Milan-San Remo: Matej Mohorič downhill tactic pays off with ‘biggest victory of my career’

The inside story on how Matej Mohorič and Bahrain Victorious plotted its strategy months ago for Milan-San Remo.

Photo: MARCO BERTORELLO/AFP via Getty Images

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Everyone knows Matej Mohorič is among the peloton’s best descenders.

There was more to his spectacular solo downhill attack on the Poggio to win Milan-San Remo than raw skill.

Mohorič and his Bahrain Victorious team had a plan in the works months in advance in how to train, prepare, and race specifically for the Italian monument.

Mohorič characterized the win Saturday down the Via Roma as more important than his stage victory last year at the Tour de France, in part because it was the result of months of planning and work.

“This is the biggest victory of my career,” Mohorič said Saturday. “The Tour is the Tour, but this was one was studied and planned. We had a plan in advance and we made it work 100 percent. That rarely happens in cycling.”

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In a thrilling edition Saturday, the strands of that plan came together in spectacular fashion as the 27-year-old used all of his skills to drop an all-star chase group that included the biggest engines in the elite men’s peloton to power to his first career monument in emphatic style.

To win against the likes of Wout van Aert and Mathieu van der Poel, it’s going to take more than top descending chops.

Mohorič and Bahrain Victorious started to plot San Remo strategy months ago

Matej Mohorič points to his winning bike mounted with a dropper seat post. (Photo: MARCO BERTORELLO/AFP via Getty Images)

Mohorič’s comments reveal how detailed elite racing is becoming.

No longer is simply being the strongest the only way to win a race.

Mohorič recounted how specific preparation for Milan-San Remo began months ago as he plotted out his 2022 racing calendar with his sport directors and team managers.

With his renowned descending skills, targeting San Remo, which ends with the twisting, diving descent off the Poggio, was a perfect target.

“It was on the limit,” Mohorič told CyclingProNet. “In the end, it was all worth it. The whole winter of analyzing, working on it, testing the bike and the equipment, I cannot say thank you enough to even single member of our team, the mechanics, the suppliers, FSA. I am lost for words. We pulled it off, it’s incredible.”

Mohorič’s perfect plan for Milan-San Remo almost ended when he crashed heavily at Strade Bianche earlier this month in the same high-speed pileup that took out Tadej Pogačar and Julian Alaphilippe, among many others.

He did not finish the race, and did not race Tirreno-Adriatico, missing a key preparation competition ahead of the nearly 300km distance to San Remo.

Mohorič worked with team physios to work through knee pain, and could resume training only days before the race.

“After all the bad luck with the crash in Strade Bianche, I never stopped believing. I was really in a hurry to recover from that crash, in the end it paid off,” he said. “I was also very cooked, because my condition is not the best after the crash at Strade Bianche. I cannot believe I managed to stay away to the finish.”

Another key element of the San Remo-specific strategy was to use a dropper seat post. Frequently used on mountain bikes, it’s rare to see an elite WorldTour pro use one in a race.

Mohorič and his mechanics decided to use the dropper post, something he said proved decisive for his victory.

“With the dropper post, I had a big, big advantage,” Mohorič explained. “I tested it many times in training. I knew exactly how to use it, and I knew it was very hard for whoever was behind me to keep up, because it lowers your center of gravity a lot. It gives you more handling and more control of the bike. It’s probably not physically possible to go as fast without it.”

But first he had to get up and over the Poggio at the nose of the peloton in order to deploy the dropper seat post on the descent.

That was the hard part. He could count on help from Bahrain Victorious teammates Jan Tratnik and Damiano Caruso, who helped pace him back to the front under fierce attacks from Pogačar on the Poggio ascent.

“We had a plan to do my best but to be conservative on the Poggio. I followed the best and I could come back on the top,” he said. “And do the best descent I possibly can. I almost lost it all in the last corner and I lost a little bit of time.”

Despite a wobble near the top of the descent and another scare when it appeared he almost lost his chain within sight of the finish line, Mohorič won just seconds clear of the chasing group.

It was a victory that came down to seconds, but was months in the works.

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