Seven years on from the last Italian victory at Milan-San Remo, a nation turns its lonely eyes to youth ahead of this year’s edition of the race, as Moreno Moser (Cannondale) makes his debut in the first monument of the season.
Fresh from victory in Strade Bianche and flanking pre-race favourite Peter Sagan, expectations are high for the Trento native, and Italian cycling’s penchant for nostalgia has only added to the sense of anticipation around Moser’s San Remo bow: his uncle Francesco won the race in 1984, albeit at his 12th attempt and under the controversial guidance of Dr. Francesco Conconi.
The younger Moser only turned 22 last Christmas, however, and in spite of his fine start to the current campaign, he was keen to put things in perspective at the Cannondale pre-race press conference in Milan.
“It’s my first Milan-San Remo, it’s a 300km race and that’s a distance I’ve never tackled in my life before, so I don’t know what my hopes are really,” Moser said. “I’d just like to be competitive in the finale and be able to help Peter. If I’m still in the race after the Poggio and able to help Peter win, then that would be a successful San Remo for me.”
Although Moser had caught the eye last season with wins at the Trofeo Laigueglia and Tour of Poland, it was his tub-thumping win at Strade Bianche two weeks ago ahead of his teammate Sagan that catapulted his name into the list of contenders for La Classicissima.
“I suppose I have a lot more expectations than I did before Strade Bianche,” Moser conceded. “Milan-San Remo is the Olympus of cycling and it’s emotional just to take part.”
Two days before his own Strade Bianche win, Moser had diligently fulfilled his role of équipier deluxe at the GP Camaiore, closing down the moves after the Monte Pitone and setting up Sagan for his winning sprint. In spite of his own burgeoning reputation, Moser accepts his place in the Cannondale hierarchy – on Sunday, he will be a foil for Sagan, rather than a co-leader.
“We have a real phenomenon in the team, a genuine fuoriclasse and it would be foolish not to put everything on him,” said Moser.
The Italian also admitted that he been humbled somewhat by his experience at Tirreno-Adriatico, where he had entered with vague aspirations of chasing a high overall finish.
“I thought I had the condition to go for a stage race, but instead I had it for one-day races. Everyone wanted to see me as a protagonist in the race, and I did too, but I don’t know myself perfectly yet.” Moser’s Primavera debut will be another step along that particular path.