This Spring Classics season we selected 7 locations along the routes of the legendary one day races to define their significance in cycling history.
For 364 days of the year it is just another quiet road junction in Northern Italy, but on that Saturday in March it’s a pivotal point in one of the best bike races in the world.
The village of Poggio sits on a hill overlooking the grand seaside resort of San Remo. Leave the main coast road, climb the Via Duca D’Aosta, a narrow road that winds past olive groves and pastel-coloured villas, and you will eventually come to this famous junction. Not that it looks particularly special. There’s a post office, a scrubby children’s playground and a bus-stop with the usual graffiti. Turn right and you will climb deeper into the hills, turn left and you will drop back to the coast.
And yet… for cycling fans this mere road junction is packed with meaning. It is the end of the final climb in Milan-San Remo, the first monument of the year. 293 kilometers have been covered, 5 kilometers remain. From powering up the Poggio on the big ring, the riders are suddenly plunging down a highly technical descent. One mistake – very easy when you’re tired – and you could be plunging into one of the long greenhouses that nestle beside the road, or over a stone wall.
Milan-San Remo is a finely nuanced race. Depending on how the tactics play out, it can be won by a climber, a rouleur, a sprinter or a puncheur. The sprinters are desperately trying to hang in there over the Cipressa and Poggio. The climbers lament the relative tameness of these climbs. There is only so much damage you can do on a climb of 3.6km with an average gradient of 3.7%.
By this famous junction, where crowds line the road with TV helicopters clattering overhead, the tactical options are closing down. The climbers’ hopes are yet again dashed, but the sprinter still in the wheels is beginning to salivate, and for everyone else there’s still a faint hope. In the flat broad boulevards of San Remo, a surprise attack might just work. Choose your moment carefully and you might just go down in history.