Matej Mohoric triumphs at Milan-San Remo after thrilling descent of the Poggio
A daredevil descent of the Poggio made the difference as Matej Mohoric became the first Slovenian in history to win Milan-San Remo on Saturday. The Bahrain-Victorious rider withstood a flurry of uphill attacks from compatriot Tadej Pogacar before making his move inside the final 4.5km of the 293km classic. Anthony Turgis and Mathieu van der Poel completed the podium after a pulsating finale.
Highlights: 'Sensational' Mohoric wins Milan-San Remo with daredevil brilliance
In a move he claimed was planned over the winter, Matej Mohoric (Bahrain-Victorious) caused an upset in the first of the season’s so-called Monuments after riding clear of an illustrious field on the descent of the Poggio to win the 113rd edition of Milan-San Remo in some style.
Despite a late scare – a dropped chain inside the final kilometre, which he coolly restored to the cog mid-stroke as the pursuers breathed down his neck – Mohoric kept his composure and held off a late surge from Frenchman Anthony Turgis (TotalEnergies) to become the first Slovenian to win La Primavera.
Dutchman Mathieu van der Poel, making his first appearance of the season for Alpecin-Fenix, completed the podium ahead of the Australian Michael Matthews (Team BikeExchange-Jayco) and Slovenia’s Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates).
Winner of his previous two Monuments, the in-form Pogacar attacked no less than four times on the Poggio but was unable to make the elastic snap as Belgium’s Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) marked his rival and neutralised the threat. Mohoric kept his powder dry on both the Cipressa and Poggio before coming to the front shortly after the summit of the final climb and making his decisive move.
Former youth world champion Mohoric, 27, claimed he had planned his audacious attack during the off-season, and said a dropper seat post made the difference. “I was thinking about it the whole winter,” he said. “I knew that if I trained properly over the winter and managed to stay in touch going over the top (of the Poggio) then I would have a chance if I attacked on the descent.
"The team came up with the idea of using a dropper post because this race suits me very well and there’s a descent at the end. The team set up a bike for me and had this plan for a long time. At first I didn’t think that it would make a huge difference on the descents but then I tried it in training and the first time I tried it I was amazed.
“I was in perfect condition after I was ill in February. Unfortunately, I had a big crash in Strade Bianche but I rested up and did a lot of physio. I never stopped believing. I did some basic training to keep as much condition as possible. And today I’m here. I wasn’t going super well but it was enough to hang on with the best on the Poggio. And then I just went all in. I can’t believe it. I’m without words.”
Overjoyed Mohoric reacts to historic victory at Milan-San Remo
How the race was won
The 166-strong peloton rolled out of the Vigorelli velodrome for a 10km neutral roll-out ahead of the official start on the outskirts of Milan. There were attacks from the gun of the 293km race with a break of eight riders soon forming under the bright sunshine of northern Italy.
Making the breakaway were Kazakh duo Yevgeniy Gidich and Artyom Zakharov (both Astana), Italians Alessandro Tonelli (Bardiani-CSF-Faizane), Filippo Tagliani (Drone Hopper-Androni Giocattoli), Samuele Rivi (EOLO-Kometa) and Filippo Conca (Lotto Soudal), and Spaniards Diego Sevilla (EOLO-Kometa) and Ricardo Zurita (Drone Hopper), the youngest rider in the race.
The gap rose to six minutes as the escapees crested the summit of the Passo del Turchino to mark the halfway point of the first Monument of the season. The plucky eight leaders still held an advantage of almost five minutes as they hit the punchy tre capi series of climbs inside the final 65km of the race on the Ligurian coast.
Behind, the towering figure of Dutch veteran Jos van Emden (Jumbo-Visma) was a permanent fixture on the front of the peloton for the first 200km of the race before the inevitable jostling for positions ahead of the climbs brought about a shake-up in the tempo-setting.
After the Capo Mele and Capo Cervo passed with little drama, the race exploded on the Capo Berta as the breakaway fragmented under the pressure of EOLO-Kometa duo Rivi and Sevilla, distancing Drone Hopper’s Tagliani and Tonelli before forcing Lotto Soudal’s Conca to a standstill with chronic cramp.
'Surprise' - Pidcock 'does not look at all well' as he struggles on climb
The first of the big favourites to hit the wall was Britain’s Tom Pidcock, the Ineos Grenadiers leader pedalling squares off the pack of the peloton, his race over with 40km still remaining. Former world champion Peter Sagan (TotalEnergies) – twice a runner-up on the via Roma – also faced an uphill task ahead of the Cipressa after an untimely mechanical.
But these were just an hors d’oeuvre to the carnage that ensued on the Cipressa, where Pogacar’s UAE squad threw down the proverbial hammer. Strong pacing from Slovenia’s Jan Polanc and then Italy’s Davide Formolo blew the pack to smithereens and distanced many of the top sprinters, most notably the in-form Fabio Jakobsen (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl).
Around 30 riders were left in contention going over the top of the Cipressa with the last two men from the breakaway – Rivi and Tonelli – swept up at the start of the Poggio inside the final 10km.
Jumbo-Visma came to the front with Frenchman Christophe Laporte and Van Aert before Italy’s Diego Ulissi set up teammate Pogacar for his inevitable move. The double Tour de France winner put in a series of devastating attacks on the famous climb, as did compatriot Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma), but the gradient was not steep enough for them to make the difference. Van Aert and Van der Poel matched Pogacar on every occasion before Denmark’s Soren Kragh Andersen (Team DSM) tried his luck near the summit.
If Mohoric was not in the initial chase group of seven riders going over the top in the wake of Pogacar and Kragh Andersen, he was soon leading proceedings after taking the bull by the horns on the series of tight, technical and fast bends through the greenhouses towards San Remo.
Watch hugely dramatic moment Mohoric has mechanical fault near finish
With sprinters Matthews, Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo) and Giacomo Nizzolo (Israel-Premier Tech) still in contention alongside fast finishers Vincenzo Albanese (EOLO-Kometa), Biniam Girmay (Intermarche-Wanty-Gobert) and the 2016 winner Arnaud Demare (Groupama-FDJ), Mohoric played to his strengths to take advantage of a slight lull between the big favourites.
And just as Belgium’s Jasper Styven had succeeded 12 months earlier, Mohoric opened up the requisite gap to frustrate the likes of Van Aert and Van der Poel behind. Losing after dropping a chain on the final bend would have been a harsh price to pay – but fortune smiled down on the 27-year-old who, once again, proved that Slovenian cycling is not merely the realm of Messrs Pogacar and Roglic.
'What a win!' - Mohoric clinches stunning Milan-San Remo triumph after late drama
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