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SANREMO’22 Preview: History, Course & Contenders

Classicissma Preview

Milano-Sanremo Preview: The season is now at ‘full gas’ with the first of the five Monuments of the season – Milano-Sanremo. Ed Hood previews Saturday’s 2022 edition of ‘La Classicissima’ – The longest professional one-day race in modern cycling. Who will be the victor on the Via Roma?

Watch the most comprehensive live & ad-free coverage of Milano-Sanremo 2022 on GCN+. Go deeper and get interactive with live polls & quizzes, plus rider profiles, race updates, results & more – plus stream original and exclusive cycling documentaries. Watch it all with GCN+ on any device.

The Mediterranean calls

Come, pull up a chair, sit down, relax, let me pour you a Vecchia Romagna and explain to you why the Primavera is the world’s greatest one day bicycle race. . .

Join us live on PEZ Instagram Friday March 18 at 11:30 AM PST as we talk 20 years of chasing Milan-San Remo…

Vecchia Romagna

What’s Vecchia Romagna?
Oh dear – it’s Italian brandy; it goes back to 1820, when the refined French distiller Jean Bouton arrived in Italy. It’s distilled from the Trebbiano grapes, also known as Ugni Blanc in France, where it makes some of the best Cognacs.

sanremo 2019
The Cipressa

But why do you get so excited about this race?
Because it’s the ‘Classicissima – the Classic of all Classics,’ first run in 1907, more than a bicycle race, a beautiful odyssey; from the cold grey northern industrial city of Milano, across the plains, winding over the Turchino Pass – which has been absent these last few years – then plunging down to the stunning blue of the Ligurian Sea, hurtling along the rolling coast road before the Cipressa climb – which has sealed the fate of many sprinters – before the greenhouses, the madness of the Poggio and the finale on the fabled Via Roma in the beautiful, faded but still very classy gem that is, ‘The City of Flowers.’

The Poggio

But Doesn’t Vik reckon that the race should just start at the bottom of the Poggio but have the same finish?
That’s like saying that an opera you should skip everything and go straight to the last act. I love Vik and he speaks many truths but isn’t renowned for his romanticism. It’s the preceding 290 kilometres which prepare us for that manic, magical last 10 kilometre crescendo.

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Il percoroso 2022

Cynics say the race is a lottery?
Eddy Merckx says; ‘yes, perhaps, but have you ever heard of someone winning the lottery seven times?’

Seven Sanremo wins for Eddy

The Baron is ‘Recordman’ on seven wins but ‘Campionissimo’ Costante Girardengo won six times and was on the podium on five other occasions.

Costante Girardengo
Six wins for Girardengo

More recently, Erik Zabel won four times; but it should have been five – a premature victory salute from the German enabled wily Spaniard Oscar Freire to take the first of three Primaveras.

Ooops! Freire surprise winner

But some dodgy guys have won it in recent years, what about that Ciolek character who won in 2013?
If you check back on the ‘net you’ll see that here at PEZ we tipped him in our preview, his form was good that year and remember, he was a quick guy, he was World u23 Champion in 2006 and out sprinted Robert Forster and Eric Zabel to the German Elite Championship in 2005 – they were two of the fastest guys around at that time.

Wout van Aert looked the strongest in Paris-Nice

What about preparatory races, don’t they say Tirreno-Adriatico is best, rather than Paris-Nice?
That used to be the conventional wisdom but this year Paris-Nice and Tirreno run concurrently, finishing on the Sunday prior to the Primavera, in line with the UCi wishing for WorldTour stage races to finish on a Sunday.

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Of course Pogačar was the man in Tirreno

It used to be the case that Tirreno ran until the Tuesday and the timing for peaking for the following Saturday was adjudged to be more favourable.

Milano-Torino on Wednesday probably isn’t important for Sanremo

Milano-Torino – one of the oldest bike races in the world – falls on the Wednesday between the stage races finishing and the Primavera but Saturday’s faves are noticeable by their absence from Milano-Torino at time of writing.

sanremo 2014
Kristoff 8 years later?

Are any previous winners competing this year – can they win again?
Remarkably, the last eight winners are all on the start list at time of writing:
Alex Kristoff – 2014
John Degenkolb – 2015
Arnaud Démare – 2016
Michal Kwiatkowski – 2017
Vincenzo Nibali – 2018 *Now not riding*
Julian Alaphilippe – 2019 *Now not riding*
Wout Van Aert – 2020
Jasper Stuyven – 2021 *Now not riding*

Last year’s winner – Jasper Stuyven

Of those the most recent three all have realistic chances of a repeat win, the others chances are slim, unless it’s a savage, wet, windy day, in which case don’t rule out Kristoff.

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Kuurne winner, Fabio Jakobsen replaces Alaphilippe

The Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl team announced on Wednesday morning that the 2019 Sanremo winner and World champions, Julian Alaphilippe would be missing from their line-up on Saturday due to Bronchitis, and so Fabio Jakobsen will make his Milan-San Remo debut. This is the first time in six years that Alaphilippe will not appear at the start in Milan. Jakobsen will have Andrea Bagioli, Davide Ballerini, Mattia Cattaneo, Mikkel Honoré, Florian Sénéchal and Zdenek Stybar by his side. “We cannot count on Julian this year, who we hope will make a quick and full recovery,” said sports director Davide Bramati. “We have a young team including Fabio, who has had a good season so far and will be riding this race for the first time.”

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Van Aert on the way to Sanremo victory

WVA is flying, witness his Het Nieuwsblad and Paris-Nice performances and whilst he’s also a man whose big objectives come in April he’s more than capable of a repeat win, especially with a team as strong as Jumbo-Visma covering his back.

Sanremo double for Jasper Stuyven?

Stuyven has no ‘stand out’ results this year but his form is goods, albeit he’ll be more closely marked than last year – but he is ‘a bear of a boy,’ as we say in Scotland.

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Stage win in Paris-Nice, but no Sanremo for Pedersen

And on the subject of Trek Segafredo, whilst he’s not on the start sheet as I write, big sprinting Dane, former World Champion, Mads Pedersen must surely have designs on the Via Roma? Mads Pedersen said he will not be seen in Milan-Sanremo. “You may think I would be one of the favourites in Sanremo, but we have made a plan for the season and I want to stick to it. That plan is not to ride Milan-Sanremo and I’m fine with that.” Pedersen has a clear main goal this season: Paris-Roubaix. He also skipped the opening weekend in Belgium. “My level and my form are fine, which is good for confidence in view of the classics. I am already looking forward to the coming weeks.” So looks like he won’t be in Sanremo. Pedersen is riding in the end and Stuyven isn’t.

Last year’s highlights

Who else can win?
The three ‘teams of the season’ thus far are Jumbo Visma, see WVA above – but don’t rule out Christophe Laporte if WVA is marked out of it, and who’s this guy, Primoz Roglič? – UAE Team Emirates and Quick-Step.

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Pick any of the three: Laporte, Van Aert or Roglič

UAE have 18 wins at the time I write this – with the distinct possibility it could be more come Saturday – Strade and Tirreno winner Tadej Pogačar‘Pog’ as in ‘Poggio’? – has to be a ‘super favourite’ but the Middle Eastern team fields a hugely strong team with ‘men on form,’ Alessandro Covi and Matteo Trentin both riders who could win this race if Tadej is marked out of it or is on a rare ‘off’ day.

strade bianche 22
Super favourite – Tadaj Pogačar

Quick-Step find themselves on a ‘mere’ 12 wins at time of writing, six behind ‘Pog & Co.’ and there’s talk that they’ve fallen behind Jumbo and UAE in terms of preparation; ‘Ala’ won’t be there, but Italian team mate David Ballerini, in common with all Italian ‘velocisti’ would kill to win this race which instantly imparts, ‘Legend’ status upon the winner. If it comes to a bunch sprint finish, then look out for Sanremo debutante; Fabio Jakobsen.

David Ballerini
If not the World champion, then maybe David Ballerini

Second placed behind Stuyven last year, riding well on the ramps of KBK where he finished second to Fabio Jakobsen and three times a winner in 2022 already, Lotto Soudal’s small but rapid Aussie, Caleb Ewan has ‘man preparing for the Primavera’ written all over him – and he’s Robbie McEwan’s choice for victory. Caleb Ewan pulled on Friday.

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Ewan – Second in Kuurne

And continuing in the, ‘small but perfectly formed’ vein, Tom Pidcock [INEOS & GB] with his multi-faceted talents is a man whose limits we don’t yet know – has he recovered from the gastroenteritis which ruled him out of Strade Bianche? – we’ll know come Saturday evening.

Is Pidcock saving himself for the cobbles?

A man who owes his 2013 u23 Worlds win to his exceptional qualities as a descender, Matej Mohorič [Bahrain & Slovenia – of course] would be extremely difficult to drag back if he got the gap on the descent of the Poggio.

Late attack from Mohorič?

All Italians will be dreaming of winning on the Via Roma; the World Championships are one thing but the Primavera is the pinnacle if you’re an Azzurri.

Felice Gimondi won in Sanremo back in 1974 as World champion, Peter Sagan this year? You can relive Ed Hood's childhood memories of Milan-Sanremo in his PEZ Preview of the Italian Classic HERE. Pic:RCS.
All Italians dream of the Sanremo finish on the Via Roma

And what should we be tippling as we feast our eyes?
# Beer-wise it’s hard to go past Peroni Gran Riserva right now but I’ll have the Vecchia Romagna handy too, in case my nerves crack on the Poggio. Keep it PEZ for the ‘Race Report’ on Saturday and all the Sanremo news in EUROTRASH Monday. #

Peroni Gran Riserva
It has to be Peroni Gran Riserva

Watch the most comprehensive live & ad-free coverage of Milano-Sanremo 2022 on GCN+. Go deeper and get interactive with live polls & quizzes, plus rider profiles, race updates, results & more – plus stream original and exclusive cycling documentaries. Watch it all with GCN+ on any device.

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