Milano-Torino: Arvid de Kleijn outsprints Fernando Gaviria for first win of the year
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Arvid de Kleijn (Tudor Pro Cycling) claimed a surprise victory at Milano-Torino after he beat Fernando Gaviria (Movistar) and Casper van Uden (Team DSM) in the bunch sprint in Orbassano.
The flat course was always likely to produce a mass finish, but few would have anticipated that De Kleijn would emerge victorious from a field that included fast men of the calibre of Mark Cavendish (Astana-Qazaqstan), Biniam Girmay (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert) and Dylan Groenewegen (Jayco-Alula).
Tudor Pro Cycling, however, signalled their ambition by playing a prominent role in the pace-making at the head of the peloton on the run-in, while De Kleijn’s teammate Maikel Zijlaard led out the sprint off the crown of the final bend with a little over 300 metres to go.
De Kleijn was parked on Van Uden’s wheel before he delivered a fearsome kick to hit the front. Gaviria closed rapidly in the final metres but he was unable to find any room along the barriers to come past De Kleijn, who drifted slightly in the sprint, but not enough to spring the commissaires into action.
Nacer Bouhanni (Arkea-Samsic) placed 6th, Jordi Meeus (Bora-Hansgrohe) took 7th and Groenewegen had to settle for 10th as De Kleijn claimed the spoils.
“I feel great. I actually feel really great,” De Kleijn said. “The team did an amazing job by putting me in a good position and eventually when I went for the 300m corner, I knew I was going to win. I felt it.”
It was the sixth win of the Dutchman’s career and his first since joining Tudor Pro Cycling from Human Powered Health during the off-season. De Kleijn arrived at Milano-Torino buoyed by two top-five finishes against elite opposition at the UAE Tour, and he paid tribute to the confidence shown in him by Tudor, who are in their first campaign as a ProTeam.
“Everybody around me says I’m capable of winning so then you believe it yourself,” De Kleijn said. “I have a good group of guys around me, and at the end I just felt like, ‘I can win here.’
“It’s great. I think now we have a good thing going on with this team, a good lead-out. We showed today that we’re capable of doing crazy stuff.”
How it unfolded
RCS Sport’s decision to return Milano-Torino to its old March slot last year also saw the race take on a new guise as a warm-up race for Milan-San Remo. The evocative climb of Superga, so intrinsic to the identity of the race – and the summit finish since the event was rebooted in 2012 – was removed from the route altogether, with the finish shifted further away from the city of Turin.
Last year, Rivoli provide the finale as Mark Cavendish sprinted to victory, while this time out Orbassano was the finish town, but the change did little to alter the tenor of the race. It was already all but certain that the race would again be decided in a bunch sprint, though that wasn’t a deterrent to men like Matej Mohorič (Bahrain Victorious), who acknowledged that he had lined out here largely to work on his leg speed ahead of Saturday’s main event.
For the fast finishers like Cavendish, too, the prospect of an extra’s day of racing before La Primavera was a welcome one. “If we didn’t race, we’d have a long week before Milan-San Remo, so it’s good to have a flat 200k today,” Cavendish said.
Despite the grim prognosis for breakaways, Alessandro Iacchi, Veljko Stojnic (Team Corratec), Johan Meens (Bingoal WB), Stefan De Bod (EF Education-Easypost), Alessio Nieri (Green Project Bardiani CSF Faizané) and Andrea Pietrobon (Eolo-Kometa) forged clear shortly after the start in Rho, quickly amassing a lead of 3:30 over the bunch.
That was as much leeway as a grand coalition of sprinters’ teams was prepared to concede. Arkéa-Samsic, DSM, Bora-Hansgrohe and Jayco-AlUla were among the teams contributing to the pursuit, and the break’s lead gradually wilted as the afternoon progressed, with the last survivors of the move reeled in with 13km to go.
From there, the bunch finish was inevitable, though the run-in was not without its drama. Matteo Maluecelli (Bingoal-WB) was among the fallers when the peloton merged after a roundabout with 6km to go. The Italian was able to remount but he would play no part in the sprint.
Q36.5 led the bunch into the final 2km before DSM took over with 1,500 metres remaining, but it was Zijlaard who led out the sprint for De Kleijn.
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