Velominati Super Prestige: Milano San-Remo 2012

Fignon drills it on the Pogio in 1989. Photo: L'Equipe

The Poggio. It’s probably one of the most famous easy climbs in the world; going through old cycling photographs, I rarely come across one where the leaders haven’t moved Sur La Plaque. It has a reputation, however, for being a real leg breaker, mostly because any climb is a big climb once you cross its summit after a paltry 291 kilometers. And the descent provides one of the twistiest, most exhilarating finales in the sport.

This race stands apart as the longest on the calendar, and represents the only of the five Monuments where the sprinters have a chance at final glory. But this can have it all: the long, solo break routinely makes it to the finish uncaught. The final attacks on the Poggio regularly stick. The attack that goes away on the climb often gets caught on the descent. And, sometimes the whole thing stays together for a bunch gallop. Essentially, any ride who is on form has a chance at glory. This is a unique race.

The question on everyone’s mind is wether Cavendish can get over the Poggio in position to make it to the finish in the first group. If he does, then you can jot down the winner right now. He’s lost some significant weight in the last few weeks, so his climbing should be good; we also have it on good authority from our eyes and ears on the roads in Italy that the Manx Mouth has been spotted training in the hills of Italy with the express intention of making it over the last bump. If, on the other hand, he gets spat out the back like a rainbow turd when the road points uphill, it will be a free-for-all. The fast semi-climbers with descending skills like Nibbles are talking big about their chances. And who in their right minds would ever discount Faboo with his brommer or Gilbert once he fires the howitzers.

So rub your lucky rabbit’s foot and throw some salt over your shoulder; you’re going to need some divine intervention on this one. This year’s VSP is also the first year where we’ll be offering a special badge to the winner of the monuments. We can’t unveil the MSR Badge yet, but the winner of this VSP event will have the honor of posting with the badge until next year’s event. The winner will also receive a free Symbol Pack. Check the start list and get your picks in by 5am Pacific on Saturday morning; if timezone arithmetic isn’t your strong suit, just watch the countdown timer in the banner at the top of the site. As usual, your points go towards the overall VSP as well.

Good luck.

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537 Replies to “Velominati Super Prestige: Milano San-Remo 2012”

  1. What a world, what a world. I thought Cav would at least make it to the Poggio. Liquigas was smart to put the hammer down and get Nibali in the final break. And Gerrans even smarter to tuck in behind the big Swiss fucking 777. MSR is not as good a race for Fabian as both RVV and P-R. Big Tommeke crashed badly. Correction: not Tommeke? Well his teammate crashed badly, that must have hurt. Fuck me.

  2. Gerro did what any other racer with a brain and legs would do if he found himself 3 up with Cancellara. Liquigas were probably hoping it would come back together which would have been very well set up for Sagan. That very nearly happened.

  3. Where was Sky and Cav? I wasn’t able to watch any of it live. From the highlights I just saw seemed like there were quite a few crashes.

  4. @frank & @ChrisO:
    1. A win is a win. Gerrans did well to read and follow Nibali’s move and then descended brilliantly to stay close to Cancellara.

    2. You can win normally or you can win with panache. As fans, we can long for the romantic win””JVS soloing against all odds into the Roubaix velodrome””and we can admire the hardmen who put the hammer down as Cancellara does in every race. No one would deny that Spartacus was the strongest rider today.

    3. Based on 2, did Cancellara deserve to win? Perhaps. But take nothing away from Gerrans who beat 200+ riders to the line after racing for more than 300km.

    4. This is why I balk at the whole “first loser” nonsense that comes up on this site from time to time. What a great race. If I had my druthers, Spartacus would have got some distance from Gerrans and Nibali at the bottom of the Poggio and won, but win or lose, he’s consistently one of the most amazing animators of a bike race I have ever witnessed. And that’s why I watch. As a true fan, I’m less intent on marking the results on my wall and take more pleasure in reveling in the process of the unfolding drama, which is the whole race.

  5. @ChrisO

    +1

    Fabian is a great racer, serious hardman, and I have a ton of resprect for the guy. But he didn’t play his cards perfectly to win.

    If he wanted to win he really needed to either separate himself from the others on the climb before the decent, or make the others take pulls on the flat.

    And seriously why are we giving Gerrans such a hard time? Nibali sucked more wheel by the time things were said and done. Sure he attacked first but then just rode wheels to the finale, where he did nothing.

    Gerrans knew he could beat the three in the sprint. If the break didn’t make it then Gerrans and Nibali would be to blame. But the break did make it and Gerrans has the speed. Cards well played and a great win. The finish was plenty exciting and a runner-up spot for Fabian is a good result. His target races will come soon and his form looks good. I’m sure he’s happy enough.

  6. @frank
    C’mon Frank – you gotta own up that you do have an unfounded mild dislike for Gerro. You have bagged him in the past and your initial comment did say something about a career of wheel sucking – which is wrong given Gerro wins only in breakaways. A passenger in the last few ks? Maybe. But thats the game and he jumped beautifully with Nibbles.

    All I know is that it’s another Australian victory – and a Victorian one at that. So you can all go fuck yourselves. I’m off for a ride on Beach Road. Woohoo!

  7. Busy all day and missed it, but sounds like a corker – one to watch whilst supping a cold one later. What I didn’t expect was for my picking to work so well and find I’m now (joint) leader of the G.C! Awesome!

    At least if it all goes to rats from here I’ll have had the digi-jersey briefly. Now would you all quit slipstreaming me?!

  8. @frank

    What race did you watch? You got it wrong mate.

    There were three guys with three ways to win. Nibs had to attack on the Poggio, and Gerro was the only one to read it. Faboo was never gonna win a sprint, so had to drill it and kill the other two.
    Gerro was always gonna win the sprint, so just had to hold on to the Motorcus (and that’s hardly an easy wheel to ‘suck’).
    Nibali was never gonna win a sprint or ride away, so pretty much left them to it and hoped for a Bradbury.

  9. Fuck Cancellara. He’s a great second place finisher, and he got exactly what he deserved. A huge congratulations to Gerrans, who didn’t play the part of Fabian’s bitch.

  10. @King Clydesdale
    I think it was part of the team tactics. 75% of the time the guy who goes over the top with a few seconds gets caught. If the group had been chasing Nibali, or Nibali and Gerrans, Sagan would have had a free ride to the line. The only hitch was Spartacus bridging the gap. At that point Nibali sat on and Gerrans did what he should have: eat Fabian’s lunch before starting on his own.

  11. Here’s another tee that sums up my feelings:

    Gerrans won normally and that’s fair, hat’s off to him he deserves it, but with just a little more work he could have won with Panache. A small difference perhaps, but a difference nonetheless.

  12. @LA Dave

    Gerrans won normally and that’s fair, hat’s off to him he deserves it, but with just a little more work he could have won with Panache. A small difference perhaps, but a difference nonetheless.

    That’s bullshit too. He could’ve tried to ride in solo from 5km, sure… and lost. He was working hard to even get back on Fab’s wheel at the bottom of the descent, let alone get to the front (which he did a k and a half out).

  13. @LA Dave
    But that’s the problem, isn’t it? If he’d worked harder, Cancellara would have killed him in the finale. Gerrans took over the front with about 1km to go, but then Cancellara rolled right past him almost immediately as if to say “you’re not going fast enough.” Which was an issue. They really weren’t out of the woods from the group in pursuit until the final 300m or so.

  14. ok, I’ll give the point that is well deserving and that is a win is a win, and today, Gerrans won.

    But…and this is a but, question

    Will many people rememeber this for Gerrans, or another great ride by Cancellara
    Will we rememeber Gerrans 2 second grunt at the end?

    Wins are wins, but Great wins are the ones we remember and are not easily forgotten
    Like the win when Cancellara did go, ran like a rabid banshee for the final 1k and nipped the entire peloton

    Or like Gilberts win?
    and you can go on and on with others

    Was it a win, yes
    a great one? I’m not so sure on that

  15. I love Fabian, and he is often the strongest on the course, as he was today. But if he doesn’t start to use his head as much as his legs he will have more and more of these second place finishes.
    Hats off to Gerrans for a great finishing sprint.

  16. @Souleur
    But it was a win at the first race of the year that really means something. Gerrans won a Monument. I take your point that a decade from now we’ll probably remember how dominant Cancellara and Gilbert were during this era and be surprised by the names that Wikipedia lists as the winners of some of the main Classics, but that shouldn’t detract from the victories in the moment. And even if you don’t think poetic justice was served in the result, you can’t deny that today was a terrific day of racing.

  17. Did anyone even pick Gerrans in their 5? Cav not being there was delicious.

  18. With about 3 to go Fabian tried to drop Gerrans, which was the best and only way for Fabian to win but Gerro hung tough and got back on the express train. Nibbles was hanging on for dear life, I don’t think he did anything once Fabs started to drive. Chapeau to Gerrans for getting in the break with Nibs, staying on Fabs wheel through that awesome descent and roll into San Remo and for besting him in the sprint. Smart boy.

    I do love watching Fabs descend, a confident lad going into corners at speed.

  19. @Souleur
    Panache is a nice way of saying that someone is so much stronger than everyone else that tactics don’t matter.
    Or that they tried a stupid attack and got creamed by people racing intelligently.
    That’s pretty much it in the cold light of bike racing.
    Canc was working hard. There is no point coming around the strongest man in the world until you have to – and he did before the end. Frankly, I thought he’d lost it when he came around with 1.4km to go. I was amazed (and delighted) that Canc took the lead again.

    Everyone in the world knew that the race was Nibbles and Canc having to drop Gerrans before the end of the descent, and then Canc dropping him before the finish line.

    Everyone in the world apart from Canc and frank, it seems.

    If Cav had won a bunch sprint would we be speaking of wheel suckers?

  20. Alright, everyone have a nice long drink from the Rule V fountain and lets get to whats important. Good finishing salute, and good on GreenEdge for having the class to stick with the traditional National Champs jersery. That Aussie champ jersey looks magnificent whether there was panache or not. What’s really important here is Gerrans, Canca and Nibbles all Looked Magnificent.

  21. Gerrans after the race:

    “Without question, Fabian was strongest. He was going like a motorbike,” Gerrans said. “I was not as strong as Fabian, I will admit that, but you also have to play it a little smart.

    “I did what I could to stay there,” Gerrans continued, adding he did his bit of the work. “I did a turn across the top of Poggio, another short turn going into the final kilometer. I wasn’t going to do too much, not with a guy like [Vincenzo] Nibali sitting on the back. I did what I had to do and I had the fastest turn of speed in the final.”

    And Spartacus:

    “No one helped. I think that’s logical,” Cancellara said. “Vincenzo could not and would not because in the end he had Sagan behind. Gerrans gave two pulls, which was good, but in the end, if all three pulled until the end, maybe it would have been different.”

    No matter where you fall in this discussion the fact remains that it was a fantastic race, and a great way to start the classics season!

  22. @frank

    Alright, everyone have a nice long drink from the Rule V fountain and lets get to whats important. Good finishing salute, and good on GreenEdge for having the class to stick with the traditional National Champs jersery. That Aussie champ jersey looks magnificent whether there was panache or not.

    +1

  23. Good on Gerro. May not be maximum panache points, but he won the only way he could. If all that matters was being the strongest rider, we’d invent a race which got rid of race tactics. I dunno, say an event where every rider starts off a minute after the one before and no drafting is allowed and the rider with the best time wins. Something like that, anyway. I betcha Fabs would be good at that kind of race. Meantime, Gerro won by playing the cards he had as best he could – which is exactly what Fabs did. Gerro’s cards just happened to be the better hand. Today. Good on him, and good on GreenEdge. (and yes, as a Kiwi I am biased here: in the same way a Scotsman is biased when it comes to an Englishman winning a race…)

  24. @LA Dave
    +1!

    I’ll say one more thing here and I don’t mean this honestly: You Aussies are fuckin’ patriotic. If anyone gives your riders a sideways glance that isn’t totally beaming, you get all hot ‘n bothered. I fuckin’ love it.

    I’d also like to point out that I scored a fuckin’ donut because I gambled on fuckin’ Cav. Serves me right.

  25. I used to like Gerrans – he should wear a Dick Turpin outfit after that….boo!!!!

    Fabian is the winner again

  26. New VPS strategy:
    Pin start list to dart board
    Stand well back
    Put on blindfold
    Throw 5 darts
    Can’t be any worse than my picks this time.

    Consolation prize: almost 80 friggin degrees here in Wisconsin IN MARCH! 117 beautiful kms logged in the Kettle Moraine and the leprechauns from last week were elsewhere!

  27. @G’phant

    Good on Gerro. May not be maximum panache points, but he won the only way he could. If all that matters was being the strongest rider, we’d invent a race which got rid of race tactics. I dunno, say an event where every rider starts off a minute after the one before and no drafting is allowed and the rider with the best time wins. Something like that, anyway. I betcha Fabs would be good at that kind of race. Meantime, Gerro won by playing the cards he had as best he could – which is exactly what Fabs did. Gerro’s cards just happened to be the better hand. Today. Good on him, and good on GreenEdge. (and yes, as a Kiwi I am biased here: in the same way a Scotsman is biased when it comes to an Englishman winning a race…)

    I totally agree – I think he rode wheels and he’s even admitting that himself. It’s better than his Tour stage a while back where he got dropped, promised his break companions that he wouldn’t sprint if they waited for him and he sprinted and won (by the way, idiotic to wait for a ride you just dropped – they got what they deserverd) but there was no alternative.

    Nibbles did nothing – Gerro was not strong enough to help keep the break away, and Canca was the only one who could do it. And then, you’d have to be an idiot not to fight for the win when you get there – and I assume Fabian wouldn’t want the race gifted to him. It went the only way it could go, and we can spend the rest of the week arguing over style points on the tactics, and that’s what makes this such a cool fuckin’ sport.

  28. Yeah, wow.
    What an amazing race.
    Fronkly I find the discussion about the race result a bit distasteful.
    Cycling is a tactical sport. Discussions about panache or not, well…

    I seem to recall being embroiled in a heated discussion after the World Championships last year about a worthy winner.
    What I got out of that was that there are different types of races that produce worthy winners suited to that type of race. In his case, I believe Gerrans was a worthy winner, in spite of Cancellara’s immense power and talent.

    As for the wheelsucker comments, ponder this:

    Gerrans = Wheelsucker?
    Cavendish = Wheelsucker?

  29. @Steampunk
    Just watched the last ten k after finishing work today. Completely agree with Steamy.

    Also would add that Canc was amazingly strong but if he is unhappy with second place in MSR (and I realize that I am just a mortal here and Sparty is pretty much an immortal but second place in MSR is pretty frick’en AMAZING!!!) then he should be smart enough to realize that he cannot tow a sprinter to the line. Garrnes rode the smartest race that he could and even he was killing it there for about seven I just to hold Sparty’s wheel.

  30. @frank, @G’phant, @LA Dave
    Team perspective is important too — Liquigas had the best Plan B in Sagan, and as between Greenedge and Shack I’d have put my marbles on Goss over Bennati. All in all a fine start to the heart of the classics season.

  31. Great victory by Gerrans, he played his cards perfectly. To me a crafty and tactical win (especially in a Monument) when you know you’re perhaps not the strongest rider shows great panache, so good on him.

    It often seems around here that people get disappointed when the race doesn’t play out to some dreamy, romantic ideal scenario; to me that’s missing the point, and I’d rather deal with the result in the real world. The object of a bike race is to win the bike race, and bike races can’t always be won in glorious solo breaks.

  32. @G’phant

    If all that matters was being the strongest rider, we’d invent a race which got rid of race tactics. I dunno, say an event where every rider starts off a minute after the one before and no drafting is allowed and the rider with the best time wins. Something like that, anyway. I betcha Fabs would be good at that kind of race.

    Why that’s crazy talk!! Whatever would they call a race like that!

  33. @Oli

    Great victory by Gerrans, he played his cards perfectly. To me a crafty and tactical win (especially in a Monument) when you know you’re perhaps not the strongest rider shows great panache, so good on him.

    It often seems around here that people get disappointed when the race doesn’t play out to some dreamy, romantic ideal scenario; to me that’s missing the point, and I’d rather deal with the result in the real world. The object of a bike race is to win the bike race, and bike races can’t always be won in glorious solo breaks.

    Perfect.

  34. Okay, got my knee jerk reaction out of my system – a few moments of reflection, and really Gerrans did bloody well – did what he could, saved what he could, and timed his effort to perfection – Faboo needed to drop him on the descent and couldn’t – wasn’t really a wheel suck – guess I just want to see Faboo on top of the podium again, it’s been so long now (TT asides), given the joy he brings us all

    Bottom line is just how excited we all have been today – life needs this sort of drama – bring on the next one – there is no other opera to match this stuff

  35. ….by the way, did anyone else have both hands on the TV set at the finish today??

  36. @Dr C

    ….by the way, did anyone else have both hands on the TV set at the finish today??

    I would have done but my arm span is only about 6 feet

  37. @LA Dave

    Here’s another tee that sums up my feelings:

    Gerrans won normally and that’s fair, hat’s off to him he deserves it, but with just a little more work he could have won with Panache. A small difference perhaps, but a difference nonetheless.

    Seriously, are those t-shirts available or are you messing with us? I’d buy the Spartacus one no probs.

  38. @frank

    Fantastic! Is the kid shouting at them at the heart of the turn the Italian iteration of the young fella from Flanders, or is it the same kid grown up and displaced by changes to the Tour of Flanders route?

  39. Awesome day!

    What about the crash at the end? I just want to say that the way that the back of the rider’s head hit the deck would have been very bad if he hadn’t had a helmet on. Hope he’s ok.

  40. I was right and all of you were wrong. I knew the race would be too tough for Cav, I wondered to myself why all the noise from Haussler was getting traction, and honestly if Fab can’t come up with some new tactics soon then he’s going to be second a lot, he’s getting easier to pick than a dirty nose.
    Looks to be a stellar ride by Gerrans AND Nibbles, I was surprised to see both of them at the finish. I Don’t understand how a rider who is National Champ, has already won a tour this season and duked out a hilltop finish with Valverde in the TDU can be considered unworthy of winning a monument. He beat the strongest in the race to win.
    Bummer for Boonen and Freire, but at least Faboo looks like he’s learnt to sprint in the drops.

  41. When I first started racing seriously, a buddy of mine who was giving me guidance when I made Cat II, said “it’s almost never the strongest guy in the field that wins the race, but the guy that’s the smartest”. Nibbles could’t have helped if he wanted to on the flats, and Faboo tried a trick that I’ve used to success 1/100 times; try and bury the guys behind you with sheer willpower. While I’m not a big fan of Gerrans, he did what he had to do.

  42. OK- I missed the race today with family activities (me and my twin girls were in a taekwondo tournament- some iron was brought home by them!) and I am pissed that I missed the race and only picked two of the top five, but fuck me, if Mr. George Hincapie wasn’t in the thick of it till the finish. 20th… that guy is a stud!

  43. At one point near the end Faboo managed to get a 10m gap but the other two managed to get back on. I was expecting the “motorbike” to disappear into the distance but did not happen. Gerrans win was maybe not the most beautiful but was definitely functional.
    On a different note great to see old Johnny H put in another daring but fruitless attack. Got to love him, goes flat out every time!

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