The Milan-San Remo, the Italian test that runs through Italy almost from end to end, a monument, the first of the season, theoretically the most favorable for sprinters… but it is increasingly difficult for them given the voracity of the current classics and vueltomanos. In the last 15 years, the test has produced 15 different winners. And in 2023? Well, a different one, the 16th. No one repeats between current generations. The one who inscribes his name is Mathieu van der Poel. The man from Alpecin achieves his first victory of the season, possibly the best moment to debut in this part of the campaign, since he adds a third monument to his record after the double conquest in the Tour of Flanders (2020 and 2022). A very hard attack in the final part of the Poggio and a masterful descent allowed the rider from Alpecin to cross the finish line of Via Roma alone.
On the podium he was accompanied by a spectacular Filippo Ganna and Van der Poel’s close enemy, Van Aert. In fourth position was Tadej Pogacar, out of the podium. The Slovenian was the most watched, he had all eyes on him, because this test is one of his great challenges of the season. His team worked for this, especially a stellar Tim Wellens, and at the Poggio came his expected attack that selected the race. The four that remained after that movement would be the ones that played the victory. Before finishing the Poggio (3.7 km at 3.7%) came the counterattack by Van der Poel, the winner. A curve to the left that marks the beginning of the descent was the last time he saw the chasing trio up close the blue jersey of the grandson of the late Poulidor. Precisely, pou pou managed to win this race 62 years ago (in 1961), Technical descent, risky and from behind they did not cut. A winning bullet.
It was the day of the Van der Poel exhibition, gray on the Strade Bianche, without being able to even get close to Pidcock, to pitch for his teammate Philipsen in the Tirreno-Adriatico, and to leave those troubles behind with this victory, the first of the year… on the road, because on cyclocross he shone in Benidorm in January and in the Netherlands in February, winning the World Cup against Van Aert. Van der Poel’s last victory on the road dated from September, in Belgium (the country where he was born and where he lives despite being from the Netherlands) and for Pogacar it is the first defeat in a race (either in one-day tests or in a generally) since Enric Mas could with the Slovenian on October 1 in the Giro de Emilia.
A Cipressa with less hardness
Would Pogacar try it at Cipressa? It was one of the unknowns, if the Slovenian would anticipate the Poggio, the previous climb. He did not, but his team, the UAE, did start to harden the race, perhaps a little later than expected… and possibly without doing the screening that they would have liked. Before, 30 km from the finish line, the escape of the day, with eight members, was already neutralized. Since then a great Van der Poel was seen, holding up well, along with several teammateswhile runners like De Lie, Gaviria, Cavendish... they were already leaving one or quite a few meters, in the case of the British. In other words, the big favorites were still ahead, and the ascent to Cipressa (5.6 km at 4.1%) was crowned with a twenty-second delay compared to 2022. Less tough in that regard.
That is why at the Poggio the group was larger than expected. Now yes, Tim Wellens knew it was time. A very high speed on the climb, with some curves even having to brake in the softest part, until 6.8 km from the end, boom. Pogacar’s attack. Only a spectacular Ganna was able to get out on his wheel, while Van Aert and Van der Poel lost a meter that they were able to close quickly. Once together came the Van der Poel movement. Unreachable.
In Via Roma the three pursuers kept an eye on each other and Ganna even avoided the sprint for second place by pulling Watts while Pogacar could not beat Van Aert. Gonzalo Serrano (25th) and Alex Aranburu (26th), who suffered a fall, the first two Spaniards. Illustrious as Mohoric (8th), winner in 2022 and Alaphilippe (11th), were far from the podium, while Peter Sagan said goodbye to the race that always resisted him in 44th place. Another San Remo, this one a bit different, not leaving Milan for the first time (started from Abbiategrasso) and six hours of wear and tear after almost 300 kilometers for a frantic final 25 minutes. The average was 45.773 km/h, the second fastest in history after Gianni Bugno’s 45.806 km/h in 1990. Perhaps, next to the Huy wall, the most electric finales of the cycling season. Four monuments remain in 2023.
Milan-San Remo table
1st Mathieu van der Poel (PP BB/Alpecin) – 6:25:23
2nd Filippo Ganna (Ita/Ineos) – at 15″
3rd Wout van Aert (Bél/Jumbo) – mt
4th Tadej Pogacar (Esl/UAE) – mt
5th Soren Kragh Andersen (Din/Alpecin) – 26″
6th Mads Pedersen (Din/Trek) – mt
7th Neilson Powless (USA/EF) – mt
8th Matej Mohoric (Esl/Bahrain) – mt
9th Anthony Turgis (Fra/TotalEnergies) – mt
10th Jasper Stuyven (Bél/Trek) – mt