Although Milan-San Remo is one of the oldest cycling races on the calendar, since time immemorial it has been ridden over the Passo Turchino, Tre Capi, Cipressa, and Poggio to finish on the Via Roma. This year they will not cycle over the Passo Turchino because it is inaccessible due to a landslide in the approach to the climb. This gives us the opportunity to have a look at the changes in the route, and especially the climbs, in this classic. Below an overview of the most important climbs of Milan San Remo through the years.
Oldest climb in Milan San Remo which is still used in the race. In 1910 there was so much snow at the top that of the 63 participants only four made it to the finish. Fausto Coppi was in 1946 the last rider who came over the top of the Passo del Turchino first and also won in San Remo (14 minutes ahead of the number two). In recent years, the climb has not proven selective. In 2020, at the ‘restart’ of the season, some mayors of the Province of Savona were opposed to the arrival of the bunch in their municipality, which drastically changed the route. As a result, famous climbs such as the Turchino and three Capi were removed from the course. The climbs of the Niella Belbo and the Colle di Nava were added to the course as replacements.
2001 and 2002 a landslide near the locality of Fado on the Passo Turchino closed the road. For the first time in 94 years, the traditional Turchino Pass was not present in the route of Milan-San Remo. The race had to deviate via the Bric Berton, another pass between the inland plains and the coast. The pass is higher and steeper but didn’t change the race noticeably.
The climb of Le Mànie was added in 2008, due to a landslide on the Via Aurelia near Capo Noli. The climb had a big impact on the race in both 2011 and 2012. In 2011, a group of 44 riders, including winner Matt Goss, was able to break away due to a series of crashes in the rainy descent. For much of the remaining 90 kilometers, the gap to the chasing group was tantalizingly small, but they were not caught. In 2012, the climb became the waterloo of Mark Cavendish, who was one of the high favorites. Liquigas-Cannondale increased the pace at the front of the peloton and as a result, Cavendish was quickly forced to drop out. Despite the efforts of his teammates, he was unable to come back. In 2014, the Mànie climb was removed and the classic route returned.
The “queen’s climb” of the San Remo at the beginning of the century, the one that usually won the battle, was Capo Berta, whose summit was then 29 km from the finish line. After the Second World War, the Tre Capi proved to be no longer selective enough, especially after the reconstruction works not only repaired the destroyed or damaged roads but also significantly improved the road surface. A new and smooth asphalt layer was introduced, eliminating potholes and hollows. This made selection on this route considerably more difficult. The organizers also noticed this and towards the end of the 1950s began a search for a new obstacle in the final. This would be the Poggio.
In 1982 the organization had decided that the race had to become more demanding, so a new climb in the final was necessary. This became the Cipressa. The climb is about 5.5 kilometers long with an average gradient of 4 percent; the steepest part, of 9 percent, comes just over halfway. It is a great place for a breakaway, as it is about 20 kilometers from the finish. In the run-up to the Cipressa, there is always a battle for position on the narrow, twisty climb.
Instead of riding directly along the coast to San Remo, the climb of the Poggio was added to the route in 1960. Although the climb in itself is nothing special by professional cyclists’ standards, it has become the centerpiece of Milan-San Remo. A brilliant move by the organizers because it immediately produced winners such as Raymond Poulidor and Eddy Merckx.In recent years, the Poggio has provided plenty of fireworks. In the 2017 edition, Kwiatkowski, Sagan, and Alaphilippe managed to escape from the peloton and Kwiatkowski eventually won the sprint.In 2018, Vincenzo Nibali escaped on the Poggio and managed to stay ahead of the chasing pack. in 2019, Alaphilippe exploded on the Poggio to win the sprint on the Via Roma. In 2020 Alaphilippe also attacked on the Poggio and knows how to get away from the peloton. Only Van Aert is able to stay close to Alaphilippe and eventually wins the sprint on the Via Roma.
Niella Belbo and the Colle di Nava
In 2020, at the ‘restart’ of the corona season, some mayors of the province of Savona opposed the arrival of the peloton in their municipality, leading to drastic changes in the route. As a result, famous climbs such as the Turchino and the Tre Capi were removed from the route. The climbs of the Niella Belbo and the Colle di Nava were included as replacements in order to get back on familiar terrain just before the Cipressa.
Colle del Giovo
In the 2021 edition Milan-San Remo will not go over the Turchino, but over the Colle del Giovo. The Turchino is closed in 2021 because of a landslide in the approach of the climb.