Saturday 17 March 2012

Milan-San Remo Trivia

Lucien Petit-Breton won the first
Milan-San Rem in 1907
Want to see a video of Milan-San Remo in 1960? There are two at the bottom of this list!

Lucien Petit-Breton won the first Milan-San Remo in 1907. He won the Tour de France that year too (as he would again in 1908).

The 1907 edition began at 04:00, before the sun came up. It was 288km long and 33 riders took part - 62 had registered to take part, but 29 failed to show up due to cold and windy weather. Organiser Eugenio Costamagna was unsure if anyone was physically capable of cycling the route he chose, but Petit-Breton took 11h04'15" to reach the finish line. Only 13 other riders finished the race.

Milan was chosen as the start of the race because it was then the centre of the Italian bicycle manufacturing industry. It finished in San Remo because the idea to hold the race was first thought up by the Unione Sportiva Sanremese, a sports club in the town.

In the early days, riders were not permitted to receive any help during the race. They couldn't change bikes if one was broken and were not allowed to make use of spare parts - if something broke, they had to either fix it themselves or abandon the race.

Milan-San Remo, 1910
In 1910, snow fell so heavily on the Passo del Turchino that only four out of 63 riders made it over the mountain. Luigi Ganna, who had won the year before, was one of them but became the first rider to be  disqualified when judges discovered he'd been given a lift in a car. Winner Eugène Christophe took 12h24" to reach the finish line, but suffered such bad frostbite that it took him two years to recover.

The Passo del Turchino has also appeared in the Giro d'Italia, most recently in 2009 when Stefano Garzelli was the first to the summit.

Australian riders took part for the first time in 1914. They were Charles Piercey, Ivan "Snowy" Munroe and Donald Kirkham - Munroe and Kirkham were also the first Australians to take part in the Tour de France that same year. The first Australian to win was Matt Goss in 2011. He's in the race again today (1, GreenEDGE).

1953 was the first year in which Milan-San Remo was won in less than seven hours - Loretto Petrucci took 6h59'20".

Eddy Merckx won Milan-San Rem seven times (1966, 1967, 1969, 1971, 1972, 1975, 1976) - a record not just in this race, but in all the one-day Classics. Costante Girardengo is in second place with six wins (1918, 1921, 1923, 1925, 1926, 1928).

Bianchi is the most successful team in Milan-San Remo - they won 17 times. Their first winning rider was Lucien Petit-Breton in the first ever race (1907) and the last was Felice Gimondi (1974).

The Italian rider Wladimiro Panizza holds the record for taking part the most times - he rode in 18 editions and finished all but one of them.

No rider has ever won Milan-Remo for more than two years consecutively. The first to win two in a row was Costante Girardengo in 1925 and 1926. Eddy Merckx did so three times. The most recent rider to do so was the German Erik Zabel in 2000 and 2001 - he also won in 1997 and 1998 and thus shares the honour of being the third most successful rider in this race with Gino Bartali (1939, 1940, 1947, 1950).

Tom Simpson wins, 1964
British riders in Milan-San Remo: Tom Simpson, who died on Mont Ventoux during the Tour de France of 1967, became the first British rider to win in 1964. Mark Cavendish won in 2009 and is a favourite for victory today (201, Sky) - the other British riders this year are David Millar (106, Garmin-Barracuda), Jeremy Hunt (205, Sky) and Ian Stannard (208, Sky). Irishman Sean Kelly won twice, in 1986 and 1992.

Italian riders have won Milan-San Remo 50 times. The Belgians are in second place with 20, then the French with 12. Britain shares sixth place with Ireland and Switzerland, each on two wins.  Fabian Cancellara (191, RadioShack-Nissan) is also a favourite today, so there's a good chance that either Britain or Switzerland will be moving up to share fifth place with the Netherlands.

Milan-San Remo almost invariably ends in a bunch sprint, which has led to it becoming known as the Sprinter's Classic. The Giro di Lombardia, which pre-dates Milan-San Remo by two years, is the Climber's Classic. The two races are sometimes called sisters.

Fausto Coppi, considered by some to be the greatest
cyclist ever, leads the race over Capo Mele in 1948
Each year, Milan-San Remo is the first of the Monuments; the five most important Classics and, in the opinion of many, the most important races of all after the three Grand Tours (Tour de France, Giro d'Italia, Vuelta a Espana). Its sister, the Giro di Lombardia - the only Monument to take place outside March and April - is the last.

In the early days of the race, the Passo el Turchino was often the decisive point in the race. As cyclists have become fitter and the bikes have improved, the peloton hardly changes shape as it sweeps up and over today. More climbs have been added over the years - the Poggio di San Remo in 1960 (added in an attempt to prevent the race ending with a bunch sprint every year), the Cipressa in 1982 and Le Manie in 2008. There are also the three Capi, low hills situated between Le Manie and Cipressa.

Turchino is by far the highest point in the race with a summit (marked by the tunnel) at 532m above sea level. Le Manie is second at 318m, Cipressa third at 239m and Poggio fourth at 160m. The Capi are mere bumps by the standards of professional cycling: Capo Mele is 67m, Capo Cervo 61m and Capo Betra 130m. You can see an altitude profile here.

Most riders dislike riding through tunnels even today when they're brightly-lit. In the early days of Milan-San Remo, they were dark, damp, cold and frightening places and even the toughest riders hated them. Fans would line up along the sides with lanterns so their heroes could see where they were going.

In 1984, the Dutch rider Jan Raas was in a crash that threw him into the air. He landed in a tree and broke some ribs.

1990 was the fastest Milan-San Remo ever. Gianni Bugno won in 6h25'06" at an average speed of 45.8kph.

Of the riders taking part today, Spain's
Oscar Freire is the most successful in
this race with three wins
(image credit: Petit Brun CC BY-SA 2.0)
The longest period between wins by the same rider is eleven years. Gino Bartali won his first edition in 1939 and his last in 1950. He holds the same record at the Tour de France, where he won his first in 1938 and his last in 1948.

Cheng Ji, riding today with the 1t4i team (178), is the first Chinese rider to ever take part in Milan-San Remo.

In 2004, Erik Zabel was so certain he was going to win that he sat up on the bike and raised his arms in the air. Spanish rider Oscar Freire saw an opportunity and launched himself at the finish line, getting ahead and winning the race. Freire is riding again today (111, Katusha) - he's known as a clever rider and could pull off a similar trick today.

200 riders are registered to take part today. Six of them have won it before:  Matt Goss (1, GreenEDGE), Mark Cavendish (201, Sky), Fabian Cancellara (191, RadioShack-Nissan), Filippo Pozzato (81, Farnese Vini - Selle Italia), Oscar Freire (111, Katusha) and Alessandro Petacchi (121, Lampre-ISD). Freire has won three times, the rest once each.

Milan-San Remo has been held every year since 1907 except for 1916, 1944 and 1945.

This year, the race is 298km (185 miles) - which makes it the longest of the Classic races. That's the same as riding from London to Liverpool.

Videos: Milan-San Remo 1960

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