Milan-San Remo: Who will win and how

Our editorial team debates the San Remo course and makes its picks for Saturday's kickoff of 'monument madness.'

Photo: MARCO BERTORELLO/AFP via Getty Images)

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Milan-San Remo is one of the most entertaining and boring races of the entire season.

It’s long (the longest) and it’s relatively easy (the easiest), yet it’s the hardest monument to win.

The favorite’s list runs the gamut from Tadej Pogačar to Caleb Ewan, to Filippo Ganna to Wout van Aert.


The above two factors contribute to create a unique puzzle on the cycling calendar. Milan-San Remo is a race that many riders with a broad range of skill sets can hope to win. There’s a natural selection at Paris-Roubaix or Il Lombardia that doesn’t happen at La Primavera.

Some have suggested that changing the route to make it harder will make it more selective, and thus goes the logic, more interesting.

Others say leave it just the way it is, molto grazie.

Ahead of Saturday’s debut of “monument madness,” our editorial team debates whether or not the Milan-San Remo course should be tweaked, and who they think will win.

Let’s see who’s right:

Should organizers change the finale?

The headlands that lead the route along the Italian Riviera are iconic moments of Milan-San Remo. (Photo: MARCO BERTORELLO/AFP via Getty Images)

Sadhbh O’Shea, VeloNews

If it ain’t broke don’t fix it. If there were ever any issues with Milan-San Remo, it’s not the finish.
Despite remaining largely the same for years, the finale over the capi, Cipressa, and Poggio has constantly delivered differing scenarios that are consistently exciting. The tension between the expected attack over the Poggio, and the chase on the way down gives us will they, won’t they, edge of your seat ride.

They payoff is short after six hours of riding, but I love it.

Fred Dreier, Outside Magazine

The only tweak I’d ever consider would be moving the finish line 1km closer to the base of the Poggio to really stoke attacks on the climb and descent.

As it stands, it feels like riders still try to keep their powder somewhat dry on the climb and descent, knowing that regroupings and attacks can still occur on the long drag to the finish.

Shaving some of that distance off could light a fire under the ambitious riders’ bottoms.

Jim Cotton, VeloNews

No. Just like the recipe for nonna’s ragu or the settings on a perfectly dialed-in espresso machine, why would you meddle with perfection?

The Poggio is long enough to be hard, but short enough to be easy.

The descent is both treacherous and beautiful and gives nutcase descenders like Tom Pidcock, Matej Mohorič, or Julian Alaphilippe room to play.

And the Via Roma stretch is just long enough for a daring outsider to launch an all-out individual pursuit race to the finish.

Andrew Hood, VeloNews

Leave it just the way it is, e basta!

Changing San Remo in any significant would be akin to raising the height of a basket because there are too many slam dunks. Ain’t gonna happen.

There’s been decades-long chatter of adding a climb at Pompeiana. In fact, it was set to be featured in the snowbound edition in 2014, but was canceled and duly dropped. The climb is sandwiched between the Cipressa and Poggio, and at 4.7km at 4.9 percent, with gradients as steep as 14 percent, it would dramatically alter the race’s outcome.

Milan-San Remo has its own unique rhythm and flow. Some love it, some don’t, but the finale produces one of cycling’s most thrilling outcomes. Sometimes leaving things alone is just fine.

Who is your pick to win and why?

Will someone pull a Mohorič, or will the sprinter’s rule again at Milan-San Remo? (Photo: MARCO BERTORELLO/AFP via Getty Images)

Jim Cotton, VeloNews

Arnaud De Lie hangs tough on the Poggio with teammate Caleb Ewan and a pick ‘n’ mix bunch of climbers and fast finishers.

The group of around a dozen spill onto the Via Roma and rumble into the small-group sprint as eyes land on Ewan, who’s long hunted the San Remo prize. And with that, De Lie gets his opening and barrels to breakout victory.

Ewan then never talks to his young Belgian usurper again.

Or perhaps the more likely scenario: Tadej Pogačar attacks some 30km out on the Cipressa and leaves the rest choking on his fumes.

Fred Dreier, Outside Magazine

Jasper Philipsen. The pack stays together over the Cipressa and accelerates into the Poggio. Tadej Pogačar attacks up the climb alongside Mathieu van der Poel and Tom Pidcock, and the three of them get a gap over the top and into the descent. But alas, they play too much cat and mouse and are caught inside 2km to go by a diminished front group.

Let’s say 10 riders sprint for the line and Philipsen—who just won two stages of Tirreno-Adriatico—wins by a hair.

Andrew Hood, VeloNews

Call me crazy, but I think this one will come down to a reduced bunch sprint. It’s been since Arnaud Démare won in 2016 that a sprinter ruled the Via Roma.

Forecasts for a brisk tailwind down the coast will keep the speed high. That will help anyone who’s brave enough to attack, but will also help the sprinters to try to stay close for the strongest who can stay tucked in with the best over the Poggio.

Lightning usually doesn’t strike twice, so I don’t see another Mohorič-like attack working. Pogačar is the outlier, but if he cannot shake the pack, it will be a reduced bunch kick.

Who wins in that scenario. A sprinter who can produce jet airline-graded watts. Think Wout van Aert or Mads Pedersen.

Sadhbh O’Shea, VeloNews

Maybe it’s unimaginative, but I’m going to plump for Mathieu van der Poel. The Dutchman hasn’t been firing on all cylinders since he returned to road racing after his cyclocross world title, but this could be his moment. I’m imagining him following a stinging attack from Tadej Pogačar over the top of the Poggio.

It’ll be tough to hang onto the coattails of the Slovenian but he will drop him on the descent and hold a small advantage over to him to the line, winning by a second or two.

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