The first monument of the season came down to a brutal battle between the pelotons best. Just a few kilometres into the 108th edition of Milano-Sanremo, a breakaway of 10 went clear but they were never far from the pelotons grasp as their advantage was only to reach a maximum of 5 minutes.
After what was a relatively quiet cruise to the Cipressa, the days difficulties really began. As the race came back together, more attacks came from the front but none were to prevail. It was a day for the teams leaders to work for other team leaders, with Tom Dumoulin taking putting in mountain of work at the front setting out to make the day as tough as possible as the slopes of the Cipressa intensified. Simon Geschke and Søren Kragh Andersen also set the pace at the front, in attempt to shed some more of the races sprinters as Michael Matthews stayed protected by the rest of his team mates in the bunch. More big turns from Tom saw the peloton strung out as they climbed the Poggio. Just as his efforts were finished another group of three launched a devastating attack that saw them power straight through to the line. Michael Matthews sprinted to 12th place on the line, narrowly missing out on the top 10.
Michael explained how the race unfolded for the team: “We tried to make it hard for the sprinters, otherwise we would have rode up there easily and it would’ve come down to a huge bunch sprint. Our plan was to get Søren and Simon at the bottom of the Cipressa and really push it, then when on the Poggio to have Tom pull to make it really hard for the sprinters. They all did a really good job. I had really good legs today and their work really helped me to be able to keep the high speed and try to zap the sprinters. In the finale I was boxed in so couldn’t sprint. We did everything that we could and it was a really strong effort from all of the team today.”
“We had the plan to make the race hard from the Cipressa onwards,” Team Sunweb coach Marc Reef explained. “Until that moment we wanted to protect Michael and everything until that moment went according to plan with Tom, Simon and Søren all pulling exactly were we had planned to. We made the race really hard in all of the moments that we had wanted to. The goal was for Michael to follow any attack on the Poggio and we worked towards that throughout the race. Everything went well until that moment when Michael wasn’t in position to follow the attack that was launched. Although we didn’t get a result today we can all be proud of how well we carried out our plan.”