Milano-Sanremo Preview: The Stars Come To Suffer

The 2020 season has now officially begun with a 300k race

RBA/AFP

Cycling’s top one-day racers will embark in sizzling temperatures Saturday for an epic 300-kilometre run in the 111th edition of the Milan-San Remo. The exhausting seven-hour race is one of cycling’s five prestigious ultra-long one-day races known as monuments.

There will be 27 teams of six riders, who will parade through 10km of Milan streets even before the start. Italy has several potential challengers including Matteo Trentin, who feels he has something to prove after coming runner-up in the epic world championships in Yorkshire last October. His team boss says that like the Yorkshire rain, the sizzling summer heat in Italy will whittle down the field.

“The riders have just a few races in their legs and the 300km is already a challenge, but in this heat too it will be tough,” Valerio Piva said of the race that starts five months after its original scheduled date due to the coronavirus pandemic.

In this compacted and rejigged season Wout Van Aert won the first major one-day race, the Strade Bianchi, last weekend and the giant Belgian Jumbo-Visma rider drew wide praise with the convincing manner of that victory. Van Aert would be happy to lead a reduced group into San Marino, which is
how the race often finishes. “If it comes down to a sprint for a small or even a large group in San
Marino I know I won’t be afraid of that,” said the 25-year-old former cyclo-cross world champion.

JUST HOW TOUGH?

Strade Bianche 2020 – Wout Van Aert (BEL – Team Jumbo – Visma). Photo: Bettini

Van Aert won a sprint on the Tour de France last season after a crosswind enabled a group of fifty escape. Should the race come down to a mass sprint Australia’s wily tactician Caleb Ewan should be favorite. “I’m feeling really confident, but it looks like the wind may play a role,” Ewan said this week, hinting the weather may cause a split in the peloton.

An escape on the final climb of the Poggio outside San Remo saw Vincenzo Nibali win in 2018, while France Julian Alaphilippe burned off the field inside San Remo in 2019. “I’m not in the same form or same state of mind as last year,” said Alaphilippe, who however remains a major threat.

The Frenchman tipped veteran Philippe Gilbert, who has won four of the five monuments and needs Milan San Remo to complete the set. “I wish him good luck and hope he can make it, he can attack from long range,” Alaphilippe said.

Three-time world champion Peter Sagan is another man on the radar. “I’ve been second twice and fourth I don’t know how many times. I hope to win Milan-San Remo but it’s not an obsession,” Sagan said. “Nobody knows what will happen. It’s a long race, 300km for the first time, it’ll be seven hours of tough riding conditions,” he said. “I believe it will come down to the final 40km.”

Photos: Bettini

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