What I love about Milan-San Remo is its devastating simplicity.
The Cipressa is not a hard climb. The Poggio is not a hard climb. I've done neither, granted, but I've looked at the maps and the charts and the figures. The Poggio is less than 4k, at less than a 4% grade. These are no alpine slopes, no devastatingly steep hellingen. But they come toward the end of almost 300 kilometers.
That makes Milan-San Remo extremely simple and utterly treacherous to predict. Put the Poggio, its descent, and the remaining handful of kilometers at the end of 220 or even 250 kilometers, and a field sprint is a safe bet. Stretch it out to Milan-San Remo's full 298 kilometers and we start to wonder, don't we?
Vicenzo Nibali attacked on the Poggio and didn't open up much space. He was joined by Gerrans and Cancellara and they crested the hill and began that twisting descent with 4 seconds over the pack. Four seconds! Led by Cancellara's diesel the trio held of the small chase group, finishing just two seconds ahead. Two seconds!
As the longest race on the pro calendar, Milan-San Remo has the distinction of being able to claim that its distance truly wears riders down to the point where a hill that would be damn near inconsequential elsewhere becomes decisive. It can boast that this as the potential for anything ranging from a solo finish to a field sprint. It's this variability that makes it La Classicissima.
A good writer will tell you that simplicity has the most profound effect. So too it is with Milan-San Remo.