62 years after “Poupou”, Van der Poel’s masterpiece
Sixty-two years after his grandfather Raymond Poulidor, Dutchman Mathieu van der Poel won Milan-Sanremo alone on Saturday after an impressive number in the Poggio.
The rider from Alpecin made the difference just before the summit of Poggio, five kilometers from the finish, to edge a group of three other superstars by fifteen seconds, settled in a sprint by the Italian Filippo Ganna ahead of the Belgian Wout Van Aert and the Slovenian Tadej Pogacar.
This is Van der Poel’s third victory in one of the five Monuments, the most prestigious classics on the calendar, after his successes in the Tour of Flanders in 2020 and 2022.
It is also a new nod to his grandpa, the legendary “Poupou”, who died in November 2019 at the age of 83 and to whom he was very close. No tears this time, as in 2021 when he took the yellow jersey of the Tour de France which had always refused to his grandfather after his victory at Mûr-de-Bretagne.
But a deep satisfaction to now appear with his French grandfather on the winners of “la Classicissima”, the longest race of the year, 294 kilometers of a boring procession before the powerful shot of adrenaline in the final.
– “Very special” –
“I heard that Milan-Sanremo was the only Monument he won. It’s nice to win the same one. It’s always very special to win this race. It doesn’t offer many chances. Great champions have never won here. I am proud to have done so,” he said, without any particular outpouring.
“Van der Poelidoer” was more demonstrative on his bike when he made the difference at the top of the last climb, the legendary Poggio, after countering Pogacar who had placed a first attack to do justice to the hard work of his team UAE .
At the famous telephone booth, placed at the peak, he swung five seconds ahead of a royal hunting group, made up of Pogacar, Ganna and Van Aert, the best general classification runner, the best roller and the best hunter of classics, with Van der Poel, of the planet.
It was already too late.
Impressively mastered in the descent which he says he did “80%”, without taking excessive risk, the cyclocross world champion widened his advantage over the poisonous hairpin bends leading to Via Roma to gain time to savor the last meters, while, behind, the three luxury pursuers struggled to hear each other.
– “Nothing left in the tank” –
While waiting for the podium, Van der Poel savored his exploit, stuck in a tiny sofa between Ganna and Van Aert who looked quite dejected after the bad trick played by their comrade, the first Dutchman to win at Sanremo since Hennie Kuiper in 1985.
“It’s already given me a lot of second places this season,” sighed Ganna, impressive on the climb despite his size as a rider and who said he was “both disappointed and satisfied”.
Van Aert, who still has only one Monument to his name (Milan-Sanremo in 2020), has also accepted the superiority of his great rival. “I already couldn’t follow Pogacar’s attack and when Mathieu left in turn, I had nothing left in the tank. He was the strongest. Congratulations to him”, commented the Belgian.
“No regrets”, also underlined Pogacar who had fallen even before the official kick-off, given for the first time in the greater suburbs of Milan, in Abbiategrasso, without damage to the Slovenian, hilarious glimpse at the real start, so that a fan was dusting her left shoulder with a respectful hand.
The first Frenchman in this 114th edition, run in good weather, was, as in the past two years, the TotalEnergies rider Anthony Turgis, 9th at 26 seconds. Julian Alaphilippe finished 11th, at the same time, six seconds ahead of Christophe Laporte, 13th.