Vincenzo Nibali won the 2018 Milano-Sanremo on Saturday ahead of Caleb Ewan and Arnaud Demare third.

Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) won the 109th edition of Milano-Sanremo on Saturday after a blistering attack on the Poggio and a dare-devil descent down into Sanremo. Nibali just held off the chasing peloton, as Caleb Ewan (Mitchelton-Scott) sprinted to second just behind Nibali. French national road champion and 2016 Milano-Sanremo winner Arnaud Demare (FDJ) rounded out the podium.

“I have to thank the team, who rode perfectly,” Nibali said. “I was able to hide in the group with [Sonny] Colbrelli, keeping an eye out and staying out of the wind. I attacked, but when my DS told me I had a 20-second lead, I was surprised and I knew I just had to ride. When I looked over my shoulder and saw the sprinters could not catch me, it was a good moment for me, but it is too early to say if it is the best win of my career.”

The finale of the 2018 Milano-Sanremo was intense with Nibali attacking and cresting the top of the Poggio alone with just 5.4 kilometers left. Bora-Hansgrohe’s Daniel Oss brought the greatly reduced peloton over the top of the climb with World Champion Peter Sagan sitting on his wheel.

Nibali clung to a slim 10-second advantage on the descent, as Matteo Trentin (Mitchelton-Scott) attacked out of the main group. Many of the top sprinters in the race had survived over the Poggio with Alexander Kristoff (UAE Team Emirates), Elia Viviani (Quick-Step Floors), Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain-Merida), and Michael Matthews (Sunweb) all present.

Off the descent of the Poggio and onto the flat roads in the town of Sanremo, Nibali continued to power forward alone in the lead. Just two kilometers stood between him and winning the classic nicknamed “La Primavera.” Trentin looked to be closing in on Nibali, but then the Italian simply ran out of steam. He was caught by the charging peloton with just over a kilometer to go.

Quick-Step Floors came to the front of the group with multiple riders in support of Viviani. Alaphilippe took a tremendous pull inside the last 750 meters to close the gap to Nibali. The Italian was not guaranteed the win by any means.

Ewan was the first to launch his sprint from the chasing group, as Nibali was within touching distance. Demare also looked strong, but was no match for the quick Australian. In the end, Nibali was able to hold off the sprinters and secure the win at Milano-Sanremo. He was previously third in 2012.

“The sprint was into a headwind so I knew I had to be patient,” Demare said after finishing third. “I got on the back of the Quick-Step train, but I could see we weren’t going to catch Nibali. He did something very special today, attacking into the headwind on the Poggio. Behind him [Michal] Kwiatkowski attacked and [Peter] Sagan brought him back, so the chase took time to organize. After the stage, it was something to be on the podium in front of a crowd of fans who adore him.”

Sagan finished sixth with last year’s winner Michal Kwiatkowski (Sky) coming home just outside of the top 10 in 11th.

Top 10

The 2018 edition of Milano-Sanremo began under dark skies and rain poured down on the riders as they left piazza Castello in the Milan. The first and longest of the five Monuments at 294 kilometers, the race is a true test of attrition.

Nine riders were brave enough to attack and form the early breakaway. The riders who typically go in the breakaway at Milano-Sanremo will spend nearly 250 kilometers out front. Micro Maestri and Lorenzo Rota (Bardiani-CSF), Evgeny Koberniak (Gazprom-Rusvelo), Guy Sagiv and Dennis Van Winden (Israel Cycling Academy), Sho Hatsuyama (Nippo-Vini Fantini), Charles Planet (Novo Nordisk), Matteo Bono (UAE Team Emirates), and Jacopo Mosca (Willier Selle Italia) were the nine leaders, as the city of Milan faded into the distance. The Italian Bono seems to have found a love for the breakaway at Milano-Sanremo, as he previously made the early move in 2014, 2015, and 2016.

The Turchino Pass, which comes roughly midway through the race, marks the point where the riders travel from inland Italy to the coast. Team Sky drove the peloton over the Pass and the gap to the breakaway tumbled down. After the descent of the Turchino Pass, the gap was under two minutes and the peloton slowed to allow the breakaway a bit more leash. Catching the breakaway with over a 100 kilometers still to race would have meant for a hard race to control.

The peloton turned onto the coastal road after already more than five hours in the saddle with breakaway about four minutes in the lead. Sky, Bora-Hansgrohe, and Quick-Step Floors all sent domestiques to the front of the peloton. The race was beginning to become more serious. The weather had also greatly improved with the sun coming out and the roads drying out.

With 53 kilometers to go, the finale of Milano-Sanremo began with first of the three “Capi” climbs. The Capo Mele, Capo Cervo, and Capo Berta are not difficult in terms of statistics, but the climbs add to the fatigue of the riders and serve as an hors-d’oeuvre for the grand finale of the Cipressa and Poggio. The peloton was just over two minutes behind the nine leaders at this point.

On the Capo Berta, the pace in the peloton was high with Bora-Hansgrohe driving on the front. Sprinting ace Marcel Kittel (Katusha-Alpecin) was seen at the back of the peloton and appeared to be struggling.

Heading to the base of the Cipressa, it was a war at the font of the peloton. Many teams were fighting to position their leaders at the front of the bunch. FDJ were there with Demare and Bora-Hansgrohe had guided Sagan to the front. Mitchelton-Scott was also at the front with Ewan. There were a mere 27 kilometers remaining in the race.

FDJ led the peloton through the lower slopes of the Cipressa (5.6km at 3.7%) until Team Sky came to the front with Dylan Van Baarle to increase the pace in support of Kwiatkowski. Kwiatkowski sat in second position in the peloton behind Van Baarle. Notably, Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data) was sticking with the peloton, as other riders were dropped. Cavendish has had a rough start to his season, as he suffered a concussion to begin the Abu Dhabi Tour and then crashed on the opening stage of Tirreno-Adriatico and was time cut. Kittel was one of the riders dropped.

Team Sky’s pace on the upper slopes of the Cipressa was hard enough that no attacks occurred on the climb. FDJ regained control of the peloton, as the riders descended back down to the coast and to the final climb of the day — the Poggio.

The roughly nine kilometers of flat road between the bottom of the Cipressa and the beginning of the Poggio meant the peloton swelled, as riders regained contact. Lotto-Soudal took control of the peloton, as Kwiatkowski was seen near the back of the group. Mitchelton-Scott still had many riders in the group watching over Ewan.

About a kilometer from the bottom of the Poggio, Cavendish clipped a piece of road furniture in the middle of the road coming out of a roundabout and went tumbling to the ground. He crashed extremely hard and his bike flew through the air. He took out many other riders as well.

Marcus Burghardt (Bora-Hansgrohe) led the peloton onto the Poggio and BMC Racing’s Jean-Pierre Drucker immediately attacked. Nibali brought Drucker back with a vicious counterattack. The “Shark of Messina” crested the summit of the Poggio alone with 5.4 kilometers remaining. Daniel Oss led the reduced peloton over the top with Sagan right behind him.

At the bottom of the Poggio, a slim 2.2 kilometers remained. Nibali clung to a 10-second advantage with Trentin chasing just in front of the main peloton.

Trentin’s legs gave out with about a kilometer to go, as Quick-Step Floors brought him back. They led the chase group with multiple riders on the front in support of Viviani. Julian Alaphilippe took a big turn on the front with 750 meters to go to bring the group within touching distance of Nibali.

Ewan kicked off the sprint for the line and looked to have a shot at catching Nibali. However, he would come up just meters short, as the Italian won the 109th edition of Milano-Sanremo.

“The boys were so strong, so in the end, we can’t have any regrets,” Ewan said at the finish. “That said, I came here in good form, so of course I am a bit disappointed with second place. Matteo Trentin was very strong today and he gave it his best shot. He got close but it wasn’t to be because Vincenzo Nibali was the strongest today.”

Kristoff finished fourth with Lotto-Soudal’s Jurgen Roelandts in fifth. Surprisingly, Quick-Step Floors top finisher was Viviani in 19th. The Belgian team had a strong presence at the front of the peloton inside the final kilometer, but were unable to produce a top result.

After Saturday’s victory, Nibali has won two of the five Monuments of cycling. He is a two-time Il Lombardia winner, having won the race in 2015 and 2017.

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