Waiting for Pogacar at the Poggio in Milan-San Remo | Sports

Pogacar, on Friday in Abbiategrasso, at the presentation of the Milan-San Remo.
Pogacar, on Friday in Abbiategrasso, at the presentation of the Milan-San Remo.MARCO BERTORELLO (AFP)

The scholars of San Remo, and any Italian feels like one, get lost in the gauze of words, an eternal labyrinth, trying to explain what they call the mysteries of the classicissimathe easiest race to win, its route is so bland, and the most complicated to interpret, because it is study and waiting, and wait, a Cipressa that wears out with 20 kilometers to go, and a Poggio that arrives in the seventh hour , almost at kilometer 290, where everyone talks, those who go up, those who go down, those who hold on, those who resist, and the sprinters.

Despite being so young, 24 years old, and almost inexperienced, Tadej Pogacar knows all this. The best cyclist in recent years has played two we will heal and he has not unraveled the mystery, he has not found the keystone of the Poggio, with the point at which to convert his superior potential energy into absolute energy, and sustain himself above all. Some, like Eddy Merckx, who won seven we will heal, or Miguel Poblet, two, or Óscar Freire, three, enjoyed the innate knowledge of great craftsmen. Not the wonderful Slovenian.

Pogacar is unique in that, like Merckx, he wants to win as many Tours as he can and also as many monuments. It is not Julian Alaphilippe, Wout van Aert or Mathieu van der Poel, people of monuments alone, of extreme sharpness in the races of one day, those in which there is no need to think about the next day, and speed to match their decision . Nor is it Mads Pedersen or Jasper Philipsen, sprinters who want to be more than just stage winners on the Tour, and Pedersen, the Dane who loves the cold and the rain, has already won a World Cup. Nor is it Arnaud de Lie, the Belgian bull with the physique of Peter Sagan, always miserable in San Remo, and the same speed and ambition.

Pogacar wants to be that and more.

Two Tours, one Liège and two Lombardies are already from Pogacar, as could also be the San Remo and the Flanders of 2022 if it had not been for his engineering mistakes too confident in his strength. In Flanders, he did not know how to coldly play Van der Poel in the final sprint; at the Poggio, among roses and greenhouses, he suffered such an attack of impatience and waste that he established an inverse relationship between watts and the hardness of the slope: so many more watts he delivered at the softest moments —when Van Aert, the one who was closest marked him, the easier it was for him to follow his wheel— that when the time came, 8% of the Duke of Aosta straight after the crossbow curve of the Sanctuary of the Madonna della Guardia, he found no more energy than his will. His compatriot Matej Mohoric took advantage of his frenzy to eat up the sidewalks in a crazy descent —and a telescopic seatpost to raise and lower it up to five centimeters at will accompanied by the music of James Bond, his secret weapon— and take himself on Via Roma the prize that the best craved so much.

When Pogacar said that this year his main objectives before the Tour were San Remo, that this year, for the first time in 114 editions, he will not leave Milan, but neighboring Abbiategrasso, and Flanders, and he said it even before his abusive beginning of the year —nine victories in 13 days of competition, victories of all kinds, from far and near, on slopes and in mountains, and on descents, in Paris-Nice and in Andalusia, and fear spreads among their rivals —, his mailbox was filled with dozens of conflicting advice and alerts: watch out for the wind if you attack on the Cipressa; don’t attack from afar, don’t wait, wait, come alone, come in a group, do what you want. The San Remo can be won in a million ways and lost in a million plus one. And the others wait and want to know.

“We don’t know where Pogacar is going to attack,” says Van Aert, who, like Alaphilippe among monument hunters, has already won a San Remo. Van der Poel, more intrepid, only says that he wants to win in Italy to increase his monumental tally, which is two Flanders, for now. And him, Pogacar? “It will be a long day, a hard day”, says the Slovenian, who lives in Monaco, not far from San Remo, 40 kilometers away, and crosses the borders from time to time to train in the most difficult terrain he knows. “I know that everyone expects me to attack, but we’ll see what I do… But what I do has to be perfect. And if everyone is watching me, maybe someone else on the team can take advantage…”

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