Milan-San Remo is the first Monument of the year on the pro cycling calendar. Falling in March, it has the alternative names of La Primavera – The Spring Classic – and La Classicissima – essentially meaning the greatest of all the Classics. This year’s edition will be held on Saturday 18th March 2023.
It’s one of the oldest races on the calendar, having been first held in 1907, and with a total route distance (including neutral zone) of over 300km, it’s also the longest.
But the real selling point of Milan-San Remo is its sheer unpredictability. The race’s length, combined with some spitefully placed climbs right at the end of the route and the constant risk of inclement weather, opens up the possibilities for a lot of riders.
Big breakaways, small breakaways, bunch sprints and brave solo attacks can all win on the day, with everyone from the burliest of sprinters to the slightest of climbers in with a chance of riding to glory on the Ligurian coast. The 2022 race was won by Matej Mohorič, dropper post and all, whose solo attack held off the bunch for victory.
Milan-San Remo 2023: Key information
Milan-San Remo takes riders on a very long tour of Italy’s Ligurian coastChris AuldDate: Saturday 18th March 2023Start: Abbiategrasso, ItalyFinish: San Remo, ItalyDistance: 294kmUK live television coverage: 09:45 – 17:30 GCN+, discovery+, Eurosport 2Last winner: Matej Mohorič (Bahrain Victorious)
Milan-San Remo 2023: Route and profile
This year’s route will begin in Abbiategrasso, 22km southwest of Milan, and rejoin the usual route at Pavia, 30km into the course.
Even with the riders good and softened by the preceding 240km, the Tre Capi (Capo Mele, Capo Cervo and Capo Berta) are still barely noticeable bumps in the road. However, their arrival signifies that it’s time for the teams to start pressing on in earnest.
Already wound up to near warp-speed by this point, the end game really kicks off with the 5.6km long Cipressa. With an average gradient of 4.1%, it comes after 263km and with gradients touching 9%, it’s a bona fide climbing test that has often foiled the plans of sprinters hoping to cling on for a bunch finish.
Most of the time it serves mainly as an opportunity to potentially get rid of some of your rivals rather than win the race outright, but it’s not impossible to launch a successful attack here either. Vincenzo Nibali made good ground on the bunch by attacking on the Cipressa in 2014, as did Marco Pantani in 1999.
Still, to make anything stick has proven notoriously difficult, and the reason for that is the flat section that lies between it and the approaching Poggio.
Usually, the Poggio di San Remo is the day’s decisive climb. If a rider or group is going to make a break from the pack, it’s more than likely to come on the upper slopes of this iconic climb.
Coming a mere 9km from the finish, positioning here is vital, something that guarantees the peloton will hit it at almost sprint pace.
This ascent is only 3.7km and its ramps are not particularly severe, but the speed at which it is taken, added to the fatigue induced from the Cipressa – not to mention the 280km the riders have ridden by this point – is truly phenomenal and means that groups coming over the top are often in a bedraggled state.
They’re then instantly thrown into a highly technical descent, which has also proven a launchpad for decisive attacks in the past, including Mohorič’s win in 2022. Yet when it levels out again in the middle of San Remo, the roads are straight enough that any escaped rider will find themselves well within sight of the bunch.
The final bend comes with 750m to go. Swinging right onto the Via Roma finishing straight, it’s rare even for breakaway riders to get time to take their hands off the bars.
How to watch Milan-San Remo 2023
Live coverage of this year’s Milan-San Remo will be provided by Eurosport and GCN+ with full coverage of the entire race expected on the latter if you want to watch nothing happen for most of the day.
For a full guide on how to catch live coverage and highlights of Milan-San Remo 2023, visit our TV guide.
Milan-San Remo live coverage
All times are subject to change by the broadcasters
Saturday, 18th MarchEurosport 2: 09:45 – 17:30GCN+: 08:45 – 17:30
Who are the favourites for Milan-San Remo 2023?
Mohorič’s superb descending display won him a memorable first Monument win in San RemoChris Auld
While we wait for the start list to be confirmed, expect the big guns to be out in force for the first Monument of the year.
Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) is off to a hot start to the season and currently battling Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) in Paris-Nice, and has confirmed his participation in the race. Already building up a stack of Monuments, he won Liège-Bastogne-Liège in 2021 and Il Lombardia twice in 2021 and 2022.
Despite a minor sickness that forced him to miss Strade Bianche, Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) can sprint and climb with the very best and already has one Milan-San Remo win to his name. He recently ended up on the deck alongside Tom Pidcock (Ineos Grenadiers) in Paris-Nice though. Speaking of Pidcock, the 23-year-old soloed to a phenomenal victory at Strade Bianche, so keep an eye out for the man from Leeds.
Milan-San Remo 2023: start list
Q36.5 Pro Cycling
Pavel BittnerJohn DegenkolbMatthew DinhamNils EekhoffMarius MayrhoferFlorian StorkKevin Vermaerke
Tudor Pro Cycling
UAE Team Emirates
Alessandro CoviDavide FormoloFelix GroßschartnerDomen NovakTadej PogačarMatteo TrentinDiego Ulissi
Milan-San Remo previous winners
2022 – Matej Mohorič (SVN) Bahrain Victorious2021 – Jasper Stuyven (BEL) Trek-Segafredo2020 – Wout van Aert (BEL) Team Jumbo–Visma2019 – Julian Alaphilippe (FRA) Deceuninck-QuickStep2018 – Vincenzo Nibali (ITA) Bahrain-Merida2017 – Michał Kwiatkowski (POL) Team Sky2016 – Arnaud Demare (FRA) FDJ2015 – John Degenkolb (GER) Giant-Alpecin2014 – Alexander Kristoff (NOR) Katusha2013 – Gerard Ciolek (GER) MTN-Qhubeka2012 – Simon Gerrans (AUS) Orica-GreenEdge2011 – Matthew Goss (AUS) HTC High Road2010 – Oscar Freire (ESP) Rabobank2009 – Mark Cavendish (GBR) Colombia-HTC2008 – Fabian Cancellara (SUI) CSC
Milan-San Remo: History
With the first edition running in 1907, Milan-San Remo has a history as long as its route, totalling over 300km (including the neutral zone at the start).
It is therefore probably one of the only professional races that has retained, let alone lengthened, its distance over the years, and the prestige associated with the event has only grown with it.
Milan-San Remo can actually be traced back to 1906, when a two-day amateur race between Milan and San Remo was held for amateurs, but after little interest was initially shown, the organiser of the Giro di Lombardia, a race which had seen its inauguration the year before, approached the newspaper Gazetta Dello Sport and proposed its taking over of the race.
Gazetta was in fact already chief organiser of the Giro di Lombardia (or Tour of Lombardy), and in 1909 it would also take part in the founding of the Giro d’Italia, cementing its place in what would become Italy’s three biggest races.
Poor road surfaces, temperamental spring weather and primitive bicycles meant that merely completing the distance was a remarkable achievement in the early days, but as the sport progressed, so did the race, and during the 1950s Milan-San Remo began to develop its reputation as a sprinter’s classic.
The roads, bikes, investment and growing professionalism meant that no longer did pelotons start as one and finish as a bedraggled mess of individuals, with sometimes hours between them.
The Tour de France was experiencing a similar problem, with more editions – or stages – finishing with large groups of riders arriving at the finish together. Where the Tour organisers introduced the sprinter’s jersey to reestablish some excitement, the organisers of Milan-San Remo also made some changes.
The route’s only climb had traditionally been the Turchino pass, a longer climb that came at about half distance as an opportunity for the stronger riders to distance themselves.
But in time they began to come over the Turchino together, and so the Poggio was introduced in 1960. The fact that Tom Simpson won the race in 1965 suggests diversity, but the desired effect was effectively neutralised by the emergence of one Eddy Merckx, who won Milan-San Remo on seven occasions between 1966 and 1976, the first coming when he was just 20 years old.
That record of most wins has remained to date, as has the perpetuation of Milan-San Remo being classified a sprinter’s race, despite increasingly more climbs being added, such as the Cipressa in 1982 or the Turchino-esque La Manie in 2008.
Another, Pompeiana, was destined to be included as a vicious penultimate climb in the 2014 edition, but landslides causing roadblocks and then dismissals from certain riders – Mark Cavendish being one of them – claiming the parcours had been updated beyond their capabilities, meant that it never materialised.
It must therefore not be forgotten that Milan-San Remo has never been a straightforward gallop. Despite common sprinter names such as Merckx, Kelly, Zabel, Friere, or more obviously Cipollini and Cavendish, proliferating on the list of winners, the efforts they will have had to put in in order to get over the preceding climbs – not to mention the distance at such an early stage of the season – is often forgotten.
The fact that Marcel Kittel never even started it, or that names we don’t associate with sprinting, such as Gerrans, Cancellara, Fignon or Chiappucci, pepper the alumni of winners are only further reminders of its nature. Yes, Milan-San Remo is a ‘sprinter’s classic’, but that certainly doesn’t mean it’s always won by one.
Milan-San Remo: The Epics
We take a look at some of the most memorable editions, moments and riders that have played a part in the race’s history.
1910 – Riders on the storm
The fourth edition of Milan-San Remo after its inauguration in 1907 is generally regarded as having been held in some of the worst weather conditions that bicycle racers have come up against. The eventual winner, Eugene Christophe, is also famous for being the first person to wear the yellow jersey at the Tour de France.
As the riders lined up on the Milanese start line at 6am, heavy snow was reported to be falling on the Turchino Pass – a stalwart of the parcours, coming as a mid-distance test for the riders – which caused many to abandon before the race had even begun. Once out on the road, the riders were soon isolated and riding by themselves amid the harsh conditions, and by the time they reached the Turchino there were only half of them left.
Belgian Cyrille Van Hauwaert was first over the top, 10 minutes ahead of the next rider, but took shelter in a roadside cottage and refused to continue. Christophe himself stopped too, but resumed after eating and finding some trousers to wear, and eventually made his way to front of the field.
When he eventually arrived in San Remo he didn’t even realise he had won after mistakenly thinking he had taken a wrong turn. He was taken to hospital with frostbite, and wasn’t released for a further month.
Second place Luigi Ganna arrived almost 40 minutes after Christophe, but was disqualified for having taken a lift in a car, and only five riders out of 63 starters made it to the finish. Those, as they say, were the days.
2013 – Please take the replacement bus service…
While Eugene Christophe and the like raced in an era when bicycle races were feats of endurance that bordered on the militaristic, today’s racers, while probably carrying similar DNA, are of an era of professionalised, commercialised sport.
This means that winning a race no longer results in having to spend a month in hospital, but the weather can still have an impact.
The year that Gerald Ciolek won was a modern-era hark back to the days of raw physical suffering though, with reports of riders crying and shivering uncontrollably as they rode through the sleet and snow.
So bad were the conditions that the race was shortened from 298km to 246km, and the two highest climbs – the Turchino and La Manie – were bypassed, with the riders climbing into their team buses and driven to the coast in a mid-race transfer.
Ian Stannard and Sylvain Chavanel led a dwindling bunch over the Poggio (the final climb of the race), and formed a six-man group that also included Fabian Cancellara and Peter Sagan, which Ciolek, in a sprint that was painful just watching, eventually won out of.
1992 – Demon descending
Being the best part of 300km long, and with a series of testing climbs peppered throughout the parcours, Milan-San Remo is clearly a race that requires a decent amount of physical endeavour.
But the nature of the course allows for a long list of potential winners, and an annual display of tactical complexity.
One such example was when Sean Kelly pipped Moreno Argentin in ’92: The Italian was a hot favourite after notching up three consecutive wins in Tirreno-Adriatico, and after powering away on the Poggio he indeed appeared to have an insurmountable gap.
But Kelly, in the twilight of his career and having struggled on the climb, eschewed expectation and attacked on the descent.
Taking advantage of Argentin’s weak descending skills, the Irishman eventually bridged across and unashamedly refused to work, before putting Argentin to the sword in the sprint.
1999 – By a Tchmillimeter
The ’99 edition of Milan-San Remo pitted a typically broad array of favourites together, from the pure sprint speed of Erik Zabel and all-round capabilities of Michele Bartoli to the climbing prowess of Marco Pantani.
The latter two had forged ahead before commencing the Poggio, but a lack of cohesion meant that everything came back together on the run-in, for what was then taken to be a guaranteed Erik Zabel win.
But with less than a kilometre to go, the Russian/Belgian (and now officially Moldovan) Andrei Tchmil took a flyer. Already a victor at Paris-Roubaix and Paris-Tours, but not necessarily on the radar for Milan-San Remo, Tchmil’s deftly timed attack proved to be the winning move, leaving the galloping bunch, led by Zabel, to fight for second.
2004 – Zabel surprised
Along with celebrating a lap early, it’s probably one of the most embarrassing and frustrating things that could happen to a professional cyclist. But in the 2004 edition of Milan-San Remo, German sprinter Erik Zabel had a ‘bit of a mare’ and raised his arms to celebrate, only to watch Oscar Friere squeeze underneath him and take the win.
It would be the first of three Milan-San Remo victories for the Spaniard, in a race that suited his tactical nous and physical strengths perfectly.
2009 – Cav pips Haussler
In perhaps one of the most tantalising climaxes to a race possible, Mark Cavendish took the biggest win of his young career with a truly remarkable sprint in the 2009 edition of the race.
Australian Heinrich Haussler, who would go on to enjoy his most successful season as a pro to date, had launched a surprise early sprint/late attack with 250m to go, gaining what appeared to be an insurmountable gap.
But Cavendish, who was about to come into the prime years of his road sprinting career, used the last 100m to kick, and kick again, pulling himself up to Haussler, and then past him within millimeters of the line. It was enough to make you – and him – weep.
Watch the 2023 Milan-San Remo on Saturday 18th March.