Like twelve months ago, Tadej Pogačar lines up for Milan-San Remo as the man of the moment.
His win at Paris-Nice, capped by a solo exhibition on the final day, makes him an obvious favourite for victory on the Via Roma on Saturday, but the Slovenian knows that La Primavera has always been a complicated kind of a race.
Last year, fresh off a similarly crushing victory at Tirreno-Adriatico, Pogačar ran through his repertoire of accelerations on the Poggio, launching four sustained attacks of his own and tracking several more.
It was arguably the most aggressive onslaught produced by one rider on the Poggio since Moreno Argentin in 1992, but just as the Italian was beaten by Sean Kelly over the other side on that occasion, Pogačar had to settle for fifth place behind compatriot Matej Mohorič.
Milan-San Remo has always been a complicated kind of a race, of infinite possibilities and final results.
“Unfortunately, they didn’t broadcast Milan-San Remo in Slovenia when I was a kid, so I don’t have too many memories,” Pogačar told Il Messaggero (opens in new tab). “But now I can say I know it well. It’s a race that I like a lot even if I think it’s probably the hardest race to win.”
After last year’s race, Pogačar confessed that he had attacked a hairpin too soon on the Poggio, launching his first acceleration into a headwind. His Monaco base means that he has ample opportunity, however, to reconnoitre Milan-San Remo’s hallowed final climb.
“I don’t live too far away and sometimes during training, I go as far as the Poggio,” he revealed. “I won’t deny that I’ve imagined various scenarios of how the race might play out.”
The centrepiece of Pogačar’s 2023 season will be the Tour de France, where he is seeking to regain his title from Jonas Vingegaard, but that hasn’t stopped him from making a rapid start to the campaign.
Following dominant wins at the Clásica Jaén Paraíso Interior, Vuelta a Andalucía and Paris-Nice, he now turns his attention to adding to his running tally of three Monuments. Pogačar has won nine times in 13 days of racing and has more races to aim at in the weeks ahead.
Participation at Milan-San Remo will be followed by a return to the Tour of Flanders, where he placed fourth last year after forming the race-winning break with Mathieu van der Poel with almost 60km to go.
“Last year in Flanders was one of the most fun days, I’ve ever spent on the bike,” said Pogačar, who signalled his desire…
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