Milan - Sanremo 2002
At the 14th attempt of his wonderful career, he did conquer with merit the very Classic race, Milano-SanRemo, dominating a group of about 50 riders at the final sprint.
Nothing to be amazed of actually that Mario won a sprint, considering that Cipollini has been acknowledged as the best sprinter of the last decade, and that during his sprints he can thrust a power of 1600-1800 watts!
An intense and well scheduled winter training has brought him to this important cycling event stronger in uphills and more resistant to such long distances, allowing him to compete with the strongest riders of the moment, notwithstanding the 2 final climbs, the latest of those, the Poggio, located at just 6km to the finish line.
But the circumstances, as it often happens to winners, were favourable to Mario.
I’m not referring to the crashes that expelled Zabel, Dekker and DiLuca, but to the wind blowing opposite the pace of the riders both on the Cipressa and the Poggio ascents.
The Poggio is 3.7 km long and has been climbed in 6’15” at the average speed of 35.5 km/h.
At such a speed when a cyclist follows the wheels of another single rider, he does save something like 80-100 watts of power. If there’s a wind of 10km per hour blowing against him (such as that blowing opposite the pace of the Milano-SanRemo), the advantage of the one who rides behind gets double, saving thus 160-200 watts.
Moreover, this difference of power increases more and more if the rider protected between a group instead of a single cyclist.
To climb the Poggio without an opposite-blowing wind in 6’15” it takes an average power output of about 500 watts to a rider of the weight of 75 kg that rides in the front of the group indeed not just a few professional cyclists are able to develop and maintain such a power output. With an opposite-blowing wind the needed power output gets up to 650-700 watts.
No rider is actually able to maintain such power for more than 6 minutes, after 280 km of racing.
This explains why no great selection has been made on the Cipressa and Poggio those few riders who attacked, easily bounced back into the peloton, “pushed back” by the “hand of the wind”, and only in the last kilometer of the climb, Bettini and Figueras managed to get a poor advantage, not enough though to cut the finish line.