Trek-Segafredo displayed impeccable teamwork in the decisive final kilometers of Milano-Sanremo, but nothing could stop an attack from an on-form Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe), whose move on the Poggio was only matched by two of the strongest punchers in the pro peloton.
The trio pulled away on the climb and twisting descent and, in a thrilling ending to the season's first Monument, narrowly held their advantage to the line where Michal Kwiatkowski (Sky) edged Sagan for the win, with Julian Alaphilippe (Quick-Step Floors) taking third.
The peloton arrived on their heels for the minor places, where John Degenkolb sprinted to seventh – not the result the team wished for, but the strong teamwork gives a positive takeaway from the first big goal of the season, and a top ten in a Monument is never a bad performance.
"We did a very good job," explained Degenkolb. "It did not work out 100% as we wanted it, but still we were up front when it mattered. When it was really, really fast on the Cipressa, Jasper did a phenomenal job to make sure we had a good position, and also for the descent. It was perfect.
"On the Poggio, Fabio (Felline) did the same for me, and when Sagan went, I was up there. The problem was (Sonny) Colbrelli was in between, and he blew up, and I could not close the gap anymore. That was unfortunate.
"Of course, on one side I am really happy that I am up there again in the top 10, but on the other side, it's kind of a disappointment. I have the feeling I could have done more, but the good thing is that we have a lot of races coming up in the next period. I think the shape is really good, from the whole team, in general – not only from the guys at the finish, but before with Koen and Greggy, who did an amazing job to hold us in position."
In a race of 291 kilometers, most of the teamwork happens behind the scenes and well before the TV cameras air live images: from ample trips to the team car for food and bottles to Marco Coledan and Kiel Reijnen pulling hard into the first crucial climbs, and Eugenio Alafaci giving up a wheel to Fabio Felline who punctured on the Capo Cervo, every team member played a vital role.
"Good luck: I don’t know what this is in the last period!" exclaimed Felline. "When you have to come back from a puncture and fight back to the front again… This race is strange - only on the Poggio do you understand what you have in the legs, and there I realized that it took more energy to chase back from the puncture. Maybe I could go with the three on the Poggio if not for this."
"I think that as a team we performed really well, and that gives confidence for the races to come," added Stuyven, who raced the Italian Monument for the first time. "I was talking with the other guys, and I think it was the easiest start, and easiest race to the middle. It changed from the Capos onward, when Sunweb wanted to make it hard for Matthews, and the Cipressa was also fast.
"When the three went on the Poggio it was too hard to follow – if you had the legs you were there. I was a little too far back going into the climb, and then I came back and helped pull for John at the end. It was not the result we were looking for, but the team was strong, and it was nice to do my first Milan-Sanremo."