February 21, 2024

Milan-San Remo, the race that makes even the biggest grow


Pogacar, Ganna, Van Aert and the winner Van der Poel: In no other classic do so many technically different drivers pedal side by side

Pier Bergonzi

These last ten minutes are the exciting synthesis of cycling, its great human and technical beauty. These last ten minutes of the four-way challenge from Poggio to Sanremo confirm us: Mathieu Van der Poel is an absolute champion and a promise: Filippo Ganna has everything to win even a Monument Classic. Just like Milan-Sanremo touched yesterday. Or like the next Paris-Roubaix, which will count him among the favorites.

Yesterday’s finale has the essence of Sanremo, a race for everyone over six and a half hours that becomes a thing between giants in the final ten minutes. But what happens in the first 290 kilometers (including the transfer up to kilometer zero) makes the shot selective between the Poggio and Via Roma, the most popular straight in world cycling.

Yesterday, immediately after Abbiategrasso’s unprecedented exit (the participation of the fans was touching), the race did not rest for a moment. And so, thanks in part to the wind boost in favor of the Aurelia, the race flew at an average speed of 45.773 kilometers per hour (the second ever after Gianni Bugno’s historic 45.806 in 1990).

Tadej Pogacar, just as expected, asked his teammates (very good Willemstad, Trentin and Ulissi) to shoot to death on the Cipressa to strain the sprinters’ legs and hopes. As Pogacar pedaled about a kilometer from the Poggio’s forehead for a killer progression, only Ganna, Van Aert and Van der Poel stuck to his move.

Spectacular Sanremo: he has chosen exactly the four most awaited champions.

And the four Beatles of this first Monument Classic of 2023 pay homage to the multidisciplinarity of modern cycling and further proof of how much Sanremo winks at champions with different characteristics. Pogacar is number one in the big stage races (2 wins and a second place in the last 3 Tours de France), Ganna is world number one in the time trial and on the track and the two Vans, big pursuers of Classiche, are also champions in cyclo-cross (5 world titles for Van der Poel including the last one by beating Van Aert who had already won 3). There is no other race where such technically diverse riders can pedal side by side. And only a Milano-Saremo can make these four tell a story worthy of a novel in 10 minutes (stopwatch in hand, even less).

Pogacar, Ganna, Van Aert and Van der Poel were going so fast that the Dutchman ended up topping the hill with Poggio’s record (5’38” and almost 4km of climbing!). All four were worthy of ultimate success. But Mathieu Van der Poel deservedly won as he found the strength to fire another shot while the three adventurers were already fishing in the reserve tank. The Dutchman pocketed a handful of seconds and used his biker skills with an open ditch descent, but then held on until the end despite Ganna, Van Aert and Pogacar being the main players in the chase. Mathieu won in Sanremo on the same day as his maternal grandfather Raymond Poulidor, the most popular and popular of the French champions, who escaped on March 18, 1961 on the last slopes of the Poggio and arrived alone like his nephew with a few seconds on the noble Van Looy . That’s why Mathieu also said: “This is the best day of my life”.

Behind the Dutchman, Ganna swept away from Van Aert and Pogacar in a sprint full of fury and power. In these cases, the podium should be expanded to four…

Filippo drove a gorgeous Sanremo that confirms everything we always thought. He has so much talent and such a great engine that he can push the limits of his ambitions. Yesterday he was very disappointed, even angry because he felt very close to the dream. But he has enough time to catch up. Van der Poel asked from behind the winning stage what Northern Classics Ganna would be doing, concerned that Flanders is also planned… No, Filippo will only be doing Roubaix, but after yesterday’s finale what was a good idea has now become a project.

The Classicissima has the power to project even champions like Van der Poel and Ganna into a new dimension. It’s the magic of Milan-San Remo. It takes ten minutes.

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