Milan-San Remo 2021 - 'That's the best they've been as a unit' - Wiggins praises Ineos Grenadiers
Bradley Wiggins and Brian Smith joined Dan Lloyd for The Breakaway, where they discussed a dramatic end to Milan-San Remo which saw Jasper Stuyven beat the likes of Wout van Aert and Mathieu van der Poel to the win. Tom Pidcock was the highest finisher for Ineos Grenadiers, who earned praise from Wiggins.
'Absolutely wow!' - See how Stuyven claimed stunning Milan-San Remo win
Ineos Grenadiers didn’t manage a top-10 finish at the first Monument of the season at Milan-San Remo with Tom Pidcock placing 15th on debut, but Bradley Wiggins still had words of praise for his former team on The Breakaway.
Pidcock, the former Under-23 world cyclocross champion who joined Ineos in February, has had an explosive start to life at his new team having come third in Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne and fifth at Strade Bianche before heading into the biggest race of the 2021 season so far.
He attacked with 4.4km to go on the descent off the Poggio but seemed to quickly rein in his effort with team-mate Michal Kwiatkowski struggling to stay with the leading group. And when winner Jasper Stuyven launched his decisive attack, Pidcock was one of a number of riders who couldn’t respond.
Swallowed up in the bunch sprint at the end, Pidcock came in 15th with Kwiatkowski 17th, but Wiggins still had kind words for Ineos, who animated the race by setting a ferocious pace at the start of the Poggio climb through Filippo Ganna.
Highlights: Stuyven's late attack shocks the big boys at Milan-San Remo
“I would never put Tom down as a racer who could do well in a race like Milan-San Remo. Obviously he did well, but was he ever going to win it from there?” asked Wiggins on The Breakaway.
“Kwiatkowski, a previous winner, never looked like the Kwiatkowski of the past couple of years. But I actually think as a unit that’s the best they’ve rode and they really committed to it. I just don’t think they finished up.”
It was not only Pidcock who was caught out right at the end of the longest race of the season, a 299km epic ending in San Remo. The much-fancied trio of Julian Alaphilippe, Mathieu van der Poel and Wout van Aert were also outfoxed by Stuyven’s late attack.
'As a unit that's the best they've rode' - Wiggins has praise for Ineos
And while an element of luck may have come into play, Wiggins also paid tribute to the Belgian’s tactical nous.
“You can put a lot of it down to luck but I think it’s just taking the opportunity and that’s what he did,” said Wiggins.
“We saw the hesitation coming off the bottom of the Poggio. We saw Britain’s own Tom Pidcock there. Alaphilippe didn’t know whether to make a move or not and Jasper was the one who took that opportunity and it’s timing.
"You can almost put it down to luck, but just that split second, he waited right until the end so once the group kicked for their bunch sprint, Jasper went again, and that was just enough to hold it. Seven hours and the margins it comes down to. Half a bike at the end.”
Van der Poel 'doesn't have a strong enough team'
'He doesn’t have a strong enough team' - Smith on Van der Poel's big problem
Much was expected of Van der Poel, who was looking to add Milan-San Remo to a blooming palmares which already includes victories at the Tour of Flanders, Strade Bianche and Amstel Gold Race.
However, the attacks on the Poggio were not to the Dutchman's benefit and Brian Smith said his environment at Alpecin-Fenix, who are not full members of the UCI World Tour, was holding him back.
“He doesn’t have a strong enough team,” said Smith. “Everybody is saying he should be riding for a WorldTour team, well, he has chosen to be where he is, and pick and choose what races they actually ride.
“But I think that was a wee bit of a detriment to him today. He just didn’t have a strong enough team.
“Sagan is more experienced at doing it (riding alone). Mathieu van der Poel is still learning to do this. That is the difference.”
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