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Ganna on the Milan-San Remo sick-list but vows to 'seize the day'

Filippo Ganna made a mark on last year's Milan-San Remo
Filippo Ganna made a mark on last year's Milan-San Remo (Image credit: Getty Images)

Filippo Ganna added his name to the long list of riders to fall ill before Milan-San Remo, revealing he has been sick and even struggled to ride this week. 

However, like every Italian who really 'feels' the importance, prestige and the magic of Milan-San Remo, he promised to give his all, with a carpe diem strategy and without excluding any outcome to his race.   

"I can breathe now, that's a good thing," Ganna said on Friday afternoon via a video call, his nose still slightly blocked but his morale seemingly still high.    

"I had a high fever on Sunday after Tirreno-Adriatico and Monday. I didn’t ride on Monday or Tuesday either and struggled on Wednesday, even on the rollers. I rode for two hours on Thursday and felt a little better in the second hour of the ride. It was the same today. I hope that after seven hours of riding at Milan San Remo my body gets used to it and helps me out.

"I think 85-90 per cent of the bunch have had the same problems, so whoever has been a little luckier perhaps has better condition. It’s not nice to be ill for anyone, we all want to be in perfect shape and feel good, but my mentality and my legs are ready.

"I need to be mentally stronger and try to stay focused for the finale of the race. Being ill doesn’t matter; we stay focused. If we get a result, that’s fantastic. If we don’t get anything, it doesn’t change a thing."

Improving year-on-year, attacking after the Poggio

Ganna is riding Milan-San Remo for the fifth time in his career. Like lowering his pursuit times on the track, he hopes to improve his results year-on-year. 

In 2021, he dragged the peloton up the much of the Poggio at speed to set up his Ineos Grenadiers teammates. That sparked a scandal in Italy, with the tifosi and the Italian media angered that Ganna, a world time trial and track champion had to sacrifice his chance in an Italian classic and work as a simple domestique. He had to explain post-race that he had been ill but the polemica continued.    

Ganna’s impressive career trajectory and multitude of racing skills means that this year he has team leadership at Ineos Grenadiers alongside Tom Pidock, Michal Kwiatkowski and Elia Viviani, and the freedom to try his cards despite his recent illness.

With the likes of Tadej Pogačar expected to make a hard race to try to distance the sprinters, and Wout van Aert seemingly on great form and able to attack on the Poggio and win a sprint in the Via Roma, Ganna has to follow a different strategy that plays to his strengths.

He can perhaps survive a high pace over the Cipressa climb with 25km to go but has to also hold onto any Poggio attacks from Pogačar, Van Aert and anyone else. Only then does he have a chance to go solo and time trial to the finish.

Ganna quietly admitted that his best chance could be an attack in the final two kilometres after the descent of the Poggio, as Jasper Stuyven did last year and as fellow time trial world champion Fabian Cancellara pulled off in 2008.

"I’ve ridden Milan-San Remo four times. The first time I made it to Imperia and was dropped on the Cipressa, the second time I made it over the Cipressa but then was dropped on the Poggio. The third time last year, I pulled for half of the Poggio and was dropped. This year if I make it over the Poggio, I will be happy," Ganna said, laying out his strategy with honesty.

"For sure I can’t sprint and I can’t really follow Tadej and Wout van Aert on the climbs because we just have different body types. Yeah, an attack like Fabian Cancellara did would be perfect for me. But it won't be easy.

"There are some strong riders in the race, who can attack on the climbs but the finale starts after 280km, when there’s not much left in the legs, so the difference will be small by then. It will all be about who has saved as little as energy as possible, who has stayed on the wheels and fueled well all race.

"We need to race carpe diem,” he added, applying the oft-used latin phrase, meaning seize the day, to Milan-San Remo.

"You have to sense the moment to make a big effort. Milan-San Remo is a strange race; you can have fantastic legs before the Poggio and then after two corners you can tighten up and not know why.

"It’s hard to attack before the Cipressa, and too late to attack after the Poggio because you have to be up front on the climbs. I don’t have the crystal ball to see the future. We'll see what happens in the race."

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Stephen Farrand

Stephen is the most experienced member of the Cyclingnews team, having reported on professional cycling since 1994. He has held the position of European editor since 2012 and previously worked for Reuters, Shift Active Media, and Cycling Weekly, among other publications.