Two stars for a “monument”: Tadej Pogacar and Wout van Aert advance uncovered this Saturday in Milan – San Remo, the first great classic of the cycling season, at the risk of being surprised after 293 kilometers in a peloton stripped of several suitors.
Pogacar, without complex, displays his ambitions to succeed the legend Eddy Merckx, the last reigning winner of the Tour de France to win in San Remo in 1976. Everything is going well for the Slovenian: he won the two stage races (UAE Tour, Tirreno-Adriatico) and the only one-day race (Strade Bianche) on its program so far.
Pogacar close to home
The Belgian champion, he is postulating for a second victory on Via Roma. In 2020, van Aert had edged out Julian Alaphilippe, the current world champion (package this Saturday), in a race that Pogacar, during his only experience, had finished 12and. “It’s a challenge that I find exciting, announces Pogacar. The finish line is not far from my home in Monte-Carlo, so I know the final and the last climbs quite well. It is one of the most difficult races to win”.
The course, which rests on the plain of Lombardy on the Ligurian coast, has two rough spots in particular, the Cipressa and the Poggio, in the last 30 kilometers. Two springboards which have served as a launching pad for attackers to thwart the plans of sprinters since 2016 and the victory of Arnaud Démare who remains the last to have won the sprint.
Among the 24 teams gathered in the morning in front of the mythical Vigorelli, the velodrome which was once an obligatory site for hour records, other runners have the profile to surprise and achieve the same masterstroke as the Belgian Jasper Stuyven voice twelve months. Starting with the Dane Sören Kragh Andersen, representative of a country absent from the winners of the first 112 editions.
Knowing how to take risks is indeed the tactical challenge for van Aert who learned late on of the unexpected presence of his great rival, the Dutchman Mathieu van der Poel. Officially, without the slightest declared ambition.