This Saturday is the 109th edition of Milan-Sanremo, nicknamed La Primavera as it symbolizes the transition from winter to spring racing. It is also the first one-day Monument race on the professional World Tour calendar, beginning in Milan just an hour south of Lake Como.
The race debuted on April 14, 1907, and was billed as the most difficult one-day race at nearly 300 kilometers on rough unpaved roads. The most talented racers of Italy, France, and Belgium appeared at the start, but in its early years there were often only a handful of finishers. Unlike modern racing, the racers were required to compete completely self-supported, providing their own food and mechanical repairs.
Our cycling manger and lead cycling guide, Alberto Elli, knows the 300 kilometer course well from making the journey 13 times in his professional career. He has always considered himself a mountain climber, so one of his biggest surprises as a professional was in 1997 when he found himself at the front of a pack of nearly 40 racers barreling down Via Roma in the last kilometer of the race. In a full out sprint he led the pack only to be bested at the end by top sprinter of the day and future teammate, Eric Zabel, who would go on to win another three editions of La Primavera.
The following year in 1998 Alberto attacked on the final climb of the race, the Poggio, its summit only 7 kilometers from the finish and often the place where the strongest attack to separate themselves from the fatigued peloton. Here he is seen aggressively descending alone on the Poggio’s switchbacks, his heart on its way to victory, but foiled when he was caught 1 kilometer from the finish. Grande Alberto e La Primavera!