Milan San Remo
Classicisima di Primavera, as Milan San Remo is known, is regarded as the
most beautiful of the monuments, especially by the Italians. It's
the, first and the longest of the spring classics and has recently been
regarded as the domain of the sprinters.
The finale is always tense
as the Cipressa and Poggio climbs are hard but not too hard. The
climbers often fail to drop the fast finishers and a mad gallop to the
line often ensues.
After standing at the 10 metre to go sign on Saturday, to see
Pozatto realise his long awaited potential, we were both fired up ready
for our Sunday ride. With the weather a comparatively balmy, but
windy, 13 degrees we gathered on the Via Roma car park for the start.
With numbers of 314 and 315 we headed to the 300-399 pen for our gated
start. The gate marshal then proceeded to order Dianne to the front
gate where she was placed next to Basso and Simoni for a photo shoot!
Do you think we can find a photos with Dianne on it? No, but you can
see me at the front of the field, leaving the start, on page 90 of this
month's Cycle Sport.
I was thrown in with the masses, as you'll see in the mag.
When the gun fired it was typical Italian organisation, the gates were
breached and it was every rider for themselves. Being the first ever
running of the event there was no experience for anyone to draw on.
So, we all blasted from the start at race pace only to get 500 metres down
the Via Roma to the transponder mats. Everyone then slammed on their
brakes to pass over them through narrowed gates. As people shot out
the other side groups quickly formed to head of the 30k's to Imperia and
the first climb.
I caught Dianne at the flamme rouge, which was nice, checked she was okay,
got her out of the middle of the road to the less hectic side, then dived
back on to the tail of "my" group. Riding over the capi, the rolling
coastal hills that crop up every few kilometres, the group grew and shrunk
as stronger riders came across and those who'd over committed themselves
At one point the road narrowed as those coming back met
those going forward. There was an inevitable touch of wheels and two
went down. The brakes went on and a massive gap opened. I
found myself at the front of a small group of around ten that began a
chase to a larger group of maybe a 100 up the road. With a massive
headwind the group ahead began to form echelons. Our group was
working together but the gap wasn't coming down. Then I found no one
was coming through and I'd been on the front longer than I would have
How lucky am I?
The gap was still 20 metres then, from nowhere, two yellow clad
riders came to the front and I grabbed the wheel. Within an instant
I and the rest were being dragged up to the group ahead at an amazing
pace. My SRM was showing 340 watts. As we latched on I looked
across to acknowledge the help given; it was Simoni and one of his team
mates. He said something in Italian but I was too busy looking at
his pulse meter. It read 84 bpm. I looked at mine, 175!
In a flash he was gone, drifting back through the riders to shouts, cheers
and general Italian mayhem.
We reached Imperia in 49 minutes at an average speed of 42
kph and an average power output of 194 watts. This is really low for
the speed and is due to the drafting taking place in the early kilometres.
Then we hit the back of Capo Verde and another attack went. This
time I went with it and we left the group we just joined. You can
see the split happening below, that's me dead centre with the red feet!
We were still motoring as, a long lineout, we dived in and
out of the roundabouts strewn through the town. Then a sharp right
took us on the 10k run in to Pontedessio and the beginning of the 10k
climb to the Passo di Ginestro. During all this time we were on a
fully closed road!
As I'd caught bird flu and hadn't ridden my bike the two
weeks before we left, I decided to save some energy on the run to the
climb. I sat behind the biggest bloke there. He was about six
foot six and as wide as a house but was the worst bike rider I'd ever
ridden with. Looking round, not holding a line, in and out of the
saddle. Then I sussed it. No socks. He was a triathlete!
Still he was a good wind break.
The Italians have a strange philosophy when it comes to riding fondo's.
A 30 mph run in to the climb is typical. But once they get to the
foot of the climb it's drop it on the little ring, get down the gears, and
ride up as slow as possible. All of a sudden I'm on the front, with
a gap and climbing well in the big ring. I decide to press on and
literally pass fifty or sixty riders on the 10k climb to the 677 metre
summit. It's not high but we were climbing from sea level remember.
The descent was a blast and took us back to the sharp turn
of earlier. Then on to the undulating "inner road" taking in the
Cappi Cervo and Berta, to name just two, before hitting the outskirts of
Imperia. The route back took us through the middle of Onelia, which,
on the race, is the old town where they blast through the narrow streets
with the high sided buildings and roundabouts with fountains. This
year Mori crashed at one of these, coming down hard. At this point
the roads were open but the Police were on each roundabout and junction
stopping traffic to get us all through. Sort of. It is Italy
Now we race
I'd decided I was going to the front, as it was the safest place.
I'd keep the pace high but not kill myself and share the effort with three
or four willing workers. Everyone else seemed pretty content with
this, then I saw why, the 1k to Cipressa sign. What until now had
been a fast-paced chain gang, suddenly became a race. At the base of
the six-kilometre, 242 metre, Cipressa the Italians I was riding with
suddenly came alive.
first k is at 5.6%. Half the twenty-strong group went on to the
small ring, at least three of which derailled, the others attacked in the
big ring. I maintained my pace on the big ring and found myself in
no-mans land. I rode like I did all winter, spinning in the saddle
at my pace just below threshold. After the first k the climb
"flattens" to 4.4%, I was now dragging back those in front. Then at
2.5 to 3.5k it's 5.7% again and they all came back to me. I passed
them and pushed on to the top knowing I could descend and never see them
again. Job done.
The descent saw me pick up another group of around 40
riders and over the next 10 k I slowly moved to the front. When we
hit the Capo Verde we shed a few, then we hit the Poggio. This was
the one I'd been waiting for. Not for the climb, for the descent.
The climb isn't hard but it was incredibly windy which did make the legs
sting. At 162 metres it was over in a flash and I crossed the summit
in a group of six.
I didn't want anyone around me for the descent. I
downed a gel, drank a coke (handed up before the summit) and gave it
everything from the summit to the first left hand corner; which was
heavily marshalled, policed and with an ambulance. The reason for
that is because it's steeper and tighter than it looks on the telly.
Anyway, once more my Colnago got me round, they truly are the best
handling bikes you can ride. I dropped like a stone with every
corner an adventure to remember.
If you've seen it from the helicopter shots you'll know how
technical the Poggio descent is. Well I can now say the helicopter,
as with all telly shots, doesn't do it justice. It's far more
technical ~ which means scary ~ than it looks. On my run in to the
base I took around twenty riders, three cars and a truck. Thanks to
the truck I now had a largish gap between myself and what would
undoubtedly be my chasers. At the bottom junction, the Police waved
me through to the main road. I now had two, eyes-front, kilometres
to the finish.
Don't look back
whinge in cycling is when people look back. The race is in
front of you not behind. Looking back gives you nothing. If
you give it everything and get caught, what more could you have done.
If you look back and see them coming will you go faster or lose heart?
So, I went and I didn't look back. I caught five riders on the way
to the flamme rouge but opened a gap on the tricky roundabout and chicane
that takes you to the Via Roma.
I clicked up the gears and pushed as though my life
depended on it, it didn't but I think I got carried away with the emotion
of it all. Ask Dave Whitt and Bob Cabot, it doesn't matter how tired
you are, there is always something for the finish. I came in alone
(above) sprinting obviously, got the photo taken (that's why I was sprinting!),
and crossed the line, after 120.3k, in 4:09:27 with a normalisied power of
199 watts. My average heart rate was 170bpm and my maximum power was
695 watts when the split happened on the Capo Verde.
After the euphoria of rubbing shoulders with Simoni and Basso, Dianne's
ride was one of riding to Imperia and coming back over the Cipressa and
Poggio. Once more she picked up a few domestiques, mainly Italian
vets. Climbing the Cipressa she was warned, as only the Italians
can, with waving arms and loud voices about the dangers of the
descent. Once they'd caught her at the bottom she was suitably
chastised, with even more arm waving and raised voices, for going too fast.
Climbing the Poggio was an experience as she fought gravity
and a massive rising headwind to stay upright. But she did and
survived the descent unscathed to come over the line an hour before the
official first finisher. Which threw the Italians into an
organizational frenzy as she set the transponder alarms off when she
crossed the line.
So, the first one of the year completed. As Wallace
would say, "a grand day out". Loads of memories, another two great
climbs added to my list and my photo in Cycle Sport. Now it's back
home, regroup, feed the dog and get ready for Flanders.
Hotel Nazionale, not 20 metres from the
finish line. Watch the race on TV until it gets to the Cipressa then
run down and watch the finish. You can see Dianne on Eurosport at
the 10 metre board. She's the 8 foot blonde, sitting on my