The first of the so-called “Monuments,” the toughest, most famous and best-loved line races in cycling: the Milan-Sanremo!
At the top of the roll of honour is Lucien Georges Mazan, better known as “Petit-Breton,” who won the first official edition in 1907. That said, a test run had been held the previous year but over two stages, Milan-Acqui and Acqui-Sanremo, as at the time it seemed like utter madness to attempt to cycle the entire distance between the Lombardy capital and the City of Flowers in a single day.
Since then, all the greats in cycling history (and I really do mean all) have cycled the near-300-kilometre route which sometimes gives us a taste of all four seasons in one day, in weather terms. Eddy Merckx has won it most often (seven times, between 1966 and 1976). Although he is only credited with six official wins, Costante Girardengo (between 1918 and 1928), would definitely have won more had the poor conditions of the roads of the day not damaged his bike or caused him to be disqualified.
There have been a total of 50 Italian winners in all but none since Pippo Pozzato, who is competing this year, did it in 2006. Or will this year be a return match between Michal Kwiatkowski (the newly-crowned winner of the Tirreno-Adriatico and the first Pole to take the title) and world champion Peter Sagan, who last year was defeated by a tyre issue but now has the chance to become the first Slovakian cyclist to hoist that nation’s flag on the promenade? Or will it fall to Elia Viviani to break the Italian dry spell?