Fernando Gaviria's victory ahead of Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) in the final sprint of Tirreno-Adriatico automatically lifted him up the list of Milan-San Remo favourites but also reminded the talented young Colombian sprinter of his heart-breaking crash in sight of the line during last year's race.
Gaviria declined a lead out from Quick-Step Floors teammate Matteo Trentin to sit tight on Sagan's wheel in the high-speed finale of Monday's Tirreno-Adriatico stage to Civitanova Marche.
He went as far as apologising for his defensive riding in the finale of the stage but insisted it would be wrong to compare his win on the Adriatic coast after 168km of bland racing with how Milan-San Remo will play out on Saturday.
"The finale of the stage was perhaps similar to Milan-San Remo, but the Poggio is after 290km and so you have a lot less energy," Gaviria pointed out.
"I saw that my bike was first over the line, so I knew I'd won but then I actually said sorry to Peter because I didn't work on the descent. I don't usually race negatively like that but we had Niki up front. We decided to play an extra card with Niki and that forced Sagan to respond and so use a bit of energy.
"It was a very difficult and dangerous finale, so too it was difficult to use a lead out train. I just went with what I thought would work. We won, so we're happy anyway."
Thinking of Milan-San Remo
Gaviria made his debut at Milan-San Remo last year, and the Italian race remains the only Monument he has ridden so far in his prodigious career. He will be back this year and will again be Quick-Step Floors' protected rider for the widely expected sprint finish.
His late touch of wheels with Sagan last year, his crash and his tears of despair afterwards, were a dramatic and emotional moment. He insists he has put it all behind and is only looking forward, and looking forward to next Saturday.
"Last year a great rider won: Arnaud Demare. I don't look back. I've prepared the best I can and we'll see what happens on March 18," he said.
"Last year I was younger and even I didn't think I'd be able to do 300km. I crashed because I was scared that Sagan was going to pass me. I panicked, so I crashed. But when I pin on a number, I give my very best to win.
"They say Milan-San Remo is a lottery, but if someone has won it seven time it's not true. You've got to be good on the Poggio, that's the important thing."
Gaviria was happy to have beaten Sagan on Monday, but he flatly refuted that the world champion may have become over confident and vulnerable come Saturday.
"When you ride against a rider as strong as Sagan there's nothing that is in your favour. Peter's so strong that he could attack on the Poggio and win alone," he warned.
"I don't know if I can beat him. My goals for this year are the same as last year: win as many races as possible and win as much as possible with my team."
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