Ciolek Wins Milan-San Remo 2013
The German sprinter took a seven-up sprint to win a shortened version of La Primavera in 5:37:20. Prerace favorite Peter Sagan (Cannondale) settled for second, while Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Leopard) took third.
Gray skies and frigid temperatures greeted the riders. Diego Rosi (Androni-Venezuela), Pablo Lastras (Movistar), Lars Bak (Lotto-Belisol), Matteo Montaguti (Ag2r-La Mondiale), Maxim Belkov (Katusha), and Francesco Fortin (Bardiani-CSF Inox) escaped and led the field by five minutes at 15 km and 10:35 at 40 km.
During the night, snow had fallen on the Passo del Turchino. Race organizers decided to neutralize the race for 46 km between Ovada and Arenzano, thereby taking the Turchino out of the race. The riders stopped at 117 km, took buses 46 km, and restarted the race an hour later. The break kept its advantage, which was 7:10 when the race was neutralized. The race organizers took out La Manie as well, but they used a road to detour around that climb.
Attrition took its toll on bunch and break, and with 40 km left, the latter was down to three riders, Bak, Rosa, and Belkov. They led the field by two minutes on the Capo Berto. Behind the escapees, Sky attempted to lead the field, and the British squad was succeeding until a crash took down Geraint Thomas and several other Sky men as well as Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Sharp).
On the Cipressa, Sylvain Chavanel (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) attacked. He could not get clear. On the descent, world road race champion Philippe Gilbert (BMC) took a dig that formed a lead group of six. Further combustion put Ciolek, Cancellara, Sagan, and Luca Paolini (Katusha) in pursuit of Chavanel and Ian Stannard (Sky). The two groups merged with four km left.
Stannard attacked, but Sagan and Cancellara led the others to the Briton. With less than two km left, Stannard tried again, but Sagan led the rest of the lead group to the Sky man. Ciolek had Sagan's wheel as the lead group rode under the one-km banner.
The break slowed as the riders began to look at each other. A note of urgency was sounded when the riders learned that Taylor Phinney (BMC) was attempting to bridge up to the group. Sagan started the sprint, but to paraphrase B.B. King, the Slovak made his move too soon. He faded as the finish line approached, and Ciolek overtook him for the biggest win of his career.
Ciolek is a rider who had early successes but whose career seemed to have plateaued. In hopes of a boost, the German signed with the first Pro Continental team from Africa, and his move seems to have paid off.
"When I chose this team," Ciolek said, "people wondered why I would join a Pro Continental team, but it's just been unbelievable. The coaching and staff on this team is so professional. I have never seen management care so much for the riders. I am happy to be on this team."
Ciolek and MTN-Qhubeka directeur sportif Douglas Ryder admitted that they did not foresee victory today. "It's unbelievable," Ciolek said. "We just came here as a wild card, and now we're standing here with the trophy. This is great. I knew I had to follow all the best riders on the Poggio, and it worked perfectly." For his part, Ryder said, "We were hoping for a top 20, but every rider gave everything to help Gerald."
Today's riders will meet again in other spring Classics such as Gent-Wevelgem, the Tour of Flanders, and Paris-Roubaix. Who will prosper? Who will falter? Check in at www.roadcycling.com and find out!