Tadej Pogacar ready for anything at Milan-San Remo
Tadej Pogačar got the biggest applause at the Milan-San Remo team presentation on Friday afternoon, the numerous local Italian tifosi are well aware that he is the favourite for Milan-San Remo.
Yet the UAE Team Emirates leader appeared a little hesitant about his chances of winning the first monument of 2023, no doubt aware that 'La Primavera' is a race of lottery, decided by a split-second moment of racing or a good or bad tactical decision.
Pogačar dominated Paris-Nice and has won nine races in just 13 days of competition, often using his superior power and aggression but he appears aware that the same form and tactics might not be enough to win Milan-San Remo. He knows he has to be ready for anything when the race hits the Cipressa and especially the Poggio climbs.
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"There are many, many favourites for Milan-San Remo, especially when the race has so many variants and anything can happen," Pogačar said after the team presentation.
"I don't see myself as a true favourite but maybe I can surprise people. Milan-San Remo is a tricky race and many outcomes can happen. We'll see how I feel and how the race goes. For sure we go for the win as a team, it doesn't matter who wins."
Last year Pogačar made four attacks on the Poggio on the iconic final climb of the race. He was chased down and was unable to follow fellow Slovenian Matej Mohorič as he used a dropper post to surge away on the descent of the Poggio.
Pogačar seems to have learned from his mistakes. He refused to reveal his race plans but knows he has to stay protected on the long ride towards San Remo before trusting his innate racing instinct.
"I'm afraid there's no perfect strategy for Milan-San Remo. You need all seven riders in your team in good shape on the day, you have to ride together as a team, then be as fresh as possible for the final two climbs," he said, discussing different race scenarios.
"You need to follow everybody that attacks on the Poggio because there's no real time to play tactics too much. You just need to be at the front all the time."
"Everyone wants to win solo because it's the most spectacular way but the adrenaline of sprinting after 300 km is also something else. For me, the goal is to be up front and fight for the win."
"I'm not thinking about who my big opponents are because there are so many. There are at least 20 riders who can win. You just need to be the best in the finale, it doesn't matter who is there."
Pogačar can sprint but is not one of the fastest sprinters on the Milan-San Remo start list.
Vincenzo Nibali was the last rider to win alone in the Via Roma in 2018 but Pogačar refused to reveal his best race scenario. He appears ready for multiple outcomes and perhaps has multiple race plans in mind.
"It was a brilliant win from Vincenzo but every race year is different at Milan-San Remo," Pogačar warned.
"We'll see how it goes. Maybe we'll have a solo winner, maybe it's me, maybe it's not. I just hope for good legs and to race smart."