Tadej Pogačar has made it clear he's targeting Milan-San Remo on Saturday, looking to add La Classicissima to his victories at the UAE Tour, Strade Bianche, and Tirreno-Adriatico and so continue an incredible run of early-season success.
The Tour de France champion is rewriting cycling’s record books, winning 10 stage races by the age of just 23, and reaffirming that the greatest riders - those with the widest talents - can win Grand Tours and even Classics like Milan-San Remo, which is traditionally reserved for the sprinters and those who try their hand on the Poggio.
Pogačar’s presence at Milan-San Remo changes the race significantly, further reducing the sprinters’ chances of success and leaving everyone else scratching their heads on how to control him and beat him.
After winning Tirreno-Adriatico, Pogačar warned his rivals that he is close to his Tour de France form, putting them under pressure. He remained as relaxed and laid back as ever, enthusiastic about trying to upset the cycling narrative by winning MIlan-San Remo and continuing his 'Cannibal-esque' career trajectory.
"Everyone keeps asking what to expect on Saturday. Well, we can expect a long, hard race. Milan-San Remo is one of the easiest races to finish but one of the hardest races to win but we go there with a strong team and we try our best," Pogačar said as he headed home from Tirreno-Adriatico to rest up and prepare for Saturday’s first monument of the 2022 season.
"I think it’s also one of the most difficult races for me to win, probably the hardest," he added modestly, thinking through his options, before adding a hint of determination.
"Look at the finale. The Cipressa is not so steep. There’s the Poggio but a lot of riders can get over it and at speed, including some of the sprinters. At that point the race is decided in a sprint or someone tries a late solo attack. I’m not the rider with all the best options to win it. Of course, if I get a chance, I’ll go for it."
Pogačar won Strade Bianche in early March will a 50km solo attack. Milan-San Remo has been won with similar long-range moves but they are massively against the odds in modern cycling.
Pogačar has the power to attack on the Cipressa or the Poggio climbs. It seems UAE Team Emirates will select a team that can explode the race on the Cipressa and blow out most of the sprinters.
A small group could go clear and then Pogačar could attack again on the Poggio in the hope he can distance the likes of Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) and anyone else who could beat him a sprint in the Via Roma finish.
Pogačar hinted the Cipressa could be the decisive point in this year’s Milan-San Remo.
"A long range attack in Milan-San Remo, would be something special but I don’t think it’s likely. But maybe on the Cipressa you can do it…" he said with a glint of enthusiasm in his eye.
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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.