Wout Van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) admitted that he took the wrong decisions in a tense finale in Milan-San Remo that saw Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo) attack and win when breaking away from the descent of the Poggio.
Stuyven held off a final chase from a group of favourites with Caleb Ewan (Lotto Soudal) finishing second once more and Van Aert completing the podium.
Van Aert had put his team to work on the Cipressa and then followed when Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-QuickStep) attacked towards the top of the Poggio. The two riders, who decided last year’s race with a similar move, were unable to drop the rest of their rivals, and a group of around a dozen riders formed at the base of the Poggio after the descent.
Stuyven’s move was perfectly timed, and without teammates and his rivals watching him, Van Aert chose to hold back.
“Like always it was fast descent of the Poggio. Straight at the bottom, Jasper went on the attack. It was a really good movie and then afterwards it was a bit hard for me to chase because I didn’t want to waste my chances in the sprint,” Van Aert said at the finish.
“Of course a lot of guys were looking at me but I just came up short. In the end, Caleb was a bit faster than me in the sprint from our group. It’s always a difficult final few kilometers but today I gambled wrong.”
Van Aert admitted that he was surprised that so many riders were still in contention on the Poggio, but the fireworks came too late after Ineos Grenadiers had set a fast tempo during most of the final climb.
The majority of pre-race favourites were still in contention during the descent but Stuyven’s move was perfectly timed and Van Aert was unwilling to lead the entire chase and sacrifice his sprint chances in the process.
“It was surprising for me that we were quite a big group at the top. We attacked, I did with Julian [Alaphilippe], but apparently it wasn’t fast enough to make a difference. It was still a good opportunity for me.
“I have a good sprint after a hard race but it was difficult to take the right decisions in the end. Nevertheless, we have a nice winner and we have to be satisfied with third place.”