Milan-San Remo: in the land of doubts, the Slovenians and two outsiders fuel confidence


Spring begins on Saturday. Then Milan-San Remo is on the calendar, the first of five cycling monuments. All the foreplay is done and from now on it will go straight to Liège-Bastogne-Liège at the end of April. Who is ready and who still has questions? Cycling Flash weighs the favourites.

Let’s start right away with the favorites from our own Lowland soil. Wout van Aert hopes to win again after 2020 La Primavera. However, the Belgian from Jumbo-Visma was ill in February, so his preparation for the season was not optimal. He therefore skipped Strade Bianche. In Tirreno-Adriatico he initially kept aloof, but he showed his cards in the penultimate stage (the ‘mural stage’). “I think I’m good enough for a win at the moment,” Van Aert said in Milan himself. The competition has also been watching and it seems that Van Aert has not played hide and seek long enough

Then on to Mathieu van der Poel. The Dutchman from Alpecin-Deceuninck did not receive the desired feedback from Tirreno-Adriatico and then stated that the form is not yet what it should be. But last year proved MVDP that this shouldn’t be a problem. “You don’t have to be the best to win in San Remo, but I would still like to be in top form at the start.” However, he was looking for a price stimulus on Zwift on Tuesday. Earlier this week, Niki Terpstra also stated in our analysis that the week after Tirreno-Adriatico is crucial in your build-up to spring. He can pull himself up to that.

Pogacar for Van der Poel and Van Aert, last year – photo: Cor Vos

Doubts, doubts, doubts
Other stars and outsiders in our preview have also raised a smokescreen. A brief overview:

  • Mads Pedersen (three stars in our preview) was strong in the pre-season and gave a very good impression in Paris-Nice. Last year he was already sixth in Milan-San Remo. He only had to give up – as the wearer of the green jersey – in the penultimate stage, according to his team with the symptoms of a cold. As a precaution, or an easy reason to postpone the assignment?
  • Arnaud De Lie (two stars) stepped down after six stages in Paris-Nice. It was the first WorldTour stage race that he rode for the 20-year-old Belgian top talent. However, he skipped the final weekend because he had to recover from his efforts, his team Dstny indicated. Moreover, positioning in France was impossible, while that will be decisive on Saturday. Milan-San Remo is De Lie’s first monument.
  • Biniam Girmay (one star) was not able to convince in Tirreno-Adriatico. He was absent especially in the two stages with a classic profile. On the other hand, he won a mass sprint in February with panache. The goldcrest (22) of Intermarché-Circus-Wanty himself says that he does not yet have the best form, but that he is gradually growing towards it.
  • Caleb Ewan (one star) has a bit of the same as Girmay. In the mass sprints – after all, the specialty of The Pocket Rocket – he could not yet win at UCI level this year. He is also in his team with the De Lie factor (who has already scored numerous victories). Side note: Ewan knew leading up to La Primavera this situation more often, to get over the Poggio with the best afterwards. His explanation then: he knew that he would sprint less well in the pre-season, because he had to sacrifice speed by training uphill.
  • Julian Alaphilippe (one star) says he feels really good again for the first time in a long time. The two-time former world champion was approaching his former top level in Tirreno-Adriatico, he said. “This was the first time in a long time that I came close to that level. We just need to make some adjustments towards the most important races.” But is that enough for a win in Milan-San Remo, as he did before in 2019?
  • Christophe Laporte (one star) is the big dark horse in this field. After the Opening Weekend (where he did leave a strong impression) he fell ill and the Frenchman had to miss Paris-Nice. What kind of attack that has made on his form and how he compares to the other favorites is therefore a bit in the dark at the moment.
  • Benoît Cosnefroy and Magnus Cort are among the outsiders for a win in the spring classics. Given his qualities, the Frenchman from AG2R Citroën should always be able to participate in the win in Milan-San Remo, but until now this spring was firewood. The strong Dane from EF Education-EasyPost, on the other hand, was very strong. This was often the case in the past, but he gave birth to a mouse in the great classics. With Alberto Bettiol, Mikkel Honoré and Neilson Powless, Cort’s team can present a battalion of late attackers.
  • Peter Sagan has been riding backwards for almost a year and a half, with the occasional uptick here and there excepted. Milan-San Remo is pretty much the monument where he should have won ten times, given his abilities. The Slovak three-time world champion finished second twice and fourth six times. “If I win on Saturday, I will stop immediately,” he said beforehand. After this season, that is Sagan’s intention anyway. “But he can sleep peacefully, because that’s not going to happen,” assures Sporza’s spy in the peloton.
  • By the way, don’t look for candidate winners Tom Pidcock (mild concussion) and Michael Matthews (corona infection). They were forced to give up for Milan-San Remo.

Ewan and De Lie, the most dangerous tandem? – photo: Cor Vos

Confidence in a good outcome
Many favorites therefore doubt, but the absolute top favorite does not. Tadej Pogačar has so far competed three races in thirteen race days. Result: two overall victories, six stages and a one-day race win. No reason to doubt his chances of winning, although the Slovenian also likes to put up a smoke screen. “I don’t see myself as a favourite, but I can surprise. The last climb (Poggio, ed.) is not hard enough to go alone,” he said a day before the start.

Pogačar’s compatriot and defending champion Matej Mohorič is certainly bursting with self-confidence. “Confirming success will be difficult, but several scenarios are possible in San Remo. I think I still have a chance to win. I will be more closely watched by the competition, but I think I have good cards to play.” He also confirmed that he will once again ride a dropper post, the best kept and winning secret from last year’s edition.

Mohoric surprised last year in Italy – photo: Cor Vos

Are we there yet? No, because Alpecin-Deceuninck finally has two outsiders for profit. A number of insiders play Jasper Philipsen, who goes along with it himself. “It might be a bit naive. It’s 300 kilometers and it could all be for nothing, but I still have to take this opportunity. I have to hope for a very closed race, but many just want to make the course hard. It probably won’t be a sprint, but even if there’s only a one percent chance, I have to go for it. I have to believe in it.”

Søren Kragh Andersen is also an outsider, but played a certain role in the last ten kilometers in the last two editions of Milan-San Remo. He has to rely on a late attack or dazzling on the Poggio, but he can show that in 2021 and 2022. “I now know for myself how to win Milan-San Remo. I cracked the code and made a plan for it. Then what is that? Then you’ll see on Saturday, I’m not going to spoil that. But I believe I can win!”, he recently told WielerFlits. That promises!

Read more:

‘The key to success in Milan-San Remo lies in the hands of Jumbo Visma’

The article is in Dutch

Tags: MilanSan Remo land doubts Slovenians outsiders fuel confidence

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