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Milano-Sanremo 2024: Pogačar takes on Van der Poel amid fierce competition


Last year, Tadej Pogačar was the first to make his move on the Poggio climb, with an attack that disintegrated the peloton. In the end, however, victory went to Mathieu Van der Poel, who pulled off a storming finish to hold off Filippo Ganna, Wout Van Aert and Pogačar himself. Once again, this year, a great duel between the Slovenian phenomenon and the Dutchman superhero, who in the meantime has also become world champion, is not hard to predict.

The difference compared 2023 is that they both arrive at the Classicissima with very few races in their legs: Van der Poel, the defending champion, is actually on his road season debut. Pogačar only competed in the Strade Bianche, which, needless to say, he won after launching and sustaining a powerful attack from 81km to go. It will be interesting to see whether the two will adopt similar tactics to last year’s or try something different, perhaps by pulling a magic trick on the Cipressa. Alpecin-Deceuninck, for instance, can count on one of the fastest men in the peloton, Jasper Philipsen, a luxury alternative to MvdP, while Tadej will have the whole UAE Team Emirates at his service, including top athletes such as Marc Hirschi, Tim Wellens and Isaac Del Toro.

However, a more in-depth analysis of each team reveals a wide variety of contenders lining up at the start: Lidl Trek will have at least two leaders, Mads Pedersen, who has started the year in top form with six wins to his name this season and, in case of a large bunch finish, Tirreno-Adriatico double-stage winner Jonathan Milan. And let’s not forget Jasper Stuyven, winner in Via Roma in 2021, and Toms Skujiņš, who is currently enjoying the best period of his career, as shown by his second place at the Strade Bianche, basically the first of the humans.

Filippo Ganna pulled off a magnificent race and remarkable second place last year and wants to try and do it again. Along with the Italian, Ineos Grenadiers will look to an all-round star such as Tom Pidcock, who possesses both the form and the skills to try and compete with the very best. Several teams, however, will have a double card to count on: Team Visma | Lease a Bike, for example, can rely on another all-rounder, the European champion Christophe Laporte, as well as on the freshness of Olav Kooij, at his debut at Sanremo and always dangerous in case of sprint finish.

Same goes for Jayco AlUla, with Michael Matthews, in his 11th participation in Milano-Sanremo, with 5 Top 10s and 2 podiums, while Soudal-QuickStep will look to Kasper Asgreen and Julian Alaphilippe, with the latter struggling to recapture the heights of a few seasons ago. Bahrain Victorious can count on demon descender Matej Mohorič, winner in 2022 and extremely talented for breakaways as well. Other riders to be kept an eye on include Intermarché-Wanty’s Biniam Girmay, EF Education-EasyPost’s Alberto Bettiol, brillant winner at the Milano-Torino just a couple of days ago, Tudor’s Matteo Trentin and Uno-X Mobility’s Alexander Kristoff.

Several athletes are dreaming of a sprint finish on Via Roma. These certainly include Arnaud Démare (Arkéa-B&B Hotels), winner in 2016 in what can be considered the last real sprint finish on Via Roma, Laurence Pithie (Groupama-FDJ), Axel Zingle (Cofidis), Danny Van Poppel (Bora-hansgrohe), Corbin Strong (Israel-PremierTech), Davide Cimolai (Movistar), Giovanni Lonardi (Polti-Kometa) and Niccolò Bonifazio (Corratec-Vini Fantini).

However, in the event of a more selective race, athletes such as Christian Scaroni and Alexey Lutsenko (Astana Qazaqstan), Stefan Küng (Groupama-FDJ), Luke Plapp (Jayco AlUla), Vincenzo Albanese (Arkéa-B&B Hotels), Benoît Cosnefroy and Andrea Vendrame (Decathlon AG2R La Mondiale) are ready to join the tussle.

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