Milano-Sanremo, also called La Primavera is the first major classic and cycling monument of the year.
There are only five monuments on the calendar and all are one day classics, with each either being the oldest, the hardest, the most prestigious, or all three. The other four monuments, each with a long history and specific individual characteristics, are Ronde van Vlaanderen, Paris Roubaix, Liège–Bastogne–Liège and Giro di Lombardia.
Milano-Sanremo has always been a sprinter’s classic due to it being one of the longest races at 300km, along the mostly flat but spectacular Ligurian coast.
Last October we travelled to Bergamo to see the finish of the “Race of the Falling Leaves”, the Giro di Lombardia, which was an awesome experience as we watched the race hit a cobble stone section as it entered through the ancient stone doors to “Citta Alta” – the historic old part of the city.
Given we had seen one Italian monument, we thought that we should definitely round out the experience and see Milano-Sanremo this year to complete the ‘Italian collection’.
Damian had seen some images from the 1960’s of the race going through a tunnel at the edge of the Mediterranean sea, and thought that it would be a great location to watch the race. When it became time to consult the race map to work out the Galleria or tunnel locations and select a spot, the seaside village of Noli looked like a great location to watch the race and take a couple of spectacular photos.
However, not everything goes to plan and this was the case when we went to check the location the day before the race. The edge of the road was under construction, with fencing and orange high visibility netting leading to the tunnel.
Ok, time for plan B.
We kept walking through the tunnel, then further round one bend, and a second until we found a spot that we thought would definitely give us a great photo opportunity. Content with our spot selection, we headed back into Noli and enjoyed a sensational pre-race day aperitivo and seafood dinner, Ligurian style.
Race day arrived and we headed up to our spot an hour or so before the race was due to arrive to Noli. Always with an eye to seeking out the best locations, and with a little time up our sleeve, we decided to venture a little further around a third bend and we’re glad we did as this new spot gave us the opportunity for elevation and a shot in both directions. Perfetto.
We took our position and were set, and by now only had a short 40 minute wait until the breakaway arrived. What a location to just sit and admire the view, buffeted by the strong breeze and intermittently checking the race’s live feed.
There were only another three people standing with us on a very narrow edge of a road that is literally cut out from the side of a cliff. However, as the race got closer, the press cars started to arrive and then the photographers on motorbikes…… it was getting close.
The last two official photographers arrived on moto’s and pulled up in front of us, joining our prime location with one guy finally perching himself in a higher and more precarious position on ‘our rock’ than you could think was possible. Having a chat with him as we awaited the race’s arrival was one of those unexpected moments that gave even more depth to an already amazing experience.
Then the race arrived, and just blasted through this narrow twisting section of road, and as the chopper kept following the bikes towards Sanremo and the team cars thinned, that was the live race done for us. Short, but incredible to see.
We took the short walk back to Noli and joined some other tifosi at a bar with a TV outside showing the race. Over aperitivo, we watched the remaining action – the blistering pace on the Cipressa, Pogacar’s continual attacks on the Poggio and then Mohoric’s sensational descent, using every millimetre of the road and putting everything in. What an epic win.
Chapeau Matej Mohoric.
If you want to experience the thrill and action of some of Italy’s great races, click the link here to find out more about our Giro d’Italia tour.