Michal Kwiatkowski outwitted Peter Sagan to win the 2017 Milano-Sanremo in a dramatic finale that saw Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka’s challenge nullified.
The Polish Team Sky rider nipped out from behind Sagan, Bora-Hansgrohe’s two-time world champion, and past Julian Alaphilippe (Quick-Step Floors) in the closing stages after the Slovakian opened his sprint too early at the end of the first ‘monument’ of the year –LIVE on Kwesé Sports 1.
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On the whole, Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka did well to protect its designated leaders – Mark Cavendish, Edvald Boasson Hagen and Scott Thwaites – for the final sprint but a late attack over the top of the last climb completely changed the expected outcome of the race.
Instead the sprinters who survived the drama animated by Sagan were left to fight for the minor placings, five seconds after the leading trio crossed the line.
The 108th Milano-Sanremo started out very calmly with a group of 10 riders getting away early on in this 209km-long race – part of the five ‘greatest’ one-day classics in the cycling season.
As it happened, the peloton let the break establish a gap of five minutes, but never more than that – mindful of a breakaway specialist like Steve Cummings, Africa’s Team’s alternate should such a scenario becoming a possibility.
Instead, Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka helped set the pace in the pack, while constantly keeping its sprinting team leaders near the front. This was how it unfolded for the majority of the first 250 km of the race.
Thereafter, expectedly, the peloton upped the tempo and as the riders took on the Cipressa climb with 27 km left to go. It was at this stage that the riders all came together and the ‘true’ racing began…
In fact, a few riders tried to distance the pack on the slopes towards the top but no one succeeded… It was only when the peloton began to see the top of Poggio, the final climb of the day, that the decisive move took place.
Sagan opened the throttle and only Kwiatkowski (who preceded Sagan as a world champion in 2014) and 24-year-old Alaphilippe tracked his move, and quickly gapped the peloton to put paid to the true sprinters’ chances.
Nonetheless, the sprinters’ teams tried to reel them in but the trio proved too strong, though Sagan will rue wasting the last of his strength too early and drafting Kwiatkowski close enough to pip him.
In the end, Africa’s Team had to settle with Edvald Boasson Hagen coming home in 19th place on a day when their goals were much loftier than that.
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