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Lotto-Dstny could see itself facing a deliciously delicate dilemma Saturday on Milan-San Remo’s Via Roma.
So what happens in the slimmest circumstance the two fast finishers both arrive at the bottom of Poggio’s bends at the front of the race?
“If we’re both still together at the top of the Poggio, then it’ll be up to the team directors to take their responsibilities,” De Lie told La Dèrnière Heure.
Lotto’s luxury of choice
De Lie and Ewan carry all the skills to master what is touted as “the hardest race to win.”
Boyish bowling ball De Lie recently just across the “Opening Weekend” in a fashion fitting for his “Wallon Bull” monicker. Belgium’s own Peter Sagan packs a raw power and drive that can overcome inexperience.
Meanwhile, Ewan proved a number of times he can hang with the bigs on the Poggio and twice finished second on San Remo’s podium. The Aussie speedster carries form, momentum, and hunger into Italy after twice being denied in recent photo-finish sprints.
“San Remo is a big one for me, and it’s for sure one I want to win in my career. It’s the only monument a sprinter like me can win, and I’ve come so close,” Ewan told VeloNews. “The two times I was second, I was unlucky.”
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Lotto-Dstny isn’t the only team taking two top choices into the San Remo lottery. Wout van Aert, Mathieu van der Poel, and defending champion Matej Mohorič all line out Saturday in Abbiategrasso with winner-potential wingmen to cover certain scenarios.
But in De Lie and his bunch sprint-bossing, berg-flattening ride through the past 15 months, Lotto-Dstny is both blessed and cursed with a teammate close to the complexion of its long-time Aussie captain.
The twosome only raced together six times as Lotto-Dstny spread its bets at harvesting points from its two premium finishers.
“Hopefully if I get over the Poggio this time I’ll have some teammates with me so we can keep things together – me and Arnaud will be racing, so hopefully we might have options. And we’re both fast, so …” Ewan said, before trailing off.
Fine margins make the difference after 290km
How does a Lotto-Dstny director make the call between two equal – if outsider – contenders for the San Remo shakedown?
Ewan and De Lie are two of the team’s small fleet of stars.
Ewan stuck with team Lotto through Tour de France stage-winning highs and the likely lure of bigger offers when its WorldTour license looked on the ropes.
And De Lie – who only turned 21 on Thursday – has blown a storm through Belgian media and is already touted as the next “big thing” behind Remco Evenepoel.
The second-year pro scored the team one-third of its UCI points in its 2022 relegation season and bowls out of the Belgian classics banging on the door of something big.
“San Remo is a monument, so, of course, I’m motivated, but it’s true that Paris-Roubaix or the Tour of Flanders make me dream more,” De Lie said. “Those are warrior classics, San Remo is waiting, waiting and still waiting for the explosion on the Poggio. It is a race that smiles on the smartest, not necessarily the strongest. It’s not the race that makes me want the most, but it comes in my top three.”
The chances of De Lie and Ewan both coming unscathed Saturday out of the Poggio “explosion” are slim.
But if they do, who gets given the green light might come down to who dropped an unopened gel, who pedaled a half-watt harder through the six hours before, and some difficult discussions in the Lotto team car.
It’s not likely, but it’s worth pondering Saturday while you wait 250km for the fireworks to begin. De Lie or Ewan – who does Lotto vote for Via Roma victory?