Ballsing it up at the foot of the Poggio.
VINCENZO NIBALI AND THE 43 EUNUCHS
Vincenzo Nibali’s last dig at Milan-Sanremo came after all the finishers had crossed the line. “Where are the riders with balls of once upon a time?” he tweeted.
Firstly, bit of a strange, Italian male chauvinist dig, right? And secondly, apparently attacking too early and dying on your sword makes you a red-blooded bloke.
Milan-Sanremo is a race in which the aggregation of small expenditures are fatal. It is a test of team-mates, timing, tactics, hydration, focus, stamina, everything (Nibali knew all this too).
The Cipressa and Poggio are small-fry climbs, but after 270 kilometres, they become sapping giants. It’s a balance, a subtle, thinking man’s ‘who-wunit’, that keeps you on edge till the finale. Brain cells serve you better than “balls” here.
Nibali’s attack on the Cipressa was a grand gesture, throwing caution to the wind (and the rain and cold). Sure, he wanted some company, but why would favourites like Gilbert, Cancellara or Sagan commit so suicidally early? Nibali is loved for his audacity, but this move was as ill-judged as it was bold. How far short he came up showed just that. When not combined with intelligent timing or blow-them-away form, it was pointless panache on a day for Nordic intrigue, not Italian flamboyance.
At the end of a nip-tuck edition of the race, there was a joy in how Milan-Sanremo messes with expectations, both of viewers and of the riders. A racer who has done 300 cold kilometres responds very differently at the finish compared to one who has covered 250 or 200. Sagan, the red-hot favourite, was oddly lukewarm. Cancellara believed he could win – and very nearly did. Cavendish too, but his body put the handbrake up with 50 metres to go.
So, to glance at the results, where do riders with balls finish? 44th, Vincenzo Nibali, behind forty-three eunuchs with bigger racing brains, presumably.
Alexander Kristoff may not have attacked, but I’ll bet he felt pretty manly when he woke up and saw the trophy next to his bed on Monday morning.
114 – The number of riders who finished Milan-Sanremo this year: the lowest total since 1990.
British talent Gabriel Cullaigh takes victory in a big Belgian junior race, but the post-race interview goes to the Belgian runner-up, who delivers some world-class whining and face pulling.
Enjoy this clip of Bradley Wiggins playing at TV presenter and interviewing a squirming Edvald Boasson Hagen at the 2010 Tour. That’s the post-cycling job sorted, then.
Coppi and Bartali Week starts today. Here’s a fine 1990 documentary, exploring the great rivalry and battles of the two cycling legends.
Did this wibble make you wobble? Do you reckon Nibali’s attack was a masterclass in timing? Got a favourite Youtube throwback to share? Get in touch @rouleurmagazine on Twitter or firstname.lastname@example.org by email.
This artcle was corrected on March 28. Bradley Wiggins’s birthday falls on April 28, not March 28, as we had it.