Simon Gerrans wins Milan-San Remo for back-to-back Aussie wins

GreenEdge rider battles it out with Cancellara and Nibali after trio crest Poggio together

by Simon_MacMichael   March 17, 2012  

GreenEdge Santini video still

Simon Gerrans of GreenEdge has succeeded Matt Goss, his team mate at Australia's GreenEdge, as winner of Milan-San Remo. The Australian champion, Fabian Cancellara of RadioShack-Nissan, and Vincenzo Nibali of Liquigas-Cannondale went over the top of the Poggio together to hold off a chasing pack including three-time winner Oscar Freire and Tom Boonen. Mark Cavendish, dropped on the earlier climb of Le Manie, tried desperately to rejoin the leaders, but it proved an impossible task.

The lead trio had an advantage of just six seconds as they headed under the flamme rouge to enter the final kilometre, Cancellara powering away at the front as he had done on the descent of the Poggio, the day's final climb, crested a little over 6 kilometres from the finish. Gerrans, who had followed Nibali's expected attack on the climb, kept with the other two riders on the descent and on the way into San Remo.

With such a slender lead going into last of the 298 kilometres of cycling's longest one-day race, it looked inevitable that they would be caught, but Cancellara, runner-up to Goss last year when he also narrowly missed out on a successful defence of his Paris-Roubaix and Tour of Flanders titles, was driving on. Gerrans left it late, but timed his move out of the Swiss rider's slipstream perfectly to make his winning charge for the line.

Cavendish's race had effectively come to an end long before on Le Manie, the climb whose summit lies a little over 90 kilometres from San Remo, introduced in 2008 to toughen the course up. The location where the hopes of so many riders came to grief 12 months ago after most of the field was held up behind crashes, today it was Cavendish alone whose chances of victory ended there - and with it, his dream of winning Milan-San Remo in the rainbow jersey, as he had pledged to do following his victory in 2009.

Losing four minutes to the group containing his rivals, Cavendish found himself alone on the road but for the ever-present Bernie Eisel, who buried himself deep to get his team mate back into the second group on the road. With Team Sky picking up the pace, it closed to within 40 seconds of the leaders. The gap started widening again, however, and a pat from Cavendish on the back of Salvatore Puccio, the Italian first-year pro who was a late call up for the race, signalled that the chase was over.

Liquigas, who had two of the big favourites in the shape of Nibali and Peter Sagan, attacked on the first of those climbs, other riders, including Vacansoleil-DCM's Johnny Hoogerland also chancing their arm. Near the summit, a crash involving seven riders cost BMC Racing's Philippe Gilbert the chance of improving on his third place last year.

Earlier on, a crash involving Colombia Coldeportes rider Carlos Quintero, whose head reportedly struck a well, brought back memories of the death during last year's Giro d'Italia of Wouter Weylandt. Quintero, thankfully, was seen to be moving his arms and legs, though indications are he suffered a suspected fractured skull and elbow.

As happened 12 months ago when the peloton paused before the start of the race to remember the victims of the Japanese tsunami, the peloton again observed a minute's silence before commencing the usual procession through the centre of Milan ahead of racing beginning in earnest on the outskirts of the city - this time for the Belgian children and other victims of this week's coach crash in Switzerland.

Immediately from the start of a race ridden mainly under cloudy skies, Ji Cheng of Project 1t4i, the first Chinese cyclist to take part in the race, and the Team Type 1-Sanofi rider Vegard Stake Laengen attacked, and the pair were soon joined by another seven men. While they managed to stretch their lead out to 14 minutes, helped by a strong breeze that prevailed throught the race, which Gerrans won in a time of a little over half a minute inside seven hours, at an average speed approaching 43kph. The escapees, meanwhile, had been swallowed up with more than 70 kilometres still to ride.

Milan-San Remo 2012 result  

1  Simon GERRANS      GEC 06:59:24
2  Fabian CANCELLARA  RNT    st
3  Vincenzo NIBALI    LIQ    st
4  Peter SAGAN        LIQ       2"
5  John DEGENKOLB     PRO    st
6  Filippo POZZATO    FAR    st
7  Oscar FREIRE       KAT    st
8  Alessandro BALLAN  BMC    st
9  Daniel OSS         LIQ    st
10 Daniele BENNATI    RNT    st
11 Xavier FLORENCIO   KAT    st
12 Luca PAOLINI       KAT      12"
13 Simon GESCHKE PRO         st
14 Oscar GATTO FAR           st
15 Matthew GOSS       GEC      20"
16 Giovanni VISCONTI  MOV    st
17 Jacopo GUARNIERI   AST    st
18 Francisco VENTOSO  MOV    st
19 Koen DE KORT       PRO    st
20 Johnny HOOGERLAND  VCD    st

 

17 user comments

Oldest firstNewest firstBest rated

Good win for Greenedge although Cancellara did all the work. Cance will always be the man.

posted by futurefunk [29 posts]
17th March 2012 - 16:33

4 Likes

Why did Sky waste their entire team on Cavendish? He clearly was a done fish...

Edvald Boasson Hagen needs to find himself a new team to get in some star results..

Fantastic ride by Gerrans though!

seabass89's picture

posted by seabass89 [235 posts]
17th March 2012 - 16:54

2 Likes

And I dropped Gerran's from my Fantasy Team last night. Doh!

posted by shot18 [55 posts]
17th March 2012 - 17:01

2 Likes

Pathetic tactics by Gerrans. Winning in this kind of style will never win him any respect from me.

blog rowerowy - my blog about bicycles (written in Polish, but feel free to visit me! Smile )

mikroos's picture

posted by mikroos [197 posts]
17th March 2012 - 17:07

3 Likes

mikroos wrote:
Pathetic tactics by Gerrans. Winning in this kind of style will never win him any respect from me.

I couldn't disagree more. I'm a massive Cancellara fan, but the only way to beat him is to make him do the work. Gerrans played it perfectly - he knew Cancellara would work to have a chance in the sprint, so he was able to sit on and play the tactical game. I love to see anyone win in style, but these sorts of tactical wins keep everything interesting. If it was all massive attacks and solo victories then the massive attacks and solo victories wouldn't have nearly as much value...

posted by step-hent [697 posts]
17th March 2012 - 17:51

4 Likes

I do understand your arguments but still I believe that it's the strongest rider that should win, not the most efficient parasite. Races like this one show that winning races might make you a winner but not always a champion.

blog rowerowy - my blog about bicycles (written in Polish, but feel free to visit me! Smile )

mikroos's picture

posted by mikroos [197 posts]
17th March 2012 - 18:06

1 Like

mikroos wrote:
Pathetic tactics by Gerrans. Winning in this kind of style will never win him any respect from me.

Did you forget to add one of these? Wink

Perhaps not.

Great victory by an underrated rider. If it was all about who was strongest then it would be like weightlifting on wheels and much less interesting for it. In fact, we could just put them on wattbikes and save anyone the hassle of riding on the roads.

I'll look forward to finding a few minutes of video later.

Simon E's picture

posted by Simon E [2032 posts]
17th March 2012 - 18:22

3 Likes

What happened to Andre Greipel?

the_mikey's picture

posted by the_mikey [147 posts]
17th March 2012 - 18:31

4 Likes

mikroos wrote:
I do understand your arguments but still I believe that it's the strongest rider that should win, not the most efficient parasite. Races like this one show that winning races might make you a winner but not always a champion.

A race is a race. If the only person who deserves to win is the strongest rider, then we might as well just have a 300km time trail.

posted by Wig_Billy [577 posts]
17th March 2012 - 19:03

2 Likes

Great ride by Gerrans, I thought the way he rode at the end was what cycle racing was all about. He used strength to get on to Nibali's wheel at the break and then a combination of timing and tactics to get the win at the end.

posted by stevebull-01 [62 posts]
17th March 2012 - 19:24

2 Likes

Wig_Billy wrote:
If the only person who deserves to win is the strongest rider, then we might as well just have a 300km time trail.

This. Pro cycling is so interesting because of the multiple layers - a cannier rider has as much chance as a stronger rider. On the day, only one rider is the strongest, and it is often clear to see. The fact that that rider might not win, and that they have to have another dimension to do so (tactical ability), makes for far more entertainment than a simple strongest man competition (and this coming from someone who also enjoys watching TTs)...

posted by step-hent [697 posts]
17th March 2012 - 19:58

2 Likes

It was a strage race overall. Maybe it was due to the crashes last year, and maybe due to the front group driving hard to prevent Sky getting back on, but nothing happened until half way up the Poggio. There was the obligatory pointless early breakaway that goes off at the start and runs out of steam as they reach the coast, but that was it apart from Jonny Hooligan having his moment.

For Gerrans, great for him, but it only works once. As for Fab, maybe he was so confident he thought he could ride on the front and still win, maybe he was happy knowing he'd get a top 3 place and all the ranking points with his big targets coming up in a couple of weeks, but pulling the others to the line seemed odd to me.

posted by Matt_S [189 posts]
17th March 2012 - 20:38

3 Likes

Surprised Valverde didn't try this race as he can beat Gerrans in a sprint. Wink

posted by Alan Tullett [1461 posts]
17th March 2012 - 21:02

3 Likes

There's an interesting review of the race on The Inner Ring, as ever, which includes this:

"The ranking system incentivises certain behaviours, in this case it’s better for Cancellara to ride to a certain third place or better than risk being swamped by the chase and losing the valuable points."

I didn't know this but I was thinking about what else Cancellara could have done to win once he was in the final break. Not much I think, except perhaps sit up and not pull a faster sprinter to the finish - after all he might fancy his chances in a bunch sprint more than the other two - he was 4th in the World Championships in a full on flat bunch sprint.

One of the things I am learning to appreciate though is the way that riders often have to make the best of the way the cards fall - whether it's burying yourself in the service of a doomed break or doing more than your share of the work to tow a faster man to the line. It's another dimension perhaps connected to how rarely the average pro actually wins a race - maybe 3rd doesn't seem so bad.

posted by msw [126 posts]
17th March 2012 - 22:02

1 Like

you have to be good to get in with a chance though. the last few km are a game of chess.

even things like motor racing, you attack at the right moment. you have to be in it to win it. out of 180 men? only 3-5 could have won it. dont think people should beat down on him, if YOU were following Fabian what would you do?

posted by russyparkin [579 posts]
17th March 2012 - 22:17

3 Likes

step-hent wrote:
mikroos wrote:
Pathetic tactics by Gerrans. Winning in this kind of style will never win him any respect from me.

I couldn't disagree more. I'm a massive Cancellara fan, but the only way to beat him is to make him do the work. Gerrans played it perfectly - he knew Cancellara would work to have a chance in the sprint, so he was able to sit on and play the tactical game. I love to see anyone win in style, but these sorts of tactical wins keep everything interesting. If it was all massive attacks and solo victories then the massive attacks and solo victories wouldn't have nearly as much value...

Totally agree. Great race, Spartacus was the strongest, no doubt, but the strongest do not always win, that is what makes cycling so special! Wink

Argy's picture

posted by Argy [147 posts]
18th March 2012 - 7:41

2 Likes

Wig_Billy wrote:
mikroos wrote:
I do understand your arguments but still I believe that it's the strongest rider that should win, not the most efficient parasite. Races like this one show that winning races might make you a winner but not always a champion.

A race is a race. If the only person who deserves to win is the strongest rider, then we might as well just have a 300km time trail.

Quote of the thread!! Rolling On The Floor Rolling On The Floor Rolling On The Floor Rolling On The Floor

what a classic! (totally agree obvs)

Argy's picture

posted by Argy [147 posts]
18th March 2012 - 7:43

2 Likes