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Sanremo Roundtable: Did Sagan sprint too soon?

After nearly 300km of racing, Milano-Sanremo was again decided by a split-second bike throw after a long, exciting sprint on the Via Roma. There are plenty of armchair quarterback questions to ask after such a dramatic finish. Did Peter Sagan play his cards wrong? Did Michal Kwiatkowski’s win change our impression of him? How can race management spice up a seven-hour race? Let’s roundtable!

Is there anything Peter Sagan could have done differently in the finale?

Caley Fretz @caleyfretz: Sprint faster? Of course, if he could have forced one or two more hard pulls out of Kwiatkowski the sprint might have gone differently. But it wasn’t so much that Sagan played the finish wrong as Kwiatkowski played it right.

Andrew Hood @EurohoodyNot much, because the other two had sprinters coming up behind. Sagan got stuck as the first wheel, and started his sprint 75m too early. Had he waited a bit longer, no way would Kwiatkowski been able to come around him. That’s Sanremo, timing is everything.

Spencer Powlison @spino_powerlegsSagan sprinted too early. The lead trio had enough breathing room with the peloton, and you could see that he gapped Kwiatkowski on his initial jump.

Chris Case @chrisjustincaseWorked less. Been more adamant that others contribute. Been more crafty in the final sprint instead of just trying to bludgeon everyone in a long haul.

What lessons did the peloton learn about how to beat Sagan?

Caley: Use Sagan’s confidence against him. Let him attack, let him pull.

Andy: The best lessons are usually the worst for excitement: The lesson here is hold his wheel (if you can), and then sit on for the sprint. Hardly exciting or daring, but it works (sometimes).

Spencer: Sit on his wheel and wait for the sprint. Oh wait, didn’t they learn that from Fabian Cancellara?

Chris: Follow when he attacks, if you can. If he’s willing to burn himself to establish the break, let him. Hope for the best in the sprint, and try to make him lead out.

Does Kwiatkowski’s victory change your opinion of the types of races he can win?

Caley: It doesn’t. I’d push him higher up the rankings for a race like the Tour of Flanders now. He’s always been versatile.

Andy: Kwiatkowski is well-rounded, perhaps even more so than Sagan because he can climb and TT better than Sagan, allowing him to expand his reach to one-week stage races and even GC in grand tours. Amazing that the Ardennes are his principal goal this spring.

Spencer: Kwiatkowski is incredibly versatile. I gave him kudos last season for winning E3 Harelbeke after claiming Amstel Gold Race the year before — it’s very rare for a male cyclist to win both on cobbles and in the Ardennes hills. Now he’s winning what’s ostensibly a sprinters’ classic?! Oh, and he also just won Strade Bianche, and he’s a former world champ.

Chris: It doesn’t. I’ve always thought he was capable of winning almost any monument. He just hadn’t yet. Nor has he been particularly prolific. Perhaps that is changing with a Strade Bianche and MSR in less than a month.

The first six hours of MSR were predictably snoozy. How can race management spice up La Primavera?

Caley: I enjoyed Toms Skuijns’s live Tweets while riding in the day’s breakaway (actual Tweets sent by his girlfriend Abi Mickey). Forget power meter data and other telemetry, I want more live race Tweeting via racer surrogates, please. Or maybe even talk-to-text from the actual peloton.

Andy: Baaaagh, why change it? Nine innings of baseball are rarely exciting all the time. MSR is like a bottle of champagne: Pick a good one, let it chill on ice for a few hours, shake it up, and then pop the cork.

Spencer: How about a women’s WorldTour racing, running a couple hours ahead of the men? If they finish just before the men start the “capos” along the seaside, there’d be plenty of racing action for everyone to enjoy.

Chris: Zwift at the base of the Cipressa.

“The only thing missing today was a little bit of co-operation from some other riders. But it’s okay. I did my bit and I’m happy with what I did. That’s cycling.” What is Peter Sagan really saying here?

Caley: Sagan is a realist: “I was the first to attack and I’m the strongest sprinter. Of course they didn’t work. That’s bike racing. I’ve won before and I’ll win again.”

Andy: His way of saying, “MSR is the easiest to race, but hardest to win of the monuments … ” Keep trying, Peter, everyone is thankful.

Spencer: “The only thing missing today was a sprinter for my Bora team that could sit in the peloton so I wouldn’t have to pull the other riders to the finish. But it’s okay. I always do my bit as the guy who wins all of the races for Bora, and I’m happy. That’s cycling when you’re on a first-year WorldTour team.

Chris: “Hey man. It’s okay man. No worries. I don’t even care if I win. It’s not about winning or losing, man. Cycling is, like, just a phase, man.”

Fred Dreier @freddreier“Maaaaan, @#%$ those guys!”

Listen to our discussion of Milano-Sanremo on the VeloNews podcast:

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