Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Super Mario in Gent-Wevelgem

Peter Sagan's charismatic win in Sunday's Gent-Wevelgem was superb, sign of a true champion who knows when to take charge and when to push for the win. While many expected him to wait for the final sprint, he put in more than his fair share in a break of 13 riders, and left them all in the dust by attacking away. In the end, he had a 23-second advantage in a race that had been threatened with cancellation just hours prior.

His win reminded us of "Super Mario" Cipollini's three wins in Gent-Wevelgem: in 1992, 1993, and 2002. His first win was perhaps the most amusing one (Watch video starting at 1:55). What was to be a formality -- a field sprint -- had "Tashkent Terror" Djamolidine Abdoujaparov pull on Cipollini's seat post as Cipo was surging past him. The tug was enough to push Abdou ahead of Cipollini, however Cipo kept his cool and raised his arms in celebration anyway.

"I knew he'd get penalized," he said calmly.

Cipo's 1993 win was straightforward: he simply hit the gas and sprinted literally from the front, nobody was able to get around him.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Is Milano-Sanremo really a sprinters race?

In modern times this race has been billed as the "sprinters' classic," despite it having a series of sharp hills near the finish. This, after nearly 300 km of racing. Whether MSR comes down a field sprint is itself a difficult question to answer.

Curious to see whether and  how the sprinters' grip has strengthened, we look at whether the race ends in a sprint, starting from the 1960 edition to recent years. Which by the way, we don't view as having ended in a field sprint due to a very splintered front group. After some tweaking, we ended up with the following plot.

Does Milan-Sanremo end in a field sprint?

Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Roads to Milano-Sanremo

The latest freezing spell - blanketing snow on western Europe - had thrown a wrench into the preparation of many aspirants to the throne of Milano-Sanremo (MSR). It started with the change of day, from Saturday to Sunday. Suddenly, Belgium's little known Wednesday race the Nokere Koerse appeared to be the perfect last test before the lineup in Milan. Alas, snow forced cancellation of the event.

In previous post we have thought of how the pre-season, or early season, has changed. Which roads have the winners of Milano-Sanremo taken? We start with the latest, in 2012, when cheeky Australian Simon Gerrans won. He started his year with hard riding down under, including the Tour Down Under (TDU) and the various Aussie road races. Taking a break from racing, he resumed competition only in Paris-Nice (PN) on his way to victory.

Road to Samremo 2012.
On the other hand, second place Fabian Cancellara went to do the Tours of Qatar/Oman (TQO), then after some break from racing he went to Strade Bianche (SB), Tirreno-Adriatico (TA), and finally MSR. Third placer Vincenzo Nibali and fourth placer Peter Sagan, teammates in Team Cannondale, did nearly the same thing, although both skipped Strade Bianche. The fifth rider John Degenkolb did the harder route, from Qatar/Oman to Omloop Het Nieuwsblad to Paris-Nice.