Vincenzo Nibali launched the first successful Poggio attack in Milan-San Remo today since Paolo Bettini in 2003. The race, though, failed to fall in his favour or for Liquigas team-mate, Peter Sagan.

“We made the right attack,” Nibali said. “We made the race hard from kilometre zero.”

A nine-man escape group dominated the early kilometres, but attention shifted to the main group as it climbed Le Mànie with 95 kilometres to race. Mark Cavendish (Sky) faded, which helped shift the race in favour of the attackers.

BMC Racing drove it for an eventual attack by Philippe Gilbert and Omega Pharma for sprinter Tom Boonen. However, BMC lost Gilbert to a crash on the Cipressa.

“Without the crash, I don’t know what would have happened,” Gilbert explained. “I was waiting to try something on the Poggio.”

Liquigas kept watch and Nibali, the recent Tirreno-Adriatico winner, made plans. After the Cipressa, he thought, he would attack on the race’s final climb, the Poggio.

The organisers added the Poggio climb in 1960 to spice the race finale.

Nibali attacked with 1.2 kilometres to the top, where there were 6.2 kilometres to race and rivals to be dealt with. Eventual race winner, Simon Gerrans (GreenEdge) joined and then Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Nissan).

“I attacked to stay solo on the Poggio,” explained Nibali, “but Gerrans marked me and then Cancellara arrived.”

Nibali decided not to work because he had team-mate Sagan behind for an eventual sprint. Besides, he said that there would be no way for him to ride clear of Cancellara.

Gerrans managed the best, finishing off Nibali’s work, dealing with Cancellara and becoming the first winner from a Poggio attack since Bettini.

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