March 23 is an important date for Italian cycling fans as it is that of the Classicissima, the Milano-Sanremo, one of the most evocative and fascinating road-cycling races in the world. It has appeared in several novels and films, not to mention many memorable stories, and is part of Italy’s sporting and cultural history. Only a very few other competitions in the world – such as the Tour of Flanders, the Paris-Roubaix, the Liege-Bastogne-Liege and the Giro di Lombardia (“Lombardy Tour”) – enjoy the same stature.
Enel may follow the Giro d'Italia and sponsor the famous Maglia Rosa (“Pink Jersey”) but it also supports classic races throughout the year. For us, the season kicked off on March 10 with the Gran Fondo Strade Bianche and will draw to a close on October 13 with Il Lombardia.
2018 was the year of the “Shark of the Strait,” Vincenzo Nibali, who brought the Milano-Sanremo back to Italian cycling 12 years after his compatriot Filippo Pozzato’s triumph and the unforgettable all-Italian podium of 2006. Winning the race really does mean having your name added to the list of the sport’s true greats.
The Milano-Sanremo is a mix of toil, charm and tradition: Its 291-kilometre route makes it Italy’s longest one-day race. It follows a very similar itinerary to the first edition held in 1907, with 33 competitors starting out from the Osteria della Conca Fallata on Milan’s Naviglio Pavese canal. Since then, it has gone on to become a showcase for the talents of all the great Italian cycling champions: from Costante Girardengo, who won it six times, to Gino Bartali and Fausto Coppi and then Mario Cipollini, Paolo Bettini, Gianni Bugno and Claudio Chiappucci. The foreign riders who have added their name to its roll of honour include Mark Cavendish, Erik Zabel and Eddy Merckx, the only cyclist to have won the classic seven times.
Its place on the calendar has also helped create the Milano-Sanremo legend as it is always held in March and thus the conditions are often extreme with competitors battling wind, rain and even snow, turning the race into an epic undertaking that goes beyond the sporting.
The 110th edition takes place on March 23 with the off at 9.45 in the morning and the finish estimated at around 5 in the afternoon. The route winds its way from Milan southwards to Pavia, then Voghera and Tortona all the way to the Passo del Turchino which, at 532 metres, is the highest point of the race. After that it is downhill to Voltri on the Ligurian coast and then southwestwards along the Sunset Riviera to Sanremo.
Aside from being a piece of cycling history, the race is also an homage to the great treasures of this particular corner of Italy. This is one of the reasons why Enel is so passionate about supporting cycling: it is a sport that, unlike any other, manages to bring together the beauty of athletic activity with that of the landscape. So let’s get ready for a dive into beauty with the Milano-Sanremo, which will thrill our hearts once again.