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Milan-San Remo start line quotes: Pogacar, Van Aert, Van der Poel, Roglic

Milano Sanremo 2022 113th Edition Milano Sanremo 293 km 19032022 Mathieu Van Der Poel NED Alpecin Fenix photo Nico VereeckenPNBettiniPhoto2022
Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) speaks to reporters at the start of Milan-San Remo (Image credit: Bettini/Spring Cycling Agency)

The 2022 edition of Milan-San Remo is underway, with the riders having rolled out from the historic Vigorelli velodrome to kick off 293 kilometres of racing.

Illness has swept through the peloton in recent weeks, taking several big favourites out of action ahead of La Classicissima. But despite the absences of Jasper Stuyven, Julian Alaphilippe, and Caleb Ewan, there were still plenty of big names lining up in Milan ahead of a long day on the bike.

Topics of conversation ahead of what is expected to be an aggressive edition of Milan-San Remo included illnesses, the possibility of long-range attacks on the Cipressa, team tactics, and the sprinters' chances. 

Cyclingnews is reporting from the race with our men Stephen Farrand and Barry Ryan. Here's what the big names at the race – including Tadej Pogačar, Wout van Aert, Mathieu van der Poel, and Primož Roglič – had to say in the Vigorelli.

Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates)

Milano Sanremo 2022 113th Edition Milano Sanremo 293 km 19032022 Tadej Pogacar SLO UAE Team Emirates Ryan Gibbons RSA UAE Team Emirates photo Luca BettiniBettiniPhoto2022

Tadej Pogacar in the peloton during the early kilometres of the race (Image credit: Luca BettiniBettiniPhoto2022)

"I did it one time only and it's one of the biggest race sin the world. I'm super happy to start.

"We would like to leave them behind on Cipressa but we all know that's quite hard to do. We need to see how the race will go. Our team with our riders we hope it's a hard race.

"I'm not considering Wout [van Aert] to drop but I think any sprinter here is really hard to drop. We need to try and commit 100% on the plan we have and try to execute it 100%.

"What is the plan exactly? It's quite obvious - a hard, attacking race, but I cannot tell you exactly."

Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix)

"[I got the call-up] two days ago, actually. I came home from training and I had a few missed called from the team.

"Gianni [Vermeersch] got sick and we also lost Robert Stannard this morning – he got sick. They asked me if I wanted to replace him, and it was a difficult decision because normally I was going to start again at Coppi e Bartali. But after a while I decided to go here without any pressure and just see what I can do.

"[My form] is a question mark for me as well. I feel pretty good in training, but training isn't racing. We'll see how I feel in the end. I have a free role for me today as well, so we'll see how the race develops."

"[My back] is quite OK. Sometimes after hard training I still feel something but on the bike it's quite ok. It doesn't hold me back anymore, so I hope it stays that way and it evolves in a positive way."

Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma)

Milano Sanremo 2022 113th Edition Milano Sanremo 293 km 19032022 Wout Van Aert BEL Team Jumbo Visma photo Nico VereeckenPNBettiniPhoto2022

Van Aert speaks to the press in the Vigorelli velodrome (Image credit: Bettini/Spring Cycling Agency)

"I hope [I'm] good. I got a nice few days off with my family. It was what I wanted after a tough week.

"[Riders out ill] might change a little bit but there's still plenty of favourites left. It's strange all the sickness in the bunch but on the other hand it's a Monument and the teams replace them with other strong riders.

"We'll see – San Remo is very long and fast but sometimes a boring race until we hit the Capi and Cipressa. From then on it's always really hard. Sometimes it looks like there's not much happening but the pace is already really high. So either we'll get attacks or be suffering already."

Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma)

"I'm still a bit in pain from the cobbles. I'm not so used to it. There will be no cobbles but it's a super nervous final and it'll be a big and fast fight.

"We'll see in the race [about my recovery]. When I don't do anything I feel OK. Of course, I'm tired but it's a long race and you need to have good legs to be there in the final.

"You need to go super far and be super good to come to the point I can give back something to Wout.

Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo)

Milano Sanremo 2022 113th Edition Milano Sanremo 293 km 19032022 Mads Pedersen DEN Trek Segafredo photo Roberto BettiniBettiniPhoto2022

Former world champion Pedersen at the start of Milan-San Remo (Image credit: Roberto BettiniBettiniPhoto2022)

"It's nice to be here. Now i'm here and the shape is good so hope I can do something nice today.

"I think as a cyclist sometimes you just have to change your mentality fast and try to prepare as fast as possible.

"After I got the call on Thursday evening I had to 'turn on' and put my focus to the race and I did good results once in a Monument the first time I did it. Sometimes you can go into a race and don't know what to expect and that can be a benefit also.

"[To beat] Van Aert beat him in a sprint, Pogačar try to follow in the climbs. [For me] I'll follow and then sprint."

Philippe Gilbert (Lotto Soudal)

"It's a really nice race today. It's 300 kilometres – you don't do this every weekend, so it's really special. Of course San Remo is a really important race but I also know that I've missed winning here. I've had some good places but not a win. It's a lot of expectation but like I said I'm realistic on my chances because my shape wasn't great and I got sick before, like a lot of guys from Paris-Nice. It's really not the best condition to start.

"It's a lot of people sick but it's also a lot of riders riding really, really fast. I expect a fast race, especially with a tailwind on the coast.

"It's not a race where you have communion like the public like you have in other races. It's only a few people on the Capo Berta and then that's it pretty much. You have people who go out who live there but they don't come to see the race because it's difficult to follow the race. It's not the same atmosphere."

Giacomo Nizzolo (Israel-Premier Tech)

Milano Sanremo 2022 - 113th Edition - Milano - Sanremo 293 km - 19/03/2022 - Giacomo Nizzolo (ITA - Israel - Premier Tech) - photo Luca Bettini/BettiniPhoto©2022

Nizzolo with his custom Milan-San Remo helmet in the peloton (Image credit: Bettini/Spring Cycling Agency)

"I'm OK. Already being in the start looks like something not normal almost. After Tirreno my shape made a step so I feel OK. I don't think i'm one of the favourites but we can play our cards.

"As I said I want to enjoy the day first of all because it's a race that I love. In the final try my best. Obviously some guys will attack and as a sprinter we try to come back as soon as possible.

"I think they'll attack and hopefully they'll look at each other and then we can come back from behind."

Michael Matthews (BikeExchange-Jayco)

"I'm OK, still trying to recover from my crash in Strade. But I'm as good as I can be. I'm on the start line so that's a good sign.

"It seems like a lot of sprinters have been out sick now. It can open up the race to be a much more explosive race without the sprinter teams controlling it for an easier Cipressa and Poggio, let's say. I don't know what to expect. I think no-one really knows, especially in this race. I think anything can happen with so many guys out. It fliups the cards upside down even more.

"We'll see. I think I'll need to be with the guys when they go on the climb and i'll see what I can do in the finish."

Peter Sagan (TotalEnergies)

"I'm good, thank you. It's good, we have nice weather. I did some Milan-San Remo that was rainy and cold and I prefer weather like this. It's going to be a nice Saturday.

"First of all it's important to eat and drink until Cipressa, be at the front and then we'll see. The race will start there.

"Everything is going to be decided there [Cipressa and Poggio], I think."

Greg van Avermaet (AG2R Citroën)

Milano Sanremo 2022 113th Edition Milano Sanremo 293 km 19032022 Greg Van Avermaet BEL AG2R Citroen Team photo Nico VereeckenPNBettiniPhoto2022

Van Avermaet at the team presentation in the Vigorelli velodrome (Image credit: Bettini/Spring Cycling Agency)

"I think the Cipressa is always the super-important one. For the positioning and also downhill with the tailwind it's going to be a super fast race. So I think it will be an interesting race. It's a bit of a pity not everyone is here but the field is still strong to have a good race.

"I'll try to follow as far as possible, keep good position and not lose too much energy. That will be key to a good result at San Remo."

Michal Kwiatkowski (Ineos Grenadiers)

"It's nice to be back racing – that was one of my first goals of the season. I had some troubles in the preparation but finally I can race and look forward to try to win the big races again.

"You have to be flexible to the situation and obviously Tom is one of those guys who can make the difference on the hardest part of the Poggio and win the overall race, but we can't forget about having Filippo, Elia, Ethan and myself.

"You have to really be flexible and see what the situation is on the Cipressa, after the Cipressa, and on the Poggio, and use the numbers to make the difference in the final."

Fabio Jakobsen (QuickStep-AlphaVinyl)

"Obviously I'm quite excited. I look forward to it. It's my First Monument so it's something special. It's time to go, I think.

"That's the question for everybody. I just need to see and find out. It's after 250km and you just need to see what's in the legs. You just hope you're on a good day and find out on the Cipressa and Poggio.

"For sure, the team can bring me in a good position at the bottom maybe in between the Cipressa and Poggio we can close the gap if I'm too far. I think that's the only thing they can do because after Poggio it's only 2 kilometres to the finish. Then you see if you can sprint on Via Roma.

"If you see the list of names who won this race, there's a couple of big sprinters and you want to be up there."

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Daniel Ostanek
Daniel Ostanek

Daniel Ostanek is production editor at Cyclingnews, having joined in 2017 as a freelance contributor and later being hired as staff writer. Before Cyclingnews, he was published in numerous publications around the cycling world, including Procycling, CyclingWeekly, CyclingTips, Cyclist, and Rouleur, among others. As well as reporting and writing news and features, Daniel runs the 'How to watch' content throughout the season.

Daniel has reported from the world's top races, including the Tour de France, and has interviewed a number of the sport's biggest stars, including Egan Bernal, Wout van Aert, Remco Evenepoel, Mark Cavendish, and Anna van der Breggen. Daniel rides a 2002 Landbouwkrediet Colnago C40 and his favourite races are Strade Bianche and the Vuelta a España.