If you were to ask any cycling race organiser what their dream podium would be, they would most likely name that of the Milano-Sanremo 2023: Mathieu Van der Poel – Filippo Ganna – Wout Van Aert, along with Tadej Pogačar in fourth place, just to enjoy. For anyone into cycling, as well as for sport fans in general, witnessing those four on the Poggio, destroying the peloton to the sound of watts, with tailwind blowing them into glory, is as close as it can get to poetry in motion.
We all know it, we have known it for 114 years: from the very first team showing up at pre-stage operations at 9 am, all the way to the last 15 km or so, the situation will be steady and predictable to say the least. This is what this race is about: waiting and managing tension. But when the real show kicks-off, when the fire and flames are unleashed on those 3.7 km at 3.7% known as the Poggio, all the waiting is finally justified, every single metre of that seemingly innocuous tongue of asphalt is pure emotion.
Let’s be honest, length and altimetry are not what a race is about. A race is about the riders competing to win it, and if a rider like Tadej Pogačar takes the initiative, we can rest assured, we will not be bored, not for a second, even if we have been waiting six hours for those 15 minutes of pure adrenaline. So, when that kid from Slovenia goes for it, something we have already seen him do many times in these first few weeks of the season, an equally high-level response can only come from other aliens, and the other aliens in the peloton today were Wout Van Aert and Mathieu Van der Poel.
Palpitations went through the roof when Tim Wellens, Tadej’s teammate, raised his pace on the first slopes of the Poggio. That’s when we knew the bow was being stretched and the arrow would soon be shot. And the Slovenian arrow was shot indeed, but so was the Dutch arrow (Van der Poel) and the Belgian arrow (Van Aert), along with another arrow, actually closer to a train most of the time, namely Filippo Ganna.