Milan-San Remo ticker: Girmay pumped, Van der Poel quietly confident, Powless likes tailwinds

Follow all the news for Milan-San Remo to open the men's 'monument' season.

Photo: Tim de Waele / Getty Images

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Biniam Girmay is amped for his return to Milan-San Remo and will count among the favorites if it comes down to a reduced bunch sprint.

“I learned how important the positioning is in this race,” Girmay said of his second San Remo start. “In the final you have to follow the right moves and the right riders to avoid getting towards the back and having to spend a lot of energy to ride to the front again.

“There’s no secret, the legs or physical condition have to be good and in the final it is unavoidable to take risks downhill. However, the unpredictability makes it so difficult to get a leverage on the key to success. Last year for example, the battle between the favorites started on the Cipressa already, way earlier than usual. You need to make intelligent choices, that’s what makes it so difficult to win this monument.”

So far in 2023, Girmay’s won one race, and he’s relishing a chance to head back to the northern monuments which he lit up last year with victory at Gent-Wevelgem.

“I’m looking forward to this period with Milano-Sanremo, the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix, the three monuments I wanted to prepare really well,” Girmay said. “After winning in Valencia I trained at home in Asmara for one month. Then I built up competition rhythm in the Italian races the past two weeks. Each day I felt my form growing, resulting in a third and fourth place in Tirreno-Adriatico.

“It was also essential to stay spared of crashes and other problems. So I can’t wait to line up on Saturday. It will be again a good learning process to approach my dream of, one day, finishing on the podium of the Primavera.”

Mathieu van der Poel: ‘Milan-San Remo is a separate race’

Van der Poel knew he wouldn’t be at his peak for Strade Bianche. (Photo: Tim de Waele/Getty Images)

Mathieu van der Poel isn’t getting concerned by the slow start to his road season as he revs up for Milan-San Remo.

After a quiet ride through Strade Bianche and Tirreno-Adriatico, Van der Poel is hoping his dice rolls a six in the game of luck and legs that is La Primavera.

“Last year I proved Milan-San Remo is a separate race. It was then my first race and I came third,” Van der Poel told HLN. “In Strade Bianche you can’t get third if you’re not top. So I didn’t have high expectations there, but in San Remo I hope to be close for the first time.”

After his emphatic victory at ‘cross worlds, MVDP flew beneath the radar as he warmed up his road tires. Fifteenth in Strade came before the 28-year-old failed to impress beyond some stunner leadouts at Tirreno-Adriatico.

“The form wasn’t very good. It wasn’t dramatically bad either. Some things were good, others were bad. But it certainly wasn’t what I expected,” Van der Poel said of the stage race.

“I don’t attach much importance to that. In the past I have often experienced that I was not good in a race and in the race after that I was,” he continued.”I was once dropped 70 kilometers before the end of Dwars door Vlaanderen and four days later I almost won the Ronde van Vlaanderen [in 2021 – ed]. I don’t worry about those things anymore.”

Matej Mohorič ‘better than last year’ ahead of Milan-San Remo defense

Mohorič stunned the favorites with a superb descent when he won Milan-San Remo. (Photo: MARCO BERTORELLO/AFP via Getty Images)

Bahrain Victorious returns to Milan-San Remo with defending champion Matej Mohorič hoping to repeat his win in 2022 with his impressive descent last year.

“I am aware that confirming the success will be difficult, but yes, Sanremo is open to various outcomes, and I think I can still have a chance to win it again,” Mohorič said. “Probably, I will be more controlled by the rivals, but I guess I still have good cards in my pocket”.

TBV sports director Franco Pellizotti agreed: “We arrive as the winner of the last edition, therefore, the expectations are high. But every year, it’s a different story in this race, and everybody now knows what Matej is capable of.

“Although he feels even better than in 2022, it’s not taken for granted that he can repeat what he did to win the Sanremo, and with the same outcome. He’s a clever rider, and he does not necessarily have to wait for the Poggio descent to try to win again. I believe that his skills can let him win this Monument in different ways.”

Neilson Powless likes tailwind forecast

Powless rode into the top-10 at Paris-Nice. (Photo: Alex Broadway/Getty Images)

Neilson Powless (EF Education-EasyPost) is relishing the wind forecast of tailwinds down the Italian Riviera for Saturday’s Milan-San Remo.

Powless returns to San Remo for just his second start as part of a competitive EF team that will be trying to upset the favorites.

“This year, I am even more excited about it, because it looks like it will be a tailwind up both climbs, which will help the climbers,” Neilson said. “I think this is the best year to put in a bid for victory. I am hoping that I will be able to follow the best on the Poggio when the attacks go, and then we’ll also have Alberto Bettiol and Magnus Cort there.

“They are faster at the finish than me, so if it is still a group and we are there they can have good trust in me to help with the sprint.”

Van Avermaet, Nizzolo both out

Greg Van Avermaet will miss San Remo with bronchitis, Ag2r-Citroën officials confirmed.

“His participation in the classics is not compromised. He will be replaced by Jaakko Hänninen,” a press note read.

Israel Premier Tech’s Giacomo Nizzolo will also miss the Italian monument with fever, La Gazzetta dello Sport reported. Nizzolo’s fifth in 2020 is the best by an Italian in five years.

Julian Alaphilippe headlines Soudal-Quick-Step

Alaphilippe leads Soudal-Quick-Step. (Photo: Getty Images)

Julian Alaphilippe, the winner of the 2019 edition, will lead Soudal-Quick-Step in what’s his 20th start in a monument. He will be joined by 2021 De Ronde winner Kasper Asgreen, Davide Ballerini, Tim Declercq, Dries Devenyns, Yves Lampaert, and French Champion Florian Sénéchal.

“We go to the start of Milano-Sanremo with a lot of grinta. Julian won this race a couple of years ago, he showed some nice things this season, and we know he will be one of the riders to watch, but given what we have seen in Paris-Nice and Tirreno-Adriatico, there will be a lot of favorites,” said Soudal Quick-Step sports director Davide Bramati. “The confidence is there, the guys are ready after a strong start to the season, now we just hope luck will be on our side, because we are very motivated to go for a good result.”

Pidcock out of Milan-San Remo with concussion

Pidcock will not race Saturday, officials confirmed. (Photo: Tim de Waele/Getty Images)

Ineos Grenadiers confirmed Pidcock will not race Saturday due to a minor concussion, officials confirmed Wednesday.

The Strade Bianche winner crashed out of Tirreno-Adriatico on Sunday, and doctors said he is not ready to race in the Italian monument less than a week later.

After showing symptoms of a mild concussion, Pidcock will “rest for a prescribed period in line with established concussion protocols,” a team note read.

“This is obviously disappointing for Tom and the team. We saw at Strade Bianche the type of form he’s in and I know how keen he was to carry that into Milan-San Remo,” said deputy principal Rod Ellingworth.

Vincenzo Nibali expects Pogačar to attack on the Cipressa

Vincenzo Nibali defies the odds in 2014 to win Milan-San Remo. (Photo: MARCO BERTORELLO/AFP via Getty Images)

Former Milan-San Remo winner Vincenzo Nibali expects Tadej Pogačar to try to attack on the Cipressa on Saturday to catch out the favorites with a long-range attack.

“Last year he tried to make a difference on the Poggio, but now he will focus on the Cipressa. Last year’s edition he has in mind, and he will try to change something,” Nibali told La Gazzetta dello Sport.

“I cannot rule out the possibility that he and his team will try a long attack on Saturday on the Cipressa in order to wear down Mathieu van der Poel and Wout van Aert. Van der Poel and Van Aert are the two rivals for Pogačar, who is the favorite,” Nibali said.

“Van der Poel will be the most important man for Alpecin-Deceuninck, although they can also aim for Jasper Philipsen in a sprint. At Jumbo-Visma, I expect that they will fully pull the Van Aert card. He can put his gear on the hardest part of the Poggio, a section of 600 meters, but he can also wait for the sprint.”

Pidcock on Pogačar: ‘Everyone will be watching him’

Tom Pidcock is pointing to Tadej Pogačar as the top favorite for Saturday’s Milan-San Remo and says the Slovenian will dictate tactics.

“I think Pogačar is the only one who, when the going is really fast, can put a gap on the Poggio,” Pidcock told Het Nieuwsblad. “At the top of the Poggio you know where you stand. It doesn’t lie. Everyone will be watching him and that makes it incredibly difficult for him to win.

“Milan-San Remo is about the strongest rider. Position is absolutely important, but many teams have strong riders who can do that,” said Pidcock, who will not race due to a minor concussion. “The number strength of a team is irrelevant, because only your strongest man with the best riders crosses the top of the climb. Maybe you can play a bit in the descent if you are in pairs: one attacks, the other waits.”

Michael Matthews to miss Milan-San Remo with COVID-19

Matthews, right, will miss San Remo due to COVID-19. (Photo: Tim de Waele/Getty Images)

Michael Matthews will not race Saturday’s Milan-San Remo, team officials confirmed Tuesday.

Matthews tested for COVID with light symptoms and withdrew from Paris-Nice on Sunday.

“Matthews will therefore not be on the start line for this weekend’s San Remo,” a team note read. “It is a huge disappointment as a season goal and a much-loved race, but health is the priority.”

The Jayco-AlUla star twice finished third in the Italian monument in 10 starts, first in 2015 and again in 2020.

Tadej Pogačar working out San Remo ‘scenarios’

Pogačar in action in the 2022 Milan-San Remo. (Photo: MARCO BERTORELLO/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Tadej Pogačar headlines UAE Team Emirates at Milan-San Remo in a bid for the Italian monument.

After a hot start to 2023, Pogačar will be one of the favorites for victory. In two starts, he was 12th in 2020 and fifth last year.

“Milan-San Remo is a beautiful race. I know the roads pretty well. I don’t live too far away and sometimes in training I can go to the Poggio and ride it,” Pogačar said. “I’ve pictured many scenarios in my head of how the race can go. But it’s unpredictable and for sure one of the hardest races to win.

“After a great week at Paris-Nice I’m recovering a bit now and getting ready for the big weekend,” he said. “We have a strong team and we’re riding well together so I think we’ll have a few different options maybe for the finale.”

UAE Team Emirates for Milan-San Remo:

Alessandro Covi (Ita)
Davide Formolo (Ita)
Felix Grosschartner (Aus)
Domen Novak (Slo)
Tadej Pogačar (Slo)
Matteo Trentin (Ita)
Diego Ulissi (Ita)

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