Milan Sanremo 2023: impossible to predict


We are now in the week of the Milano-Sanremo, the eagerly awaited first classic monument which will take place on Saturday. It is the 114th edition of the "classicissima" or "spring world championship" which was held in 1907 for the first time (the French Petit-Breton won). A timeless charm of a race that more than any other embodies the spirit of cycling by combining historical tradition with modernity. It is the longest professional one-day race (294km) and the fastest, averaging over 45km/h. It has an almost unchanged route for decades that connects Milan and the Po valley to the sea: the final part unfolds along the beautiful Ligurian coast (which unfortunately cyclists do not have time to appreciate) and then reaches the city of flowers and the Festival.

A classic and long route

An easy route, of course, but as the saying goes, cyclists make the race. The absence of altimetric difficulties means that it can be within everyone's reach with the consequence that it is very difficult to interpret. An itinerary that all cycling enthusiasts know by heart: departure early in the morning in Milan, with the classic breakaway of the day and the sleepy group that leaves the ephemeral glory to the carneads. Then the docile Turchino pass (588 m, the highest altitude reached by the race) and then embark on the long descent towards the sea. Along the coast Varazze, Savona, Finale, Albenga, Alassio and Laigueglia. Here there will be 55 km to go to the end and the runners will find the first bumps of the coast where the race, if it hasn't done it yet, enters the hot phase: the leaders Mele, Cervo and Berta to create havoc in the peloton and force the teams to death. Finally the two straps of Cipressa and Poggio, where, especially in the latter, you can decide the race. The latter is a mere 3700m climb at 3.7% with peaks at 8% near the summit. Not much, but enough to make a selection with the best who will give everything and then launch themselves into the dizzying descent (which ends just over 1 km from the finish).

A rich roll of honor

History shows us that it is the only monument within the reach of sprinters, but that doesn't limit the possibilities to them. In practice, the Saremo was won with every possible tactic: escape from afar, finisseur sprint uphill, sprint downhill, sprint in small ranks, group sprint. If we scroll through the roll of honor, all the elite of cycling is here: Girardengo (who won it 6 times), Binda, the epic story of Bartali and Coppi (4-3 for the Tuscan in the count of victories), Van Steenbergen, Bobet. Then the glorious 70s with Mercx (7 victories), Gimondi, De Vlaeminck. Gavazzi, Moser, Saronni (who triumphed with the World Champion shirt), the unforgettable Professor Fignon (two consecutive successes), Bugno and Chiappucci. At the turn of the millennium there was an endless series of victories by sprinters, including Erik Zabel (4 victories), Freire, Cipollini, Petacchi and even Cavendish. In more recent times, who has forgotten the fantastic triumph of Nibali who sprinted downhill in the face of the peloton? That marks the fact that riders with the most diverse characteristics have a chance in Sanremo. The victory of the Sicilian is also the only tricolor in the last 17 years and we believe that, barring incredible surprises, the statistics will be extended by another year.

This year's favourites

Guessing the winner of the Milan-San Remo is almost like winning the lottery, but let's do an analysis of the suitors, according to the categories-
Sprinters: Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin) seems to be in the best shape in the light of the results at the Tirreno-Adriatico. The Belgian has excellent leg, can hold on on the Poggio and can count on Mathieu Van der Poel, should the Dutchman not be brilliant for the win. Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo) has already won twice this year (including a short time trial) proving to have depth and speed. Fabio Jakobsen (Soudal-Quickstep) is also very fit and the young emerging Arnaud De Lie (Lotto-Dstny), who has Caleb Ewan in his team, can never be underestimated (twice second in Sanremo). A step below look like Demare (Groupama-FDJ) and Sam Bennet (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Groenewegen (Jayco-Alula)-
Finisseur chapter: quite ample space, even if this year the big names don't seem to be in top form yet. If Alaphilippe didn't pedal badly at the Tirreno, Van der Poel proved he doesn't have the leg. However, never trust these champions who can pull the rabbit out of the hat when you least expect it. Jumbo-Visma seems particularly fierce, because in addition to Van Aert who has never been a protagonist (but we could assume that he did pre-tactical), he can count on the emerging Hungarian Attila Valter and on Cristoph Laporte, tough uphill and solid in the sprint.
Downhillers: history shows that Sanremo can be won by descending the Poggio with technique and courage. Van Aert thus won in '20 and the already mentioned Nibali. But it's Mohoric we're thinking about: we still have our eyes on last year's ride and after what we saw at the Strade Bianche, the Slovenian is rightfully among the favourites, even if we have to go back to 2001 (Erik Zabel) to have a double win over the years consecutive-. The other phenomenal downhill racer is Tom Pidcock, recent winner of the Strade Bianche, who is however weighed down by the uncertainty of the two crashes at the Tirreno-Adriatico. If he has recovered he will be considered one of the candidates for victory.
The outsiders: Magnus Cort strong in the sprint and Nelson Powless in excellent shape uphill (both from EF) Cosnefroy (AG2R), shrewd rider capable of winning line races and let's put in Filipppo Ganna! It would be fantastic to see the Verbanese triumph: honestly given the parterre de roi it is almost impossible, but let's suppose that he keeps on the Poggio in a small group of attackers and then goes away at the last km while the others are watching each other...
Separate chapter: Tadej Pogačar. We place the Slovenian phenomenon in a category of its own because nobody knows his limits, not even himself. He won Paris-Nice with embarrassing ease, he's monstrous uphill and in a small group he's quite fast. To give an idea of ​​the superiority, in the last two years he has won 81% of the stage races he has entered. Sure, Sanremo is a one-day race with a flat finish, but who knows... we're talking about a champion who at 24 has already won Liège and Lombardia (not to mention the 2 Tours) and could still amaze on Via Roma with class. creativity and courage!

The rating:
**** Philipsen, Jakobsen, Pedersen, Pogačar
*** Alaphilippe, Van Aert, De Lie, Mohoric
** Pidcok, Van der Poel, Ewan, Bennet, Merlier
* Groenewegen, Valter, Laporte, Ganna, Cort, Powless

Fabio Strufaldi

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