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Along came Jasper!


Everyone had their chance. The Milano-Sanremo 2024, like pretty much any edition of the Classicissima, brought together a parade of stars ready to beat each other up between Capi, Cipressa, Poggio and almost 300km in total, and in the end, all the most eagerly awaited big names had a moment to make their move.

Once again this year, the Cipressa served above all to make selection, to drop riders such as Jonathan Milan, Alexander Kristoff and Christophe Laporte, but the juiciest dish was served, once again, by dear old Poggio. Almost out of reverence after the great work of the UAE, everyone waited for Tadej Pogačar to make the first move, and of course he didn’t let himself be begged, and with just over a kilometre to the summit he made his uphill sprint.

On his wheel – just as unsurprisingly – was Mathieu Van der Poel, making his season debut in his splendid rainbow-white World Champion kit and his blond hair longer than we remembered it. For a moment, it looked as if the pair was out on their own, but a group including Alberto Bettiol, Filippo Ganna, Mads Pedersen, Jasper Stuyven, Tom Pidcock, Julian Alaphilippe, Michael Matthews and Matej Mohorič mananged to hold the wheel of the two main stars.

With 200 metres to the summit of the Poggio, it seemed inevitable that the race would be decided on the descent or on the Aurelia, before Via Roma, but instead Pogačar put in another blow, this time sudden and more decisive. It looked like a decisive attack in terms of timing and power, but once again the Slovenian star had to deal with Van der Poel, this time in stopper version. The two led on the descent, but then a super Pidcock brought everyone back, just as team-mate Ganna was put out of action by a gearbox problem.

Righ after his beloved descent, like a hawk ready to swoop down on its prey, Matej Mohorič tried to pull away. “Is he going to do it again” everyone must have thought. Unfortunately for him, Van der Poel realised that team-mate Jasper Philipsen, the world’s strongest sprinter, was also in this front group. And so it was that the world champion took the lead in the peloton, used all his energy to close in on Mohorič just under the red kit marking the last kilometre.

Sprint? Not yet… just under the Flamme Rouge, here comes the rider you won’t expect. Matteo Sobrero, the most beautiful surprise of the day, gained a few metres and for a moment dreamed of a breakthrough that could have been worth a career. Unfortunately, Tom Pidcock came up behind him and overtook the Italian with 500 metres to go, establishing a small gap coming into the last few corners, and forcing Van der Poel and Stuyven to put in a little extra work to come across.

Pidcock was caught with 150 metres to go and that was indeed the last chance to avoid a sprint. The fast wheels powered towards the finish, Matthews emerged in powerful fashion, then lost his goggles and skipped two pedal strokes, just enough for Philipsen to pip him by a few centimetres with a masterful bike throw manoeuver. The Milano-Sanremo belongs to the Belgian! Everyone tried their best, but the roulette wheel smiled on Jasper, who enters history through the front door.

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