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It took more than seven hours of racing before Saturday’s Milan-San Remo really heated up. To many, that’s the sign of a race far longer than it needs to be; for others it’s what makes “La Primavera” so great: the slow build-up, the anticipation, the promise of fireworks on the Poggio. And there certainly were fireworks on Saturday.
Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-QuickStep) attacked on the final climb like he did last year, but this time it wasn’t a small group that formed around him: it was only Wout Van Aert (Jumbo-Visma). Even then, Van Aert was only able to make contact on the descent off the Poggio — no mean feat when you’re chasing one of the world’s greatest and most courageous descenders.
Once together, Alaphilippe and Van Aert worked well together, holding off the chasing bunch. The sprint that followed was desperately close, with Van Aert just getting the better of his French companion. In doing so, he repeated what Alaphilippe achieved in 2019: winning both Strade Bianche and Milan-San Remo in the same season. It was Van Aert’s first victory in a Monument, but you’d have to imagine it won’t be his last …