Tadej Pogačar will be Wout van Aert ‘s most redoubtable rival at Milan-San Remo on Saturday but the Slovenian might also prove to be a useful ally of circumstance. Such are the intricacies of cycling’s longest day.
Van Aert won this race two years ago by matching Julian Alaphilippe’s rasping acceleration on the Poggio and then outsprinting the Frenchman on the Via Roma after they had rid themselves of the pure sprinters.
Pogačar lines up at this edition of Milan-San Remo with considerable ambition after a remarkable sequence of early-season success but his presence could yet help Van Aert shape the race to his liking.
"He is a stage race rider and he wants a tough race. There will perhaps be more interest than usual in imposing a high tempo or attacking early. With his condition, he can certainly determine the course of the race," Van Aert told Sporza on Friday.
"In a way, we are also allies. I would also benefit from a hard race. So we don’t have to adjust much, but he is another type of rider you have to keep an eye on. From a pure sprinter, you don’t expect an attack on the Poggio: from him you do."
In a press conference on Friday afternoon, Pogačar seemed rather open to the idea of launching an offensive from as far out as the Cipressa. "If you’re good, you can go clear. In the last couple of years, it was mission impossible, but you never know," the UAE Team Emirates rider […]