After the delightful Opening Weekend in Flanders where Jumbo-Visma showed its supremacy, Tom Pidcock’s punishing number in Strade Bianche and the multi-day stage races Paris-Nice and Tirreno-Adriatico, on Saturday, March 18, 2023, it’s time for the first monument of cycling: Milan San Remo. This first big date is also the first meeting between The Big Five. Are we going to have a battle between Mathieu van der Poel, Wout van Aert, Tadej Pogačar, Tom Pidcock and Julian Alaphilippe? Wieler-Koers.nl looks ahead with the preview Milan San Remo 2023!
Preview Milan San Remo 2023
Of course, in Flanders they boast of their Omloop het Nieuwsblad. This is therefore the eyes of many cycling fans affectionately called the season opener. Although it is the first spring classic of 2023, Milan San Remo is where it really begins. La Primavera is thus the first cycling monument to be held on the cycling calendar and, with those other monuments – the Tour of Flanders, Paris Roubaix, Liège-Bastogne-Liège and the Tour of Lombardy, also has the greatest heroism and history. MSR, at three hundred kilometers, is by far the longest course. Hours of waiting for a short but often fierce finale.
Milan San Remo history
The history of Milano Sanremo goes back to 1907. That’s when Frenchman Lucien Petit-Breton, a great gentleman in cycling at the time, managed to win the first edition. When you mention the history of this race, you automatically say Costante Girardengo. Il Campionissimo won the classic six times between 1917 and 1928 and even stood on the podium eleven (!) times.
In the following years, the race increasingly grew into a full-fledged classic. Rivals Learco Guerra and Alfredo Binda and Gino Bartali and Fausto Coppi fought man-to-man battles, but after Loretto Petrucci’s victory in 1953, the Italians had to wait a while for another win. Big names such as Rik van Steenbergen, Rik van Looy and Raymond Poulidor were behind this, but it was mainly The Cannibal who was hungry in La Primavera. Between 1966 and 1976, Eddy Merckx won the race no less than seven times. Still a record to this day.
Where the Belgians have no less than 22 wins to their name, only 3 Dutchmen won here. Only Arie den Hartog (1965), Jan Raas (1977) and Hennie Kuiper (1985) were able to triumph here.
Before we look back to last year, we’ll highlight one more edition. That of exactly ten years ago. Under miserable conditions, with heavy snowfall and freezing temperatures, the Passo del Turchino and Le Manie were removed from the course and German Gerald Ciolek managed to surprise friend and foe. Not Fabian Cancellara or Mark Cavendish or Peter Sagan, but the rider of MTN-Qhubeka writes MSR on his name.
Whereas in the 1990s the race increasingly grew into a monument where a sprinter knows how to win, since Arnaud Démare’s victory no race spurler has walked away with the flowers. After Michal Kwiatkowski in 2017, Vicenzo Nibali in 2018, Julian Alaphilippe in 2019, Wout van Aert in the summer edition in the corona year (photo below) and Jasper Stuyven’s solo in 2021, it is Mateh Mohorič who, dropper post and all, leaves everyone behind and uses the descent of the Poggio to mouse away. His cartouche, at the risk of his life, gives him the necessary count advantage not to be caught again.
Route Milano Sanremo 2023
Milan-San Remo 2023 will start for the first time in history not in Milan, but in Abbiategrasso. From there it will take to the Ligurian coast and finish in San Remo on the iconic Via Roma. With a total of 294 kilometers! Go figure indeed!
The first thirty kilometers or so – from the start of Abbiategrasso to Pavia are new, after that the original route will be used again. So the crossing of the Passo del Turchino, after which the traditional coastal town looms up and it will be full speed, on to the Tre Capi. None of the Capo Mele, Capo Cervo or Capo Berta are particularly challenging on their own, but they will wear out the legs and provide excitement on the final two climbs, the Cipressa and the Poggio. Both the ascents and descents of those two climbs – and the final stretch on the Via Roma – should be the key moments of the race.
The Cipressa is a 5.6 km climb with an average gradient of 4.1%. With more than 20 km to go from the top of the climb, it’s a long way to make an attack, but that won’t stop some of the stronger climbers from trying.
Favorites & Contenders Milan San Remo 2023
Thomas Pidcock was readmitted to the WhatsApp group with the big men after his resounding victory in the Strade Bianche, joked the benchwarmers of podcast The Red Lantern. All five participants of that WhatsApp group, which includes the five aforementioned clappers, will act in La Classicissima. And we can write each of them down as favorites. But how are the stars distributed? Who are the biggest favorites Milan Sanremo 2023?
It’s been 2016 since Milan San Remo ended in a traditional bunch sprint. After Frenchman Arnaud Démare, it was only puncheurs who triumphed on Via Roma. Soloists or hard riders in a depleted elite group. And if it will be up to several favorites, Milan Sanremo 2023 will also get this scenario!
After his unprecedented punishing performance in Paris-Nice, Tadej Pogačar may be the man to beat on Saturday at Via Roma in Sanremo. Is he therefore on the first place in the list of favorites Milan San Remo 2023 of Wieler-Koers.nl? Yes, definitely. However, the very strong Slovenian has one disadvantage on Saturday: the Poggio may be too light to hurt all rivals. What ruse will Pogi come up with to make La Primavera win?
Should Pogačar throw up a patat on the Poggio, he will have to hope that Wout van Aert cannot hold his wheel. WVA is always strong at Milan San Remo and has a lot of credentials: in four of the four participations he rode to a top-10 finish. In 2020, he won the summer edition by beating Julian Alaphilippe.
In the HLN podcast Wuyts & Vlaeminck, Iljo Keisse pointed to Van Aert as the favorite for Sanremo. “In think he will really bring out the hammer in Sanremo. It won’t be to train anymore, but to race. I think there is a very nice victory in it for him,” said the current Soudal-Quick Step team leader.
When you say Wout van Aert, you also say Mathieu van der Poel. Is at Alpecin-Fenix Saturday’s leader together with Jasper Philipsen. The Belgian for the bunch sprint and as soon as men like Pogi tears things apart on the Poggio – Mathieu van der Poel is there. And although Poeleke doesn’t have the best legs yet, you should never flatten him!
Behind the Big Three, we put Thomas Pidcock and Matej Mohorič. And for their ability to control the race in a descent. The Brit won the Strade Bianche partly this way, the Slovenian once again showed in La Primavera last year that he is the best descender in the peloton.
Behind these big names, there are a whole row of big names who are aiming to win in this monument. Caleb Ewan and Arnaud de Lie of Lotto-Dstny hope to survive the Poggio and strike from the sprint, while Mads Pedersen can win in multiple scenarios.
Finally, former winner Julian Alaphilippe. Can he triumph at Sanremo on rancor?
Favorites Milan Sanremo 2023
***** Wout van Aert
**** Tadej Pogačar
*** Mathieu van der Poel
** Thomas Pidcock
* Matej Mohorič
Dark horses: Caleb Ewan, Mads Pedersen, Julian Alaphilippe
More about the cycling spring classics? Read than our preview cycling classics or navigate to our Belgium friends of Voorjaarsklassiekers.be for their voorbeschouwing Milan Sanremo 2023