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The Belgian Wout Van Aert won, on Saturday 8 August, the 111th edition of Milan-Sanremo, the first great classic of the cycling season, ahead of the French Julian Alaphilippe, winner last year.
Returning to a very high level, Julian Alaphilippe finally stumbled over Belgian Wout Van Aert who won Milan-Sanremo on Saturday, the first great classic of the cycling season, and deprived him of a second victory. “He really deserves his victory”, greeted the Frenchman, ahead of one wheel at the finish of the longest race of the season, 305 kilometers under a summer sun.
In eight days, “an incredible week” according to the smiling Belgian, Van Aert imitated Alaphilippe who had also won the Strade Bianche then Milan-Sanremo last year. Triple world champion in cyclo-cross before devoting himself mainly to the road, the Belgian won at the age of 25 his first “monument”.
“I’m still happy but it’s a little frustrating to be close to victory,” said Alaphilippe, who ignited the race just like in 2019. It was he who went on the attack on the threshold of the last 6 kilometers, in the Poggio, the last difficulty of the course.
“I knew it would be difficult”
Van Aert, stuck on the Frenchman’s violent acceleration, fell to the top at 4 seconds. But he returned to the descent. “I felt that I had passed the limit,” explained Alaphilippe to the L’Equipe channel. “I waited for Wout and tried to get the best sprint possible. I knew it would be difficult.”
If the first pursuers had the duo in their sights in the streets of Sanremo, they observed an observation time which prohibited them from making the junction, to within 2 seconds. For third place, the Australian Michael Matthews settled the Slovakian Peter Sagan in a group which also included the French Arnaud Démare, one of the few sprinters not to have been left behind in the Poggio.
“It’s the strongest who wins,” said Alaphilippe after completing his most convincing result of the season. Overwhelmed by punctures at the Strade Bianche, where he had been unable to take part in the leading roles, he had a low profile at the start of Milan.
Seven hours later, a very long day, the doubts were removed. “A podium in a monument is good, even if second, it sucks in the eyes of some people,” he said, visibly reassured. “I feel better and better. It’s still a surprise to come so close to victory and it feels a lot of good.”
The best and the worst for Jumbo
Van Aert, congratulated by his runner-up, paid tribute to him: “Julian played very well. He pushed me in the lead. He was in my wheel and I had to set the tempo just enough for the peloton to come back. In the sprint, it wasn’t really won. ”
The Belgian, in the wide register, is however among the fastest, especially after a hard race. Last year, he had won a massive sprint on an uphill slope in the Tour stage arriving in Albi, for his first participation in the Grande Boucle, before falling heavily in the Pau time trial. .
For his team Jumbo, the week alternated the best and the worst. Between the performances of Van Aert and the Slovenian Primoz Roglic, stage winner at the Tour de l’Ain and candidate for the yellow jersey in the next Tour, and also the dramatic sprint of Katowice at the Tour of Poland, where the responsibility of the Dutchman Dylan Groenewegen (provisionally suspended) is engaged.