapporti punctured just as we were writing about him, but he's safely back in the break now.
Over at the Tour de l'Ain, Jumbo are piling on the pressure, taking it to Ineos, and doing some damage now. 28km to go over there and I won't hold it against you (for long) if you wanted to follow along with Sadhbh O'Shea's live coverage from France.
Ah, I almost forgot. It's the full Trentin story. You have to say he's a class act on and off the bike.
The pace has increased in the peloton on this climb, and the gap to the break has dropped to 5:45. The teams interested in a selective race won't want to allow the sprinters to get up this too comfortably.
Let's squeeze another breakaway spotlight in. Manuele Boaro doesn't need much of an introduction anyway. He's been in the WorldTour since 2011, with Saxo/Tinkoff, followed by two years at Bahrain-Merida and now two at Astana. His contract expires at the end of the year and he's currently trying to sort something for 2021. Maybe that's why he's out there putting himself in the shop window, after doing exactly the same at Milano-Torino earlier in the week. He's still only 33 and is a solid pair of hands, so should find another WorldTour contract.
"My contract is about to expire this year and I won't be able to show much because I will have to work for the team, but if any opportunities arise, I'd like to be able to take away some satisfaction as well," he recently said. "Astana is a great team and I feel good, but for the next few seasons nothing is defined yet."
Philippe Gilbert has just been on the front of the bunch setting the pace in the peloton. Strange for him to be putting his nose in the wind so early. Perhaps he's not feeling it and it's all-in for Ewan...
We're just past the half-way mark as the road continues to climb. The gap to the seven leaders is down to 5:30
Groupama-FDJ have come back to the front now. They have 2016 winner Arnaud Demare, who signalled his intent with a resounding win at Milano-Torino. The Frenchman is a real threat today.
Let's take a look at another team, and we couldn't not mention the alternative adventurers. They've made waves off the road but at the same time have become a far stronger proposition on it. Bettiol is the Flanders champion, Woods is a top-quality puncheur, and Clarke is enjoying a rich vein of form, thriving on more of a leadership/self-centred focus after acting mostly as a road captain. Even Magnus Cort is a solid outsider.
EF Pro Cycling
111 Alberto Bettiol
112 Simon Clarke
113 Lawson Craddock
114 Mitchell Docker
115 Magnus Cort
116 Michael Woods
8km to go at the Tour de l'Ain and it's all kicking off. Go, go, I insist.
Here in Italy the break are on the upper slopes of this long first climb. Their lead is dropping but not quickly. 5:15 the gap now.
Alongside Trentin, CCC have Greg Van Avermaet, still technically the Olympic champion for another year (at least). The Belgian stayed loyal to Ochowicz last time but sees no light at the end of the tunnel this time, and has confirmed he'll change teams. A link-up with his good mate Oliver Naesen at AG2R has been rumoured.
132km to go
The break head over the top of the Niella Belbo with a lead of just over five minutes.
That breathless Tour de l'Ain stage has just finished, and Roglic took the spoils, out-sprinting Bernal at the end. Jumbo had a very good day out and while Bernal was only distanced in the final dash for the line, they'll take heart from the way they dropped Thomas and Froome well before. Here's our report page.
125km to go
Here in Italy, the riders are heading downhill after that climb. The gap has come down to 4:30 now as the peloton pedals with increased urgency.
A slight uphill interrupts this downhill section of the route. At the bottom, there's another feed zone before the road starts dragging up again on a false flat, which almost imperceptibly turns into that Colle di Nava climb that's causing a good deal of intrigue. Expect the race to go pretty hard up there.
Live broadcasts of the race are about to fire up across the world. Here's how you can watch it, no matter your location.
Another look at a line-up, and here's another one with several interesting options, if not an out-and-out favourite. It's Bahrain McLaren, and they're led by Colbrelli, who's in good form after winning a stage of the Route d'Occtianie. Teuns is one of the best puncheurs and most versatile riders the world, Garcia Cortina is getting better and better, and Mohoric led the final selection onto the Via Roma last year.
54 Marco Haller
56 Dylan Teuns
We haven't spoken much about Mathieu van der Poel today. What he's done in his career so far has been astounding, but he's had an uncharacteristically subdued build-up to this race. He was 15th and beset by punctures at Strade Bianche, while he didn't muster much of a sprint at Milano-Torino. Still, he's "more than ready" for San Remo, according to his sports director.
For the record, I think it’s scandalous that other races are held on the same day as a monument like @Milano_SanremoAugust 8, 2020
106km to go
The peloton have really picked up the pace. The gap is only just above three minutes now.
Before it gets too close for comfort, let's shine the breakaway spotlight on Damiano Cima (Gazprom-Rusvelo). The 26-year-old started his career at Nippo Vini Fantini but has moved to the Russian Gazprom-Rusvelo team for 2020.
"When I arrived at Gazprom I found a different mentality than the teams I have raced for so far. Here there is a meticulousness about everything," he said recently. "When a team has a big budget, it can take care of its athletes in every detail. I thank the team for trusting me and for giving me the opportunity to race for them."
The stand-out moment of Cima's career so far came at last year's Giro d'Italia, where he won from the break, holding off the charging pack by a whisker. What a finish that was - so good I'm using that photo rather than one from this year (sorry Gazprom).
100km to go
We're now two thirds of the way through the race. I don't know about you, but I feel I've paced this one pretty well. Just had two satsumas and a twirl and I'm feeling fresh for the final two hours.
I've just told you what I'm eating - maybe I am going mad.
The riders are on the false flat section leading up to the Colle di Nava. It's pretty gentle for now but still energy-sapping.
The peloton seemed to have cooled off slightly. The gap has stabilised once more at 3:05.
Bettini thinks the sprinters have almost no chance. Which we all suspected but didn’t have guts to say.August 8, 2020
It's Jumbo, FDJ, QuickStep, and Lotto Soudal doing the heavy lifting at the front of the peloton. Well, not so heavy at the moment, but resources are valuable in six-man teams.
The imposing frame of Tim Declercq is reassuringly there for QuickStep. I interviewed the Belgian 'Tractor' in the spring and it's probably my favourite interview I've done this year. Tim had won our 'Best Domestique in the world' accolade, as voted for by WorldTour riders themselves, and he talked us through his selfless role and how he's found his place in the sport. If you're interested, here's the link.
Crash. Five riders on the deck, including two from CCC.
A slightly innocuous collision near the middle of the pack sees five riders fall into the grass on the left-hand side of the road
One of them is Trentin!
Well Trentin clearly didn't hit the grass, as the shoulder of his jersey is ripped and his exposed skin blackened. He's going to abandon I think.
The Italian is on his feet but is unable to continue. He waves to the cameras before making his way towards the race ambulance.
Julian Alaphilippe and Alexey Lutsenko make their way onto the back of the bunch. Toilet stop, perhaps.
The pace is gradually lifting in the bunch, and the gap falls to 2:40. We're still on this very gentle long climb. It's the final 4km of the Colle di Nava that are the toughest, at just over 3%. Right now we're 12km from the top.
Let's crack on with the breakaway spotlight, now with the second of the WorldTour riders up there. Hector Carretero is now in his fourth season as a pro with Movistar, but it still feels like he's developing. He's tall but still pretty light and can cope with climbs while also being able to ride on pretty much any terrain. An all-rounder. And that's born out by the races he's done - four of the five Monuments, plus the Giro d'Italia last year. That was his Grand Tour debut, and he did a fine job supporting Richard Carapaz to overall victory. Movistar were very impressed and he could turn into a top domestique for them. He's heading back to the Giro again this year to support Marc Soler.
The pace continues to ramp up as we head towards the harder portion of the Nava. There are almost trains on either side of the road as the bunch splits into a sort of V formation with a gap in the middle.
Van Avermaet is second wheel behind Schar on the right-hand side for CCC. QUickStep are on the left with Declercq ahead of Jungels and Alaphilippe. Sunweb, Bahrain in the middle of the road.
I was just about to say that the big names were showing their faces near the front of the pack, and that it was an indication of things starting to heat up. But then Oli Naesen pops up dead last, having a laugh with Aimé de Gendt.
A couple more line-ups worth looking at. I don't see an Astana rider winning, but that doesn't stop me really liking the look of their team. Boaro is in the break, while Lutsenko is a class act who could win a tough Milan-San Remo, Fraile can sprint on hilly days, and Martinelli is a strong rider, too. Oh and Izagirre and Aranburu went 1-2 in the Gran Trittico Lombardo this week.
72km to go
Carretero is dropped from the break. Six left out front.
The break have sensed the increased urgency in the bunch and it seems they've decided now's the time to put a bit more power through the pedals. That's done for Carretero but the rest manage to nudge the gap to the bunch back out to 2:40.
We're into the final 4km of the Colle di Nava.
The pace is lifted again in the bunch. Notable change in tempo. There won't be any big attacks here but relax mode is a thing of the past now.
Bora take it up on the climb.
Jungels hits the wind now.
The descent that follows is actually pretty steep, so the leaders will want to be up near the front for that.
69.6km to go
QuickStep take it to the top before a Trek rider comes past to take the lead down the descent.
It's Nibali who's hit the front, and he's cutting some pretty neat lines down here.
58km to go
The gap has come down even more on the descent. It's 1:25 now.
Mazzucco has dropped back from the breakaway after a long day out front.
Trek-Segafredo's Nicola Conci has jumped off the front of the peloton, meanwhile. Maybe it's to give his team a bit of a rest before they resume their work for Nibali again later.
Bais, Tonelli, Frapporti, Boaro and Cima are the five men left up front.
The riders are passing through heavy woodland now, with 55km to go. The scenery is a lot different to what we're used to at this point in the race.
It's dramatic scenery, with the race going over big bridged highways and through a series of tunnels.
These tunnels are taking us towards the coast, which we'll hit with around 35km to go. From there it's familiar territory, with the Cipressa and Poggio forming the finale.
Conci is brought back now.
Not much life left in this break, you sense, so time for the final spotlight. Best be quick. Alessandro Tonelli is the second member of the Bardiani team to grace this break today. He's spent his entire pro career at Bardiani, since 2015, and claimed his only win at the 2018 Tour of Croatia. He's back this season after a terrible crash at last year's Tour of Qinghai Lake, which resulted in a number of broken bones and pneumothorax. He spent more than a month in hospital in China before he was able to return to Italy. Good to see him out here.
We're heading downhill again after those tunnels. Declercq is back on the front for QuickStep with 46km to go.
The writing is on the wall for the break. They have just 35 seconds now.
Declercq, Asgreen, Jungels, Stybar, Bennett. That's the QuickStep order at the hear of the bunch. Alaphilippe not directly in the train at the moment.
We mentioned Démare before. His Groupama-FDJ team are still up there looking good. He took huge confidence from that Milano-Torino win. More of his pre-race thoughts here.
The break can look back and see the bunch now. The catch is about to be made.
The break start attacking each other now, all wanting to be the last to be caught. Boaro launches a full-on sprint.
We haven't seen Jumbo for a little while but they've got together on the left now.
The teams are getting organised now.
Boaro launches another attack. Bais jumps on board and it's game over for the other three.
38km to go
Or is it? Tonelli, Cima, and Frapporti claw their way back in. They've found a bit of space with those accelerations. 17 seconds the gap now.
It's still a pretty full bunch and it's hard to tell what sort of impact those long steady climbs have had on the legs. We're just over 10km to the start of the Cipressa.
Boaro goes once again as they reach sea level and head towards the coastal road in Impera. But there's barely a gap now.
Puncture for Alaphilippe!
Not a great time for that. Not the worst time, but that's far from ideal as we head towards the Cipressa. He gets a swift bike change from the team car.
Boaro is dangling alone now a few metres ahead of the pack.
35km to go
Boaro is caught. All together. Gruppo Compatto!
Here come Alpecin, taking control now for Van der Poel.
Groupama and CCC are to the fore as we race towards the foot of the Cipressa. Both teams have looked strong all day.
Big surge in pace. This is FAST as we lead into the Cipressa. Still a few kms to go.
Alaphilippe is still chasing. Declercq has dropped back for him but no one else has.
He's back. Declercq takes him back and the reigning champ proceeds to make his way back up the bunch. The rest of his teammates have dropped away from the front.
NTT take it up now. They have Nizzolo, Valgren, and Boasson Hagen.
Crash. Just a small one. It's a Wanty rider who hits the deck but he's back on his feet.
Only one rider down but it split the pack for a moment. Back together now. It's Danny Van Poppel for Wanty, and that's a blow for the Belgian team.
Cipressa starts now. No winning move here has worked since 1996, a fact not lost on the peloton as last year there wasn't a single attack on this climb, still ridden fast but nobody wanted to try a move. But we have an attack now from a Circus-Wanty riderAugust 8, 2020
Here we go then - onto the Cipressa!
This is how it looks
Attack from a Wanty rider. It's Loic Vliegen.
Jacobo Mosca (Trek-Segafredo) sets off in pursuit.
And now more attacks come. Pogacar!
Ciccone is also on the move for Trek.
Vliegen leads. Mosca is chasing. Then there's a group of three with Pogacar and Ciccone. Bora are chasing.
Ewan in trouble! The Australian is dangling off the back.
Mosca reaches Vliegen as Ciccone attacks again from behind.
Pogacar drops back now as the third member of that trio, a rider from Vini-Zabu, follows Ciccone's acceleration.
Trek are lighting this up, trying to soften it up for Nibali.
Oss leads the chase with Sagan on his wheel. They catch Ciccone now.
The Colombian is suffering. That looks like him done for sure.
Bouhanni struggling now, too.
Vliegen and Mosca continue up the climb with a slim lead over what's now a reduced bunch.
1000 metres to the top and the leading duo have eight seconds in hand.
Vliegen and Mosca caught.
The duo are reeled in a couple of hundred metres shy of the summit.
And now for the descent of the Cipressa. Oss hits the front again. Is this Sagan's day?
Van Avermaet has lost teammates but he's up in third position. It's Benoot in second there for Sunweb, who have Michael Matthews still in contention.
Oss is on the top tube, flying down this twisting descent.
20km to go
So we're rapidly heading towards the Poggio. At the bottom the road will flatten out for a few kilometres before the climb starts.
Look at Oss! He's riding away from the rest here as he cuts down this descent. He almost overcooks a corner and has to unclip and swing his right leg out. Heart skipped a beat there but he's back and away.
Oss gets down safely and he presses on. He's got a gap here!
Lutsenko responds. The Kazakh cahmpion attacks from the bunch in pursuit of Oss. Mosca again jumps on the wheel.
A nice move from Oss, putting the pressure on the other teams. Sagan has an armchair ride. Who have the numbers to mount an organised chase?
QuickStep, obviously. The Belgian team take control now through Jungels.
A Bora rider now chases, despite Oss being out front. It's Benedetti and he's brought the Lutsenko move back.
15km to go
15 seconds for Oss!
Jungels leads the chase, Asgreen tucked in behind. Sunweb, CCC and Bora looking good there numbers-wise.
Demare is still in there for Groupama. Ewan, Gaviria, Bouhanni already gone, remember.
Oss has 10 seconds in hand as we head to the Poggio with 13.6km to go. Just a couple of kms until the climb.
QuickStep have got themselves together properly now and are in almost full formation there, but they're not doing much damage to Oss at the moment.
Stybar is arguing with Kung as Demare gets a word in from behind. QuickStep want help, by the looks of it.
Mitchelton-Scott take it up now. They have Albasini and Edmondson.
Van Aert towards the back of the pack.
12km to go
Oss has just five seconds in hand now.
Almost time for the Poggio. This is how it looks.
QuickStep still in pursuit of Oss on the approach road.
10km to go!
Just over a kilometre now until the foot of the Poggio
Big surge in pace from Groupama, and that's it for Oss in the blink of an eye. AG2R to the fore, too.
Sunweb, Alpecin, and Ineos all want to be at the front here
They take the famous slight-right onto the Poggio!
Stybar responds. And Ciccone too
Ciccone takes it up now with a big acceleration.
Ciccone, Moscon, Stybar in a trio, but Bora are chasing.
The trio is caught as Burghardt sets the pace for Bora. Alaphilippe is there looking around.
ANOTHER Trek attack. Brambilla this time
Lutsenko dropped as a Wanty rider goes with Brambilla.
Sam Bennett dropped!
The Irish champion is digging so deep here to try and hang on
7.5km to go and the leading duo have a lead of a few seconds with 1800m to go to the top.
Bennett claws his way back on.
It's Aime de Gendt up there with Brambilla, and now the Belgian attacks him!
De Gendt sat in there not doign a turn until he ripped clear.
Huge attack! Van Aert follows!
Van Avermaet clambering to try and get back on terms but they're flying clear.
Alaphilippe kicks again and rides away from Van Aert
Alaphilippe crests the climb alone!
Van Aert is a few seconds behind.
This descent is key. Time can be won and lost.... and the race is almost lost for Alaphilippe as he almost overcooks a corner. Wow. He has to take every risk here.
Alaphilippe is such a daring descender and Van Aert is no slouch either. The gap's the same. The rest are several seconds further back.
Van Aert catches Alaphilippe!
4.2km to go and the pair lead Milan-San Remo down the Poggio. The rest of the reduced bunch is only a handful of seconds back.
Every risk being taken here by Alaphilippe. The road will soon flatten out and collaboration will be crucial.
Mohoric, an expert descender himself, clipss off the front of the chasing pack.
2.8km to go and Alaphilippe flicks his elbow. Van Aert is taking a swig but gets on with his job. Still descending.
The pair have a tenuous lead but it's not like there are organised teams behind. Who will take repsonsibility for the chase?
Ineos will. It's Moscon on the front. I think Swift is still there.
8 seconds with 1.5km to go!
Benoot, van der Poel, Nibali, Van Avermaet. That's the case order with 1200m to go. 7 seconds!!
Van Aert takes it to the flamme rouge. Alaphilippe tightens his shoes...
Final km. It looks like this is between Alaphilipe and Van Aert.
Van Aert on the front into the final 500. He looks over but Alaphilippe is planted there now.
They slow in prepration for the sprint but can't afford to for long
Alaphilippe launches, Van Aert opens up!
Close on the line but Van Aert takes it!!!
Wout Van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) wins Milan-San Remo
Wow. We say it every year, but what a finish.
Like Alaphilippe last year, Van Aert doubles up Strade Bianche and MIlan-San Remo.
Matthews takes the final podium spot, a couple of seconds behind Van Aert and Alaphilippe.
That was a nail-biting sprint. As they slowed in the final 300m it looked like the rest could come back but they soon picked it up and it was a super close contest. Alaphilippe looked the more sprightly in style and looked on course to overhall Van Aert, who was churning a bigger gear, but the Frenchman's bike started swinging ever-more desperately, as the Belgian continued to force the power through the pedals. Half a wheel in it on the line.
1 Wout van Aert (Bel) Team Jumbo-Visma 07:16:09
2 Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Deceuninck-QuickStep
3 Michael Matthews (Aus) Team Sunweb 00:00:02
4 Peter Sagan (Svk) Bora-Hansgrohe
5 Giacomo Nizzolo (Ita) NTT Pro Cycling
6 Dion Smith (NZl) Mitchelton-Scott
7 Alex Aranburu (Spa) Astana Pro Team
8 Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) CCC Team
9 Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Lotto Soudal
10 Matej Mohorič (Slo) Bahrain McLaren
Gilbert sprinted long but the leading duo were gone and he'll have to wait another year to try for that fifth Monument.
Van Aert speaks
"I'm super happy. I can't believe I've taken these these two victories in a row. I don't have words actually. I know everyone says that when they win a Monument but to start the second part of the season like this... it's crazy."
What was going through Van Aert's head when Alaphilippe attacked?
"Hold on, hold on, hold on! That was the only thing on my mind. Actually, it didn't happen. He went quite early and I had to close a little gap. I dropped again but there was nobody behind my so I had no choice but to keep pushing and I was rewarded because I came back on the downhill.
"Julian played it really well, he put me on the front, and I needed to to keep a bit of speed because the bunch was coming back. It was hard to do the right pace and still keep something for the sprint but in the end it was enough, because it was only half a wheel."
Sagan in Sanremo (most recent first):4,4,6,2,12,4,10,2,4No DNFs but a few FFSs.August 8, 2020
The sprint for the line...
Here's our report page
We've already got loads of great photos in our gallery. This was the Poggio attack.
This was a huge moment in the career of Wout Van Aert, the first of what you suspect will be many Monuments. Flanders and Roubaix are also well within his grasp. He's a rider who could mark a generation, and right now he's outshining his old cyclo-cross rival Mathieu van der Poel. What makes this all-the-more amazing is the fact that Van Aert's young career was almost ended by that horrible crash into the barriers in the Tour de France time trial last year. There was no guarantee he'd return to his old level, but he has surpassed it. A superstar, if not before then definitely now.
This is what Sagan (4th) had to say:
"I don't have yet the condition I had at this race in the past. My form is steadily getting better, after the Strade Bianche I have definitely improved but I'm not in a position yet where I could have responded to Van Aert and Alaphilippe on the Poggio. I think my season starts at the Tour de France this year and, in my view, I'm on the right track."
Here's the reaction of the runner-up, Julian Alaphilippe
"I have mixed feelings for sure. I'm really happy to be on the podium. I knew that Wout would be really strong, he was the biggest favourite and deserved the victory.
"I went full gas on the Poggio and he was with me. On the downhill I felt I couldn't make the difference alone, so we worked together until the last2km. In the end it was a hard sprint, fighting against each other, but in the end, the stronger one won and it's like this."
That's it from us for today. We have a full report, full results, and a photo gallery in our report page. We'll be bringing you all the reaction and fall-out from San Remo shortly too, so keep an eye on Cyclingnews this evening. Thanks for joining us today. As ever, Milan-San Remo delivers. Ciao.