Milano-Sanremo never fails to deliver an exciting race in the last 25 kilometres with the shallow Cipressa and Poggio climbs. This year the peloton was thinned down massively before the Poggio thanks to Davide Formolo, who set a blistering pace up the Cipressa to make the race hard for his teammate Tadej Pogačar. The Tour de France champion was aggressive on the Poggio, but could not distance the other big contenders, with Pogačar’s countryman, Matej Mohorič, taking every possible risk on the Poggio descent, gaining a few valuable seconds. Unsurprisingly, the big stars did not cooperate well behind him, as Mohorič soloed to become the first Slovenian to ever win Milano-Sanremo.
With no Caleb Ewan present, Wout van Aert was the clear favourite to win the race. The Belgian champion’s teammate, Jos van Emden, was tasked with controlling the gap to the breakaway, pacing all day.
As usual, there was little action before the Cipressa. Thomas Pidcock was not feeling well and dropped out of the peloton before any major climbs and Peter Sagan was unlucky with a mechanical right before the base of the Cipressa. He tried to come back, but it was impossible as the UAE-Emirates with Jan Polanc was setting an incredibly high pace on the climb. After Polanc turn, Davide Formolo continued to hold a high tempo.
Sprinters like Elia Viviani and Fabio Jakobsen were dropped early as well as other riders who were expected to at least make the base of the Poggio like Ganna. It was not a surprise that the race split apart so much as it was the fastest Cipressa ascent in Milano-Sanremo in 20 years, helped by a strong tailwind.
Roglič had problems with positioning during the entry into the climbs as he was behind in the peloton, not with his Jumbo-Visma teammates, Wout van Aert and Christoph Laporte, who were sitting behind the UAE-Emirates train at the front. Roglič needed to waste a lot of energy to ride up to the front to his teammates, hitting a lot of wind just to make it back to van Aert’s wheel before the end of the Cipressa.
The peloton climbed the Cipressa (5.7 km, 4.1%) in 9 minutes and 34 seconds. Jan Tratnik averaged 421 watts (6.19 w/kg), which is an impressive power, considering how big of an effect the draft gives on a 4% climb with 36 km/h speed. The peloton was shattered in pieces as only ~25 riders were left in the group. A very selective race.
Usually the chasing groups come back in the valley before the Poggio, particularly as Jumbo-Visma had no interest in pacing, but this was a different race. UAE-Emirates continued to pace hard with Formolo, while Diego Ulissi and Pogačar were sitting behind him.
At the start of the Poggio there were left 25 riders in the group. From the fast-guys were left Mads Pedersen, Arnaud Demare, Giacomo Nizzolo, Ivan Garcia Cortina, Florian Senechal, Wout van Aert, Mathieu van der Poel and Michael Matthews. It was clear that Jumbo-Visma needed to make the race hard as possible to get rid of the sprint competition for Van Aert. Unfortunately for Jumbo-Visma, Roglič had problems sitting on Van Aert’s wheel as he was once again at the back of the group at the start of the Poggio. He had to move up in the wind during the start of the climb whilst his teammate Laporte paced hard on the front, once again spending precious energy.
The UAE-Emirates stuck to their plan and set a high tempo with Diego Ulissi for Pogačar. That is what Jumbo-Visma needed for Van Aert and Roglič except Pogačar attacked very early on the Poggio, on the shallow gradients with the entire group of contenders on his wheel.
Van Aert was able to follow him but did not offer assistance or counter attack, so the Slovenian slowed down immediately.
It was a stop start edition of the Poggio ascent this year, unlike in the previous few years. Pogačar tried multiple times, but he was not able to distance people on the 3% sections. Finally Pogačar seemed human after his domination of Strade Bianche and Tirreno Adriatico in previouus weeks.
Roglič also tried to attack, but van der Poel, who started the 2022 season after a back injury, was on his wheel. The Dutchman looked really great, considering his health issues.
The most devastating attack came from Søren Kragh Andersen. He went very hard close to the top of the Poggio and only Pogačar was able to follow him, but it was not easy to do it. Wout van Aert could not close to Pogacar’s wheel and had to ask van der Poel to close the gap for him, whilst Pedersen, Mohoric and others were not far behind.
Despite all of the attacks, the group crested the Poggio pretty much all together, but stretched out with Pogacar in the lead and van Aert second wheel.
With no rider really pacing the descent hard like Pidcock did last year, it was a time for Matej Mohorič to show his great descending talent. He is argubably the best descender in the world and moved up to the front of the peloton to the side of Pogačar. He surpassed his countryman and quickly gained a few metres gap after a 180 degree corner before risking everything on the descent. It fell to Van Aert to chase back Mohorič as no one else wanted to do it and he was second wheel when Mohoric attacked. At this moment Wout needed Roglič badly, but Roglič was far at the back of the peloton before the Poggio descent.
It was game-over for Van Aert and the other favourites by the end of the Poggio descent as Mohorič was keeping his gap, while getting a huge draft from motorbikes, which influenced the race massively.
Even with some coordinated efforts from van Aert, van der Poel, Pedersen and Pogačar’s in the chasing group, it was not enough to bring back the Slovenian.
The biggest scare for Mohorič was in the last kilometre. After the corner his chain got dropped for a second (see in the picture below), but luckily moments later it was back on the chainring.
Mohorič became the first Slovenian to win Milano-Sanremo. He is not the most physically gifted rider relative to the other major favourites for this race, but he is always tactically perfect, as he showed in the 2021 Tour de France, where he won two stages from breakaways (the first of which also featured MVDP and van Aert).
It was a great day for Slovenia as Pogačar (finished 5th), Tratnik (9th) and Roglič (17th) all were in the leaders group on the Poggio.
Frenchman Anthony Turgis attacked in the final straight from the chasing group and finished second. A great result for Total Energies, considering how badly timed was Sagan’s mechanical before the Cipressa. Van der Poel showed great legs today and finished 3rd, beating in the bunch sprint Matthews, Pogačar and Pedersen, with Van Aert finishing last from the group as he seemed not to be trying – presumably frustrated at the race once again going up the road.
Although Milano-Sanremo is the longest race on the UCI calendar, it is one of the easiest classics to finish. In the first 238 kilometres Bahrain-Victorious rider and teammate of Matej Mohorič, Jan Tratnik, averaged 202 watts (242W normalized power), which is only 2,97 w/kg if we use his strava input weight, 68 kilograms. In the last 53 kilometres of the race with all the important climbs, Tratnik averaged 311 watts (4,57 w/kg) and normalized power was 366w (5,38 w/kg), which is not super hard compared to other classics.
The peloton shattered on the Cipressa due to a high UAE-Emirates pace and positioning was vital with the tailwind making it hard for the groups to come back together after splits. It was the fastest Cipressa in at least 20 years. The record holders are Gabriele Colombo and Alexander Gontchenkov, who rode Cipressa in 1996 in 9 minutes and 19 seconds.
The Poggio on the other hand, was not as fast a time compared to the previous three years as there were multiple attacks early and there was no steady tempo on the earlier slopes like when Ganna paced last year.