2023 Milano-Sanremo Preview

Abbiategrasso > Sanremo 293.5km

The same finish as usual, the same gruelling test of stamina, it can only be Milano-Sanremo.


Not too hot, not too cold, not too windy. A good racing day. Crucially, there’a lot of tailwind on both the Cipressa and Poggio.

Key Points

The Cipressa. Hold onto your hats, time to hit the accelerator.

The Poggio. The hardest 3.6km of the season.

The Poggio descent, fast and technical.

How Can Pogačar Win? (Formerly known as the tactics section)

Last year UAE arrived looking to win the race with Pogačar, and boy did everyone else know about it. On the Cipressa, it was Polanc followed by Formolo, who reduced the peloton to 30 riders, quite incredible when you consider the length of the climb. This was a perfect move by the team, but the problem was the Poggio. They only had Ulissi to pace, and he didn’t last too long, it was then over to Pogačar, who launched countless attacks. As we know, he didn’t manage to get a gap, so what do they need to do different this year?

Not only do they need riders to smash the bunch to pieces on the Cipressa, but they need the same on the Poggio, it can’t all be down to Pogačar. UAE will require one, or maybe two, riders to drive the bunch up the Poggio, then Pogačar attacks in the final kilometre. For me, this is how he can drop his rivals, but probably not all of them. Compared to last year, UAE have replaced Formolo, Gibbons, Polanc and Troia with Wellens, Trentin, Novak and Großschartner, which makes them a stronger team. I would expect Großschartner to set the pace up the Poggio, hoping to put many into difficulty before Pogačar launches his attack.

This approach means goodbye to the sprinters, this is no longer the monument for them, there isn’t one left for them in modern cycling. The race won’t just be about UAE, Jumbo-Visma will be keen on getting involved. Not only is a tough race good for Pogačar, it’s also good for Van Aert. With doubts over some of the other main contenders, both Pogačar and Van Aert will be keen on putting the pressure on and seeing what damage they can do. The rest will just have to hope they can hold on.


Tadej Pogačar – the way he’s started the season is ridiculous, I’m never seen anything like it. Some have said this is a race he can’t win, but I disagree, especially this year. He’s not hidden it’s a big target for him, which means UAE will do everything they can to support him. It’s all about what damage he can do on the Poggio, going solo is unlikely, but not impossible. I even think he’ll be happy going to the line with Van Aert in a small group, Pogačar is hard to beat in that scenario, just don’t mention last year’s Flanders!

Wout Van Aert – ended Tirreno much better than he started it, which is important. He was outstanding here in 2020 but cut a frustrated figure last year. The approach of Jumbo-Visma will be interesting, it would be perfect for them if Wout had a teammate after the Poggio. Either that, or he needs to be away in a group of two or three. It’s hard to see a situation where he gets dropped on the Poggio, and I’m interested to see how Jumbo-Visma approach the finale of this race, they’ve rarely got it wrong this year.

Mathieu van der Poel – he’ll have been disappointed by his legs in Tirreno, he was a long way from his best. Now, van der Poel is exactly the type of rider who can find form from nowhere, so he can’t be written off, but I have too many doubts to say he’ll win.

Julian Alaphilippe – form is growing, and this is a race he likes. He’s not 100%, but this is the only monument you can win when not being at your absolute peak. I expect the former world champion to be in the mix on the Poggio.

Mads Pedersen – given the way he’s climbed over the last year; he’ll hope to be fighting for the win. He quit Paris-Nice due to a cold, hopefully that was just a precaution. This is a race I believe he can win, but will it be this year?

Matej Mohorič – can lightning strike twice? Unlikely, but you never know.

Søren Kragh – it doesn’t matter what’s happened so far this season, he’s always good here. Alpecin would love to have two men in the front group after the Poggio, that would give them a massive advantage over the rest.

Prediction Time

UAE will make it a very selective race, the bunch at the foot of the Poggio won’t be very big. Once the attacks fly on the Poggio, I think we’ll see Pogačar and Van Aert get away from everyone else and fight out the win. 

Embed from Getty Images

Now, a sprint between these two will be closer than most think, especially if Pogačar forces Van Aert into leading out. I’ll go with my gut and take a win for Tadej Pogačar, it feels right.