The most awaited moment of the year for all cycling fans has finally arrived: the Milano-Sanremo is just around the corner and the tension in the air is palpable. The ‘spring classic’, as it is also called, is one of the longest and most demanding races on the cycling circuit, but also one of the most loved and eagerly awaited.
Saturday 18th March 2023 will be the big day: the riders will set off from Abbiategrasso, on the outskirts of Milan, to tackle the 294 km of this epic race, crossing the hills of Lombardy and Liguria until they reach Sanremo, where the finish line will be held. The challenge is arduous and only the strongest and best prepared cyclists will be able to withstand the fast pace of the race. This year the route will be different for the first 30 km, after which it will rejoin the traditional route in Pavia. For cycling fans in Milan, the start of the Milano-Sanremo is an event not to be missed. The atmosphere will be charged with emotion and adrenaline, with the noise of the bicycles mingling with the cheers of the fans.
The race is around 294 kilometres long, with a total elevation gain of 2.500 metres (not a few to start the cycling season after winter), and the cyclists face several climbs, including the Passo del Turchino and the Poggio di Sanremo. The final climb, the Poggio di Sanremo, is challenging and often determines the winner of the race. The Milano-Sanremo is a very fast race, where the average hourly speed is always very high and the climbs, which are not as hard as in the alpine stages of the great European tours, do however make a lot of selection, due to the pugnacity of the athletes in the race. The result is almost always a hard-fought race, with sprints and counter-sprints, which result in the fitter rider triumphing. In addition, considering that we are at the beginning of the world cycling season (at least in the northern hemisphere!), the cyclists are often still at the beginning of their preparation for the season, so it happens quite often that there are resounding débacles by the most famous and favourite cyclists. Last but not least, another factor characterising the spectacular nature of the race is the bizarre and capricious weather, typical of the March season, and it has often happened, in the history of the event, that there have been weather conditions of heavy rain or cold that have conditioned the outcome of the race and provided a spectacle for us fans.
The Milano-Sanremo is a highly anticipated race for fans all over the world, as it marks the start of the classic cycling season. But the Milano-Sanremo is not only a race for cycling fans. It is also a unique opportunity to discover some of the most beautiful and evocative areas of Italy, such as the green hills of Lombardy and the coast of Liguria. The view of the mountains and the sea will be the backdrop to the spectacle of the cyclists who will compete in a race to the last kilometre.
The history of Milano-Sanremo
The Milano-Sanremo is an Italian cycling race, one of the oldest and most prestigious in the world, which has been held annually since 1907. It is one of the most important cycling classics on the UCI circuit and traditionally takes place at the end of March. The race is about 300 kilometres long, starting in Milan and finishing in Sanremo, passing through the Ligurian hills. The first edition took place back in 1907, when a group of courageous cyclists set off from the city of Milan with the aim of reaching the coastal city of Sanremo, located over 290 kilometres away.
The race, also known as ‘The Spring Classic’, has been held almost every year since 1907, with some exceptions due to the two world wars and other organisational difficulties. During this long period, Milan-Sanremo has become one of the most important races on the international cycling calendar and the first major classic of the season.
The route of the race has changed over the years, but the main feature has always been the length of the race, which requires excellent physical and mental preparation on the part of the riders. The Poggio climb, which is about 10 kilometres from the finish, has become a crucial point of the race, where the decisive action often breaks out.
The Milano-Sanremo has seen the participation of cycling’s greatest champions, from Fausto Coppi to Eddy Merckx, from Bernard Hinault to Miguel Indurain, from Mario Cipollini to Paolo Bettini. Some of these riders have won the race more than once, but none has ever reached the record of seven victories held by the legendary Costante Girardengo.
The Milano-Sanremo has also been the scene of many epic feats and breathtaking finishes, such as Eddy Merckx’s victory in 1971, when he beat his rival Roger De Vlaeminck in a sprint, or Fabian Cancellara‘s in 2008, when he attacked on the Poggio and held on until the end.
Every year, the Milano-Sanremo attracts the attention of the media and fans from all over the world, who are fascinated by the exploits of the cyclists and the beautiful scenery the race passes through. The Milano-Sanremo is a legendary race that has written indelible pages of cycling history.
The route of the Milano-Sanremo 2023
This year’s route has few new features compared to the previous edition, but is nonetheless challenging and spectacular. After the start in Abbiategrasso, the runners will have to tackle a series of climbs and descents across the Po Valley before arriving at the first real difficulty of the race, the Turchino climb.
The Turchino is a 25-kilometre climb that tests the cyclists’ legs already in the first kilometres of the race. Once they reach the summit, the riders head towards the Ligurian coast, where they tackle the Cipressa pass and the Poggio di Sanremo, the two decisive climbs of the race.
The Cipressa is a 5.6-kilometre climb with an average gradient of 4.1%, while the Poggio di Sanremo is a shorter but steeper climb with an average gradient of 3.7% over a distance of 3.7 kilometres. These two climbs, especially the Poggio, are decisive for the final victory, as they offer the strongest riders the opportunity to attack and escape the peloton.
Once off the Poggio, the racers set off towards the final finish line in Sanremo, where the winner will be crowned after almost seven hours of racing.
The favourites for Milano-Sanremo 2023
But who are the favourites to win this edition of the ‘Classicissima’? Let’s find out together, based on the latest news and the riders’ performances in recent races.
We start with the reigning world champion, Remco Evenepoel. He is a young Belgian cyclist born on 25 January 2000. He started his professional cycling career with the Belgian team Deceuninck-QuickStep in 2019, after competing in road cycling for only one year.
Since his entry into professional cycling, Evenepoel has proved to be one of the most promising talents of his generation. In 2019, he won the Clásica San Sebastián, becoming the youngest winner in the history of the race, and also won the gold medal at the European Time Trial Championships.
In 2020, Evenepoel continued to show his strength, winning the Tour of Poland. However, his season was interrupted by a dramatic crash during the Giro di Lombardia, which resulted in a fractured pelvis and a long period of rest and rehabilitation.
Evenepoel will not be present at the Sanremo and has decided to favor the great classics of the North in April. The big favorite is last year’s winner Matej Mohorič, who last year won by gap, starting from the Poggio and negotiating the curves of the final descent at breakneck pace.
We cannot forget Caleb Ewan. The Australian is expected for his power and will certainly not fail to put on a show on the agile climbs of the Milano-Sanremo. We cannot fail to mention the riders who are always favourites in the road classics: Tadej Pogacar, Wout Van Aert, Mathieu Van der Poel. They all start with the favourites. The first two are born fighters who never give up and we know them well. We only have to think back to the last Tour de France in 2022, where they put on a show right to the end and, although they did not win, demonstrated the class of those who can succeed in entering the cycling elite and history. Van der Poel, on the other hand, is one of the most talented and complete riders on the world cycling scene, capable of winning in all kinds of terrain and situations. He is the rival of world champion Evenepoel and is part of the same generation of Belgian champions. He will certainly not give up, not least in order not to lose ground on his rival. Who could counter these five riders? Definitely the French star Julian Alaphilippe, but also the Dane Pedersen and Girmay.
The Milano Sanremo 2023 is won by Mathieu Van der Poel
Everyone was waiting for Wout van Aert and Tadej Pogacar, instead less than a km from the summit of the Poggio Mathieu Van der Poel took