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Vincenzo Nibali wins 2018 Milan-San Remo

Pete Muir
17 Mar 2018

The Italian rider for Bahrain-Merida takes his first win at the Monument

Bahrain-Merida’s Vincenzo Nibali won the 2018 edition of Milan-San Remo after attacking on the Poggio with 6km to go. He created a gap of around eight seconds over the top of the Poggio, which he increased on the descent, and he then managed to hold on to cross the line on the Via Roma just ahead of the charging pack.

Mitchelton-Scott’s Caleb Ewan took second place in his first attempt at the race, with FDJ’s Arnaud Démare taking the third spot on the podium. Last year’s winner Michal Kwiatkowski (Team Sky) finished in the bunch sprint alongside favourite Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe).

Nibali’s victory gives Italy its first winner of the Monument in over a decade.

How the race panned out

The 109th edition of ‘The Primavera’ got off to a damp start in Milan, with the peloton wrapped up against the cold and rain. 

After several attempts at establishing a break, eventually a group of nine riders went up the road, with only one representative from the WorldTour teams: Matteo Bono of UAE Emirates.

As the main bunch huddled against the wet conditions, the breakaway forged a gap of around 5min30 with 115km to go, which was reduced to 3min45 by the 100-to-go mark. 

At the front of the peloton, the pace was controlled by Team Sky, working for last year’s winner Michal Kwiatkowski, and Quick-Step Floors. The Belgian squad were relying on Italian sprinter Elia Viviani after the withdrawal of Fernando Gaviria with a broken hand sustained at Tirreno-Adriatico.

The favourite for the race, Sagan, looked comfortable in the middle of the pack.

As the race made its way southwards along the Ligurian Coast, the rain subsided, the sun came out, and the 180-odd riders stripped away rain capes and overshoes. The peloton maintained a relatively sedate pace, slowly reeling in the breakaway riders. 

With around 45km to go, the pace of the peloton increased, creating nerves and occasional crashes. British sprinter Dan McLay of EF-Education First dropped out of the race after hitting the floor alongside teammate Simon Clarke.

The remains of the breakaway were swallowed up with 30km to go and, having ridden 264km, the bunch arrived at the foot of the Cipressa. It’s the 5.6km climb where it becomes clear which riders are in form, and traditionally the potential race-winners are separated from the also-rans.

Most of the big name sprinters were still in the main bunch at the beginning of the climb, including Mark Cavendish, Caleb Ewan, Marcel Kittel, Arnaud Démare, André Greipel and Alexander Kristoff.

Kittel was the first to capitulate, quickly dropping out the back of the bunch. However, the rest of the favourites managed to stay with the main pack over the summit of the Cipressa, despite an attempt by Team Sky to blow the race apart with an injection of pace. 

French team FDJ lead the pack down the descent of the Cipressa, looking after team leader Démare, a former winner of the race.

The final obstacle of the race was the Poggio, a short 3.7km climb with a maximum gradient of 9%. 

At just 9km from the finish line, the Poggio is a last chance for teams without a pure sprinter to attack for the win.

When the peloton arrived at the base of the Poggio, it was led by Quick-Step Floors and the Bahrain Merida team of Vincenzo Nibali.

As the bunch squeezed around a roundabout, Dimension Data rider Mark Cavendish hit a yellow bollard in the middle of the road and did a full somersault over the top of it, to crash out of the race. 

As the road steepened, the attacks began, starting with a dig by BMC Racing’s Jempy Drucker. He was followed and passed by Vincenzo Nibali, who went over the top on his own with a gap of around eight seconds to the bunch.

With around 5km to go, Nibali descended with his usual mixture of grace and daring, extending the distance back to the chasers all the time.

Behind him Matteo Trentin of Mitchelton-Scott made chase, closely followed Sagan, Kwiatkowski and Michael Matthews of Team Sunweb continued the chase.

Nibali passed under the flamme rouge on his own, but a regrouped peloton was approaching at speed. However it couldn’t catch the Italian and he crossed the line to become the first Italian to win the race since Filippo Pozzato in 2006.