The first Monument of the season didn’t disappoint, with the longest one-day race on the calendar being won in dramatic fashion on the Poggio with a blistering attack by Mathieu van der Poel of Team Alpecin–Deceuninck.
This marks the third monument win of his career, and making it a little extra special was the fact that this was the only one of cycling's most prestigious one-day races that Van der Poel’s late grandfather Raymond Poulidor won during his celebrated career, 62 years ago today.
Finishing behind the Dutchman were Ineos Grenadiers’ Filippo Ganna, Jumbo-Visma’s Wout van Aert and UAE Team Emirates’ Tadej Pogačar, with last year’s winner Matej Mohorič finishing eighth.
The race was won once again on the Poggio, the last climb in Milan-Sanremo that usually splits the peloton and favours those willing to attack. As many expected before the race, UAE Team Emirates decimated the bunch on the famous hill above the Italian coastal city, a powerful burst from Tim Wellens teeing up Tadej Pogačar for his predicted, powerful attack.
— Milano Sanremo (@Milano_Sanremo) March 18, 2023
As the double Tour winner continued to ramp the pace up, only Van der Poel, Van Aert, and Ganna could follow. Then, just as the top of the climb came into view, Van der Poel timed one of his trademark explosive accelerations to perfection, bursting over the top of Pogačar, who couldn’t respond.
From there, it was a blistering run up to the famous Zampillo fountain right before the finish line in the beautiful city of Sanremo in northwestern Italy.
As they continued down the hill, the Dutchman had opened up a small but ultimately decisive lead over the chasing trio and barrelled down the Poggio’s iconic descent for a famous and staggeringly dominant victory.
Ganna took a promising second place in front of his home fans 15 seconds later, as a dejected Van Aert – who was beaten by Van der Poel at last month’s cyclocross world championships – was forced to settle for third.
Van der Poel, in an emotional state after his win, said, “I already told the team that there was a headwind on Cipressa so it was not as hard as previous years. But I already felt that my legs were still really fresh and I knew I wanted to place an attack at the end of the Poggio. I managed to find a small gap between Pogačar and the wall. But yeah, this is one of the races I really wanted to win and the way I won it today, I think it's beyond expectation. I'm really happy.”
Coming off the back of a lacklustre performance at Strade Bianche, Van der Poel left no stones unturned today as he raced to his third Monument win — the other two coming at the Tour of Flanders in 2020 and 2022.
— Marc (@marcrp) March 18, 2023
As Van der Poel raced to victory, a stunning sprint ensued behind him, with Pogačar, van Aert, and Ganna, all pushing to the limit and not giving an inch. At the finish, it was Ganna second, and van Aert, the 2020 Milan-Sanremo winner, taking the final podium place with the help of his single, 52-tooth drivetrain Cervelo S5.
Britain’s Tom Pidcock of Ineos Grenadiers, who was also touted to be in the mix after winning the Strade Bianche with a 50km solo attack, had to miss today’s race after suffering a concussion from his second crash at Tirreno-Adriatico. In his absence, teammate Filippo Ganna put in a tremendous performance on his home soil to clinch second.
Defending champion Mohorič, who took last year's win with an incredibly daring descent down the Poggio using an eyebrow-raising dropper post, came home in eighth place, 26 seconds behind Van der Poel.
The race also saw Frenchman Julian Alaphilippe from Soudal-Quick Step crash, with another rider going into the barriers. Thankfully, there were no major issues for anyone and Alaphilippe was able to get on with his race with a few repairs to his bike, eventually finishing eleventh.
— Mihai Simion (@faustocoppi60) March 18, 2023
The Monument win for Van der Poel comes 62 years after his late grandfather Raymond Poulidor — who raced along with the likes of Eddy Merckx and Jacques Anquetil — won Milan-Sanremo in a similar fashion, attacking relentlessly at the Poggio.
When asked if the win felt even more special because of his grandfather’s legacy, Van der Poel replied, “For sure. It’s special not only because he won it, but because it’s a Monument and it’s one that every ride wants to win. I was really focused on this race since I started training again after the cyclocross worlds. I needed some race days at Tirreno-Adriatico to get to my best level and, today, this was my best level I think.”
Adwitiya joined road.cc in 2023 as a news writer after graduating with a masters in journalism from Cardiff University. His dissertation focused on active travel, which soon threw him into the deep end of covering everything related to the two-wheeled tool, and now cycling is as big a part of his life as guitars and football. He has previously covered local and national politics for Voice Wales, and also likes to writes about science, tech and the environment, if he can find the time. Living right next to the Taff trail in the Welsh capital, you can find him trying to tackle the brutal climbs in the valleys.