Words by Tim Maloney
Photography by Tim Maloney
Milano, city of fashion, city of finance and city of cycling. Milano-Sanremo, often called “La Classicissima di Primavera" is the first of 5 “monument” races and at 298 km, the longest race of the cycling season. Since it’s first edition in 1907, La Classicissima has only missed three editions because of world wars. Traditionally run on March 19th, San Giuseppe, the feast day of Saint Joseph which used to be an important holiday in Italy, Saturday’s 107th edition of the race returned to the start in front of Milano’s iconic 15th century renaissance fortress Castello Sforzesco, built by Francesco Sforza, Duke of Milan.
Cycling is the last proletarian sport, where eager tifosi can get up close and personal with their favorite champions of due ruote. On the sparkling Saturday morning by the Castello, Simpson Magazine paid a visit to the start of “La Classicissima di Primavera". Milano-Sanremo not only brings out the best riders in cycling, but thousands of fans, camp followers and journalists. We asked a few journalists, photographers and riders what Milano-Sanremo means to them.
Paolo Viberti, Tuttosport’s cycling corrispondant for 35 years and was at his 33rd Milano-Sanremo. Paolo Viberti told Simpson Magazine “Milano-Sanremo is the first big race where all the riders, who are coming from a lot of different racing experiences in the early season, are together. It’s the only race that is over 300km and even if there is not a lot of climbing and it might seem like an easy ride, it’s not. Anything can happen at Milano-Sanremo. The magic of this race is just that. Once, Milano-Sanremo was the first real race of the season, but that’s not the case anymore, but whoever wins Milano-Sanremo had made their season.”
Giorgio Viberti, Paolo’s twin brother and cycling journalist for La Stampa told Simpson Magazine “Milano-Sanremo is special because of it’s great history. The race was not run in 1944 or ’45 because of the war. 70 years ago, in 1946 with WW2 just finished, Fausto Coppi attacked right after the start of the race. On the Passo Turchino, he rode away from the others and finished in Sanremo 12 minutes ahead of the next rider. The radio commentator, Niccolo Carosio announced “before the next rider arrives, we’ll play some dance music.”Fifteen minutes later, Lucien Teisseire finished in second. Fifty years ago, Eddy Merckx won the first of his 7 Milano-Sanremo titles and 40 years ago, he won his final Milano-Sanremo. All of these important moments are why Milano-Sanremo is such a great race.”
Simpson Magazine ran into Graham Watson, who lives just outside of London but travels the world as one of cycling’s top photographer. Enjoying the spring sunshine before hopping on his moto for the hectic ride to Sanremo, Watson said “Milano-Sanremo is the first really, really big rendezvous for the year. We’ve been racing since the middle of January in Australia, and had a lot of races all over the world, but today, at Milano-Sanremo is the start of the season. It’s almost spring and it’s the first big race of the season where everybody is there.”
Pier Bergonzi, editorial director of La Gazzetta dello Sport and author of numerous books about cycling gave Simpson Magazine his take on why Milano-Sanremo is the number one single day race in Italy, saying “Of course, (Milano-Sanremo) is the longest race on the cycling calendar, it’s 300km and most races are not that long anymore. And it’s certainly the only race on the calendar where all types of riders, sprinters, stage racers, anyone can win. There is a special feeling at Milano-Sanremo, with the cool morning start in the city, the climb up the mountain and a warm afternoon by the seaside with a dramatic sprint finish on via Roma in Sanremo. It’s my favorite race of the season.”
At 39, Katusha’s Angel Vicioso has only ridden Milano-Sanremo a few times in his career as he spent much of the time racing for Spanish team. But Vicioso told Simpson Magazine “I really love this race; it’s very exciting to ride and racing along the Riviera is great with all the people out cheering.” Vicioso, in what is likely to be his final year in the peloton, came back strongly in 2015 after a near-career ending crash in the 2014 Giro d’Italia. We asked Vicioso how he keeps motivated after 16 years in the pro peloton and he explained “I still love racing, that hasn’t changed and as I am a professional, I am motivated to work hard for my family. After all, it’s my job.”
@PippoPozzato has 54.4k followers on Twitter and told Simpson Magazine he had high hopes for Sanremo. “I just finished a hard training block in the Canary Islands and am in good form, so I am looking for a top 10 result.” Pippo had a good sprint on via Roma finishing 8th.