THE YEAR OF THE EARLY BREAK
2016 was a good season for attacking riders in the Monuments, to a point. While Milan-San Remo was a sprint finish again (it’s eight years since a solo break won, and the last three years have been bunch sprints) and Liège-Bastogne-Liège continued a turgid run of attritional races, there was much earlier action in the other three Monuments.
In the Tour of Flanders, Sagan’s initial attack took place with 33km to go, compared to Kristoff going with 28km to go in 2015 and Fabian Cancellara going with 17km to go in 2014. Sagan then attacked again, alone, with 13km to go. Paris-Roubaix was even better – winner Hayman’s first attack came with an astonishing 182km to go, and the other racedefining moments – Boonen and Etixx’s forcing and Cancellara’s crash were a long way from the finish. In Il Lombardia, Chaves’s first attack was 57km from the finish, and the final split 35km out. It’s unclear if there’s a trend emerging – 2016 might be an outlier – but it was refreshing to see riders taking the initiative early.