Cycling

Celebrating The Milan-San Remo Spring Classic

By Ryan McDonald

There is something magical about riding the routes previously covered by the cycling greats. As well as getting as a sense of history, you also get to view some spectacular scenery, and the Milan-San Remo is no exception. Also known as the Spring Classic, the Milan-San Remo is the longest one-day event in professional cycling. It was first contested in 1907 and remains the first classic race of the season and one of the five monuments of cycling. Riders can follow in the tyre tracks of cycling legends such as Oscar Freire, Erik Zabel and seven-time former winner Eddy Merckx of Belgium.

2008 Milan San Remo” (CC BY 2.0) by One-Fat-Man

The route

The 296 km route takes the riders from the city of Milan across the countryside of Lombardy and Piedmont and finishes on the Italian Riviera. It is predominantly a flat route but does feature a few climbs, including the Passo del Turchino, which is reached after 140 km.

The next stretch of the race follows the Ligurian coast and features three more hills between Alassio and Imperia. The route then heads inland and features two more climbs, including the Poggio di Sanremo, which is just 5 km from the finish.

Events for amateur riders

The route is popular with cyclists and there are several organisations offering guided tours of the route. Each year, a Granfondo Milan-San Remo is organised which gives hundreds of amateur riders the chance to ride the route together. The 2020 edition departs on Sunday, June 7 and is expected to attract riders from all over the world.

Alternatively, you can pay a visit when the race is on and watch the professionals in action. The most recent multiple winners were German Erik Zabel who won the event four times between 1997 and 2001 and Spaniard Oscar Freire who won his third title in 2010. Meanwhile, 2019 champion Julian Alaphilippe is the early favourite in the cycling betting to take the 2020 crown.

Milan-Sanremo” (CC BY-SA 4.0) by Claudio Martino

The race is popular with sprint specialists due to its flat nature, although there are several climbs along the way which bring all-round stamina into play. As a result, it is not always the sprinters who come out on top. In contrast, the Giro di Lombardia, held in autumn, is considered a climber’s race.

Sprinter’s classic

Only two British riders have ever won the race: Mark Cavendish who triumphed at the first attempt in 2009 and Tom Simpson in 1964. In 1965, Simpson also became Britain’s first world road race champion and won the Giro di Lombardia earning him the title of Sports Personality of the Year.

Unpredictable weather

Due to the time of year which the race is held, the weather conditions can be unpredictable with strong winds and heavy rain often present. In the third edition in 1910, there was a snowstorm which prevented many riders from continuing. In the end, only four riders from 63 made it to the end. For this reason, amateur tour events are usually held in late spring or early summer when favourable conditions are more likely.

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