March 20, 2011 by Irish Peloton
Milan San Remo Trivia Special
Matt Goss’s victory in Milan San Remo came after one of the most exciting races in recent years. It also threw up many an interesting fact to keep us sad anoraks occupied and amused.
It was the first victory in Milan San Remo by an Australian, and indeed it was also the first win in this race by any rider from outside of Europe. Goss isn’t the first Australian winner of a monument classic though, as that honour befell Stuart O’ Grady in 2007 when he won Paris-Roubaix.
Thor Hushovd was a major favourite before the race and was aiming to win La Primavera as the reigning World Champion. Even though Oscar Freire has won Milan San Remo and the World Road Race Championship on three occasions each, he never tasted victory in San Remo while wearing the Rainbow Jersey. As it happened, both Freire and Hushovd ended up in the wrong half of the split peloton as both riders succumbed to crashes. The last rider to achieve this feat was Giuseppe Saronni way back in 1983. Indeed, having won the Worlds in Goodwood in 1982, he accomplished the ultimate Italian hat-trick of winning the Tour of Lombardy, Milan San Remo and the Giro d’Italia all as World Champion.
Sticking with the road race champion theme, Giovanni Visconti, the current Italian national champion had a chance to accomplish a feat which hasn’t been done since long before Saronni’s time. The last rider to win Milan San Remo as the Italian champion was Adolfo Leoni in 1942. But unfortunately for Visconti he also ended up in the massive chase group which got left behind with about 80km to go.
Goss’s win in Milan San Remo has been preceded in the last few years by victories for Freire, Mark Cavendish, Fabian Cancellara and Freire again. Thus, it has been five years since an Italian has won the sprinters’ classic; that was Filippo Pozzato in 2006. Italians are fond of winning their own races (five years is the longest stretch the Giro has ever gone without a home winner), but this current run of five years is not even nearly the most in a row without an Italian Milan San Remo winner. Since Loretto Petrucci’s win in 1953, the Italians had to endure victories by foreigners from Belgium, France, Germany, Great Britain, Spain and The Netherlands before Michele Dancelli ended the 16-year barren spell in 1970. Even Raymond Poulidor tasted victory in the meantime – he didn’t always finish second!
Filippo Pozzato was only notable in this year’s edition because he continued doing what he has done in the last number of classics. He didn’t attack and instead marked and chased down one of the major favourites for victory. Tom Boonen has been on the wrong end of the stick in the past, but this time Pozzato set his sights on nullifying Phillipe Gilbert’s chances of victory by successfully chasing him down inside the final two kilometres. Pozzato’s previous classic victory remains the 2006 edition of Milan San Remo. His race tactics continue to suggest that it will be his last. As for Gilbert, despite being chased down by Pozzato, he still managed third place which continues his remarkable run in the classics. He has now finished in the top 10 of the last eight monument classics he has ridden.
Pozzato’s appearance in the top five did lead to a rather interesting stat. Matt Goss finished on the podium ahead of Cancellara and Gilbert, both former winners of monument classic. If we include Goss as a monument winner (which is cheating a little bit but we’ll carry on), that’s a podium filled with monument winners. This has actually happened in Milan San Remo before on six occasions, including last year with Freire, Boonen and Petacchi finishing in that order. The other years where this has occurred are 1974, 1959, 1958, 1930 and 1920.
But with Alessandro Ballan and Filippo Pozzato finishing in fourth and fifth this year, the top five places were filled with monument winners. This has never happened before in Milan San Remo and only goes to accentuate what Matt Goss was up against in winning this race.
And I did all that without mentioning Sean Kelly’s win in 1992…