Milan-San Remo: Gerald Ciolek snatches victory on the line from Peter Sagan

German upsets the odds at end of edition of race that will go down in history following changes to course

by Simon_MacMichael   March 17, 2013  

Gerald Ciolek of the South African UCI Professional Continental team MTN-Qhubeka just pipped the huge pre-race favourite Peter Sagan to win the 104th edition of Milan-San Remo, likely to go down in the history of the race as one of the most dramatic ever. The German sprinter's victory came on a day when the race missed the climb of the Passo del Turchino, rendered impassible through snow, with the ascent of Le Manie also cut out. RadioShack Leopard's Fabian Cancellara finished third.

Approaching the day's final climb, the Poggio, Ian Stannard of Team Sky and Omega Pharma-Quick Step's Sylvain Chavanel led by half a minute on a select chasing group, but were caught by Ciolek, Sagan, Cancellara and Luca Paolini on the way down.

British champion Stannard led the six through the flamme rouge, Sagan perhaps going a little too early and allowing Ciolek to counter and take victory in the first Monument of 2013 on a day when the weather put paid to the hopes of big names including Astana's Vincenzo Nibali, who abandoned ahead of the day's penultimate climb, the Cipressa.

The victory of the 26-year-old Ciolek marks the third year in a row that the race has produced a surprise winner, following Matt Goss in 2011 and Simon Gerrans last year.

Like Goss, who abandoned today, Ciolek had supported Mark Cavendish at HTC-Highroad, helping him to four stage victories in the 2008 Tour de France, but the rider from Cologne has found only sporadic success since leaving for Milram in 2009, his biggest success being a stage win in that year’s Vuelta.

There had been signs that he was in decent form in recent weeks with a stage win at the start of the month at the Driedaagse van West-Vlaanderen, as well as a third-place finish on the opening road stage of Tirreno-Adriatico, but at best he was viewed only as an outsider to challenge today.

That he was riding at all was due to the decision of organisers RCS Sport to award a wild card entry to his MTN-Qhubeka team, which only stepped up to second-tier Professional Continental level at the start of this season, the first Africa-registered team to do so (Ciolek was prominent in a recent behind the scenes video shot with the team at Tirreno Adriatico which explained the rather different goals of the team backed by an African charity and a telecoms company).

Indeed, the focus around the team in the build-up to the race was not on whether Ciolek might challenge for victory, but rather on his 22-year-old team mate Songezo Jim, as the first black African rider to take part in Milan-San Remo.

Today’s victory makes Ciolek just the third German rider to win La Classica di Parimavera after Rudi Altig in 1968 and Erik Zabel, who finished first four times between 1997 and 2001.

As with Goss two years ago, Ciolek had largely escaped notice in the final kilometres of the race until he made his late dash for the line and into the history books. Instead, attention was focused on the huge pre-race favourite, Sagan, and Cancellara, winner in 2008 and runner-up in each of the last two editions.

Together with Ciolek and Katusha’s Luca Paolini, Cancellara and Sagan had pegged back a half-minute advantage that Chavanel and Stannard held approaching the top of the Poggio just 6.2 kilometres out from the finish, cresting the climb just seconds behind the front pair and catching them by the foot of the descent.

Sagan would attack when the road flattened out inside the final three kilometres, but was brought back, and also chased down a subsequent burst from Stannard, both moves which perhaps used up energy that the Slovak might have been better off conserving for that final dash to the line.

BMC Racing's Taylor Phinney, like Chavanel incorrectly reported to have abandoned earlier, chased the six riders ahead of him down from the Poggio, and while he wouldn't catch them, he did come home alone in seventh place to put the seal on a week in which his heroics in struggling on during Monday's tough stage of Tirreno Adriatico hit the headlines.

Chavanel and Stannard had been among several riders to follow an attack by BMC Racing’s Philippe Gilbert on the earlier descent of the Cipressa, the summit of which came with 22.1 kilometres to go.

When the Team Sky man attacked again, only the Omega Pharma-Quick Step rider and Katusha’s Eduard Vorganov, who would be dropped on the Poggio, would be able to go with him.

Both Sky and Omega Pharma-Quick Step had been forced to reassess their priorities, with the latter suffering a number of abandonments – Tom Boonen failed to take to the restart at Cogoleto and was highly critical of organisers over the earlier neutralisation of the race that saw the riders transfer by bus from Ovada, before the climb of the Passo del Turchino, to the Ligurian coast.

Other members of the team to abandon included Niki Terpstra and Michal Kwiatowski. Cavendish dug deep to battle on and was still in the mix, but couldn’t keep with that last burst of acceleration on the Poggio and finished ninth, coming home in the second group.

Sky, meanwhile, had built its hopes around Geraint Thomas and Edvald Boasson Hagen, but both riders’ plans were shipwrecked within the space of a few minutes.

Thomas crashed with Garmin-Sharp’s Tyler Farrar as the front group of 50 riders, reeling in the last of the day’s six-man break, approached the Cipressa, a climb on which Boasson Hagen was quickly distanced as the pace was cranked up ahead of the blistering finale.

While today’s race will be most remembered for being the first ever time Milan-San Remo has skipped the Passo del Turchino following the decision to reroute the race after this morning’s snowfall, Ciolek’s victory marks another first – a rider tweeting a picture of themselves with their feet up halfway through a Monument, before going on to win it.

All pictures copyright LaPresse/RCS Sport

Milan-San Remo 2013 result

1.  Gerald Ciolek           (MTN-Qhubeka)               5:37:20
2.  Peter Sagan             (Cannondale) 
              same time
3.  Fabian Cancellara       (RadioShack-Leopard) 

4.  Sylvain Chavanel        (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) 

5.  Luca Paolini            (Katusha) 

6.  Ian Stannard            (Sky) 

7.  Taylor Phinney          (BMC)  

8.  Alexander Kristoff      (Katusha)                at 14 seconds

9.  Mark Cavendish          (Omega Pharma-Quick Step)  same time
10. Bernhard Eisel          (Sky) 

11. Francisco Ventoso       (Movistar Team)

12. Sonny Colbrelli         (Bardiani) 

13. Heinrich Haussler       (IAM) 

14. Enrico Gasparotto       (Astana) 

15. Sébastien Turgot        (Europcar) 

16. Jurgen Roelandts        (Lotto-Belisol) 

17. John Degenkolb          (Argos-Shimano) 

18. Yoann Offredo           (FDJ)

 

 

25 user comments

Oldest firstNewest firstBest rated

ian stannard what a monster

gilberts attack and then stannard driving the break made that race, and he still nearly did it at the end.

posted by eddie11 [83 posts]
17th March 2013 - 17:44

2 Likes

exhilarating race - it just shows the quality of pro racers today, most of which usually only end up working for their team leaders.

Hats off to all who finished the race, rather than complaining about race organization.

It was interesting to see how Cancellara changed tactics from last year, and how Sagan still needs to curb some of his youthful exuberance. No doubt Sagan will win this monument in the future.

Shame Sky didn't ride for Stannard today! What a stellar performance.

posted by Metjas [312 posts]
17th March 2013 - 19:38

2 Likes

I think Stannard was never going to win today, however unfortunate that may be. Even if he had been away with only Chavanel, he would not have won in a sprint finish. He's an amazing rider, but his strength is his diesel like ability to keep churning out the power, rather than his killer sprint, which is what one needs to win MSR...

posted by crikey [271 posts]
17th March 2013 - 20:38

0 Likes

Yeah, I agree that Stannard was tactically naive. He worked too hard and could've ridden in on the others. He hanging from all the work and was never going to get the punch he needed.

Shame on Tom Boonen. I think he have himself the excuse he needed. It was just one of those days.

posted by Colin Peyresourde [1200 posts]
17th March 2013 - 20:48

3 Likes

Here's to tactical naivety!

posted by Hoester [65 posts]
17th March 2013 - 21:01

2 Likes

I was following the race on Twitter this morning and some of the pictures of the conditions made it look horrendous.

It seemed more of an expedition than a race at that stage.

My 'hard man' award would go to Heinrich Haussler of IAM Racing who apparently was racing without gloves and bad luck award would go to Greg Henderson who allegedly had his bike nicked ten minutes before the start of the race.

Velotastic !

Too many hills, but too little time.

badback's picture

posted by badback [276 posts]
17th March 2013 - 21:21

1 Like

Stannard was fantastic, sure he didn't win the race but he certainly won a lot of respect.

antonio

antonio's picture

posted by antonio [1016 posts]
17th March 2013 - 21:26

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Nice to see a little guy, on a little team, stick it to the favourites and the big teams.

Cancellara is looking good for the cobbled classics. Boonen less so, unfortunately, but understandably given his recent elbow infection. It would be something to see those two both on top form in the same year.

posted by ubercurmudgeon [168 posts]
17th March 2013 - 21:49

2 Likes

Fabulous finish to the race.

I disagree about Stannard being tactically naive. Even sat on a sprinters coattails he wouldn't have had the kick to get round them, so his only option was to try to accelerate away from them before the line was in sight. He gave it a fine shot, and when Cancellara made it clear that he wasn't going to do the chasing-down there was a momentary glimmer of hope.

Top work by Ciolek though, Sagan's face of thunder when he realised he'd been beaten was an absolute picture.

andyspaceman's picture

posted by andyspaceman [233 posts]
17th March 2013 - 22:08

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Don't get me wrong. I think he did well to get himself into that position. the gap leading up to the Poggio was well conceived. But the fact that Stannard continued to push thing off and on before, during and after the descent of the Poggio was purely naive once it was clear that Cancellara and Sagan had caught them. He repeatedly exhausted himself to no end whatsoever. If you watch Chavanel, he at least knew they were done. Stannards best hope was to sit in and try to get clear of the trailing bunch if the others were to start looking over their shoulders too much. He was never going to do that with the amount he sat on the front. He sprinted at both 2.5kms and 1km to go, which was never the right time looking at his state of exhaustion compared to the others..

I know Stannard tried to get distance, but was he ever going to time trial away from the others? No, not in a million years. So exhausting himself upto the sprint was pointless. That's why he finished last in that bunch (if he wasn't naive how did he end up there?). He was also ploughing a stupidly high gear which gave him no acceleration, and worked too hard to be able to sprint. If you check his cadence it was maybe 10-15 revs below his rivals too. Plucky and heroic, maybe, tactical and smart it wasn't.

posted by Colin Peyresourde [1200 posts]
18th March 2013 - 0:43

3 Likes

What should he have done?

posted by sneakerfrfeak [78 posts]
18th March 2013 - 8:58

2 Likes

I've seen Stannard do precisely the same thing at the end of other races. He gave it a go and the attack with 1.5K to go was his only option to win. I reckon he did extra work to keep the break clear so he was at least guaranteed 6th. But whatever he did he stood little chance of winning as he doesn't have the sprint of those others. But he did a good job of getting Sky's name in the results when plan A and B went up in smoke.
Sagan was the one who got it wrong. He put in some pointless digs and started his sprint too early.
Great race!

posted by BikeJon [61 posts]
18th March 2013 - 9:19

5 Likes

Tactically naive? Nahhhh. Tactically resigned more like. Stannard had to push on - to try to tire those around him and to try to limit who he'd face in the sprint. He did the only thing he could do. Sitting on the back waiting for better sprinters to join you and reduce your odds whilst Chavenal breaks away wouldn't have helped.

Epic stuff and Sky's climbing speed is still shaking the peleton. The Giro will see if they can still dominate. I reckon Bertie's got a surprise in store.

Silly me. You're probably right....

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posted by MercuryOne [1093 posts]
18th March 2013 - 9:25

1 Like

A classic victory, a classical tactical move by Gerald Ciolek who rode the 'coat tails' of Sagan and Cancellara, after his success last week it's a victory well deserved and from photo evidence nicely (hugged Ciolek)congratulated to by Cancellara on the finish line.

Hats off to Cav who (wore shorts!)would have been up there if Chav faltered but Chav & Stannard animated that race in the final 15K.
Epic event had me on the edge of my seat.

posted by Roberj4 [202 posts]
18th March 2013 - 11:20

1 Like

Roberj4 wrote:
Epic event had me on the edge of my seat.

Same here, loved every minute.

They should move it to January to increase the likelihood of snow, rain and freezing temperatures Devil

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posted by Simon_MacMichael [8496 posts]
18th March 2013 - 11:23

1 Like

So you all think 6th was the best he could have done?

Since I was asked, he should have allowed some of the others (Piolini, Cancellara, Sagan, Ciolek and maybe Chavanel) to press the agenda once they caught up. Once he recouped a bit his choice would either to try the sprint (which given his ability was inadvisable) or else strike for home with a sustainable long burst. Neither of which he did. He finished last out of the lead group because he rode the last five on the front. Chavanel did the right thing and finished ahead of him.....so he was either daft or naive.

I think he did well to have a go by creating his break, and up and until they looked like he was going to get caught, when it was just Chavanel and himself it was a really reasonable idea to try to get the win. But he didn't have a plan B after that. The others always had him in their pockets while he was out front blowing like a diesel.

posted by Colin Peyresourde [1200 posts]
18th March 2013 - 11:33

3 Likes

Colin Peyresourde wrote:
Don't get me wrong. I think he did well to get himself into that position. the gap leading up to the Poggio was well conceived. But the fact that Stannard continued to push thing off and on before, during and after the descent of the Poggio was purely naive once it was clear that Cancellara and Sagan had caught them. He repeatedly exhausted himself to no end whatsoever. If you watch Chavanel, he at least knew they were done. Stannards best hope was to sit in and try to get clear of the trailing bunch if the others were to start looking over their shoulders too much. He was never going to do that with the amount he sat on the front. He sprinted at both 2.5kms and 1km to go, which was never the right time looking at his state of exhaustion compared to the others..

I know Stannard tried to get distance, but was he ever going to time trial away from the others? No, not in a million years. So exhausting himself upto the sprint was pointless. That's why he finished last in that bunch (if he wasn't naive how did he end up there?). He was also ploughing a stupidly high gear which gave him no acceleration, and worked too hard to be able to sprint. If you check his cadence it was maybe 10-15 revs below his rivals too. Plucky and heroic, maybe, tactical and smart it wasn't.

so chavanel did the right thing then?

and where did he come? did he win?

Stannard had *no chance* of winning a sprint against Sagan, Cancellara and Ciolek. Absolutely none. At all.

So, his only option was to get to the line ahead of a sprint. He tried and it didn't come off. to be honest, it was never going to, not after they got reeled in. but chapeau for trying, i say.

Dave Atkinson's picture

posted by Dave Atkinson [7501 posts]
18th March 2013 - 11:34

3 Likes

given the option of sitting in and trying to out-sprint chavanel for fifth, or giving it everything and coming in sixth, i'd like to see *any* rider choose the latter

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posted by Dave Atkinson [7501 posts]
18th March 2013 - 11:36

2 Likes

In my opinion Stannard could have sat in that lead group and done no work and still would have come 6th. The only way he was going to win was alone. He looks in good form. Hopefully he will get a chance at Paris-Roubaix.

posted by NeilG83 [260 posts]
18th March 2013 - 11:47

2 Likes

NeilG83 wrote:
In my opinion Stannard could have sat in that lead group and done no work and still would have come 6th. The only way he was going to win was alone. He looks in good form. Hopefully he will get a chance at Paris-Roubaix.

Well quite. But in addition to that I'm also saying all his counter attacking was done in wrong sections. Everytime he got out of someone's wheel he never looked like he was going to sustain his attack for the next 5km, or 2.5km.....why not sit and put everything on the limit in the last 1km (a bit like Jason Kenney in the World Championships when he sprinted the entire velodrome twice). He'd probably blow his gasket, but that was only ever going to be the way he'd throw the cat amongst the pigeons. Better to give it one good shot, than to repeatedly and prematurely go off when you're already tired and leggy. People seemed to be pleased that he got face time at the front of the peloton, but everytime he did that I just thought he's only got the one tactic, he'll get passed by everyone. And he was.....

posted by Colin Peyresourde [1200 posts]
18th March 2013 - 12:24

1 Like

Can't quite believe I'm reading implied criticism of Stannard!

He rode beautifully.

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posted by fourstringsisplenty [67 posts]
18th March 2013 - 12:42

2 Likes

'given the option of sitting in and trying to out-sprint chavanel for fifth, or giving it everything and coming in sixth, i'd like to see *any* rider choose the latter'

This x a whole lot.

posted by andyp [1072 posts]
18th March 2013 - 13:13

4 Likes

Ask Mark Cavendish what his job is. The answer won't be "cyclist," or even "winning bike races."

Instead, he'll give you a considered explanation that his job is to ensure the sponsor gets publicity, and the best way he can do that is by crossing the line first.

Even in an edition as unique as yesterday's, it was unlikely the race was going to be won by an attack from as far out as the Cipressa.

That Chavanel and Stannard still led over the Poggio was achievement enough in itself - if they'd still had half a minute, I'd have fancied them for the podium. And what if Chavanel had then had a mech? It happens...

Stannard was never going to win once they had Ciolek, Sagan and Cancellara with them.

But going by Cavendish's definition, did he do his job? Definitely, and in the way he knows best.

From the Cipressa all the way to a couple of hundred metres short of the line, he was on camera much of the time, and generated dozens of mentions for Sky (Italy being the other place it operates, remember).

Sorry if that kicks a bit of the romance out, and it's probably not what was uppermost in Stannard or Sky's minds when the game plan changed after G's chute and EBH getting dropped, but it's something to consider.

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posted by Simon_MacMichael [8496 posts]
18th March 2013 - 13:43

4 Likes

Well I must admit that this approach to his cycling crossed my mind as to his approach. In this context he got maximum exposure. But this means he really forsook any meaningful strategy to win. But it backs up my disappointment with the way he cycled down from the Poggio (with a view to him trying to win).

I've just reviewed the run in on Eurosport and he certainly chose the wrong time to put his bursts in, including a run up to a corner, where he was caught. I could talk about the scientific aspect of his efforts, working close to his limit, and build up lactate. You just have to look at his attempt at a sprint to know that it was merely a token effort (given that he was working near maximal HR). Compare him to Chavanel, whom breezes past, contests the finish, but finishes fourth. Tactically I know who had the better tactics to try and win. Effectively, per Simon's version, it means that he actually surrendered the chance to win way before the final sprint, which is disappointing in it's own right.....but I understand that there are other objectives at stack (sadly).

posted by Colin Peyresourde [1200 posts]
18th March 2013 - 14:44

2 Likes

stannard must be kicking himself! if only he had contacted all the armchair experts before the race he might have achieved a respectable result..

posted by russyparkin [578 posts]
18th March 2013 - 20:08

4 Likes