Milano > Sanremo 292.9km
The first monument of the season is here, it’s time for Milan-Sanremo. The route reverts to normal, and we’ll see the same race we get every year. I’m not a fan, but at least the final 30 minutes is exciting.
Not a bad day for a bike race. Interestingly, we’ll have a strong tailwind for most of the day. It’s going to be a fast and tough edition of the race.
This is the Cipressa to the finish line. The Cipressa is 5.6km at 4.2%, followed by a fast descent. Then we have my favourite moment in the race, the approach to the Poggio. Positioning is vital, so we see a sprint into the climb. Some hit the front early and try to hold position on the right-hand side of the road. Others look to leave it late and come flying up the left.
Once that fight is done, everyone uses the early part of the Poggio to catch their breath. The climb is 3.7km at 3.7%, and we don’t normally see attacks until the final kilometre. Once over the top we have a fast and technical descent, before the final 3km of flat.
The race will be dictated by UAE and Jumbo-Visma, with Ineos looking to get involved late on. UAE are going all in for Pogačar, that means they’ll need to make the Cipressa and Poggio as hard as possible. The issue is their team, the Cipressa won’t be a problem, but I don’t see many options for them on the Poggio. Remember, you need a sprint lead out to get a good spot at the foot of the Poggio, who in their team is capable of doing that? I don’t see UAE having a good enough position to do what they have planned.
Jumbo-Visma will also want a hard race, but I don’t see them doing anything on the Cipressa. They know this race is won or lost at the foot of the Poggio, they’ll save men for the frantic run to the bottom of the climb. This is where Van Der Sande, Affini, Roglič and Laporte will be worth their weight in gold. I fully expect Jumbo-Visma to start the climb at the front of the race, allowing them to do what they want on the climb itself.
Ineos were the team who bossed the Poggio last year, they have a habit of nailing the sprint lead out into the foot of the climb. This year they have Pidcock and Ganna as their main options, but Pidcock had to pull out of Strade Bianche and hasn’t raced in weeks.
Trek-Segafredo will have one plan, get Pedersen to the front of the peloton for the Poggio. We’ll then have to wait and see if he can survive the climb.
So, UAE will go hard on the Cipressa and drop some riders. Ineos and UAE will start the Poggio in the best position, before we see the usually upping in pace and attacks in the final kilometre of the climb. We’ll have to wait and see how big the group of attackers will be, maybe just two.
Wout Van Aert – he’s started the season in brilliant form, and the best is yet to come. Since his debut here in 2019, he’s always made the front group after the Poggio, it’s a climb that suits his characteristics. With a strong team to support him, he’ll be in a great position for the final kilometres, but he will be a little worried about Pogačar. When he makes his move, Wout will have to be straight on his wheel, or maybe Wout will be the one to kick off the attacks. He was undone due to the size of the group last year; he’ll want a smaller group going to the line this time round.
Tadej Pogačar – come on then Pogi, what you got? His form is currently off the chart, we all know he’s lining up a big attack on the Poggio. I have a concern about his positioning for the start of the climb, I’m not sure he has the teammates required to get him into the best possible spot, but he does have the ability to jump on a rival’s wheel. In big races his sprint is very good, remember he’s beaten Alaphilippe before. Last year he was very close to outsprinting Van Aert in Tokyo, I get the feeling he won’t mind going to the line in a small group. Unfortunately, he’s had a cold since Tirreno, so might not be at the level required to win this race.
Mads Pedersen – was a late addition to the race due to Jasper Stuyven’s illness. This has pleased his fans, as most didn’t understand the decision to leave him at home. Pedersen is another rider in brilliant form, crucially he’s climbing well. He has a chance of surviving the Poggio, but it depends on the pace on the climb.
Tom Pidcock – not raced since Kuurne at the end of February, so we’ll have to see how he goes. He was in the front group last year, if he’s going well, he should make the selection this year.
Filippo Ganna – the Italians will go crazy if he wins this race. His climbing ability continues to improve, he’ll be a massive danger if he makes the front group. The final 3km is perfect for him to attack and take a solo win, but everyone knows this.
Jasper Philipsen – he’s started off the season in fine form, but the distance will likely kill his legs.
Søren Kragh – came very close to winning last year, he starts this year as someone who has a small chance of winning. He was strong in Paris-Nice, he’s a danger if he makes the front group after the Poggio.
Michael Matthews – could it finally be his year? Given the long list of dropouts, I think he certainly has a chance. Tirreno didn’t go exactly to plan, but I think he should be near his best for this race. To win he needs to climb well, but he also needs to sit back and let the others waste energy in the closing stages.
Matthieu van der Poel – the man, the myth, the legend. If anyone can pull of something incredible, it’s him.
His form is good, and his team are strong, it’s got to be a day for Wout Van Aert.