Dreaming of Milano-Sanremo – Trek Race Shop

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Two 2nd place for Mads at Paris-Nice but also a lot of work as a domestique for Skjelmose (©GettyImages)
It’s always hard to compare one year’s experience and feeling with the other. I prefer to focus on the present and I know my current shape is good. My whole winter and preparation pre-Milano-Sanremo has gone really well, and that was quite different compared to last year, when I got sick at Paris-Nice and I was in far from ideal form for this race. But so far, things went really well. I have been happy with the feedback I’ve got from each race and with the position I’m in now, two days from the event.
Paris-Nice, and more generally the February races, were ridden to win stages and to arrive at Milano-Sanremo in the best condition possible. I won’t hide that at Paris-Nice I would have liked to have won a stage, but I came close and we had some very tough days. A week before Sanremo, we rode a 200km long stage which I saw as a great opportunity to destroy myself with one last brutal effort. I did this because I had Sanremo and the coming Classics always in my mind.
Honestly, I haven’t pictured any scenario for Saturday. I really take the race as it comes. I think it’s too hard a game to spend energy thinking about a scenario and then it doesn’t happen, being forced to change the way of racing I had in my head. I really just want to focus on myself and doing as best as possible. With this in my mind, I know I can win the race if it comes to a sprint between a group of 5 or 15 riders. At least, I have to believe in it. Milano-Sanremo is a super hard race that suits me well so, I don’t care how the race is raced as long as I’m racing to win.
Winner of Milano-Sanremo in 2021, Jasper is expected as a key rider also in 2024 (©CauldPhoto)
When previewing Milano-Sanremo, the expectation is always to talk about what will happen on the Cipressa and the Poggio, which are well-known as the key points of the race. But, from my experience it’s the management of the previous hours that makes the difference. When the group arrives at Cipressa and the race starts to get hard, you need to be ready to go deep. Especially when you have a wannabe winner like Pogacar, who will look to make the race harder and harder and drop as many riders as possible. If we add Van der Poel to Pogi, the chances for a sprint get smaller and smaller. That’s a fact, if we look back to the last editions as well, but Milano-Sanremo is also a race of a thousand scenarios. If a rider and his team want to win it, they have to take into account all of them and to be ready to deal with whatever happens. So, for me the big favorites for Saturday are the ones who don’t want a sprint finish, but the option of a bunch arrival must be always there in the back of the mind.
Personally, I feel good. I raced a tough Paris-Nice in support of Skjelly for the GC and Mads for stages, and I felt strong every day. I spent the days in between the two races working to maintain this good feeling. I’m happy with how things are going, and I really look forward to the Classicissima. As a former winner, it’s always nice to get there and relive such emotional moments. In 2021, when I won it, I was maybe a dark horse in the peloton, but to win a race like this you need more than the surprise effect. I raced intelligently, but without the legs and the lucidity that only a top condition gives you, I would not have been able to be the best that day. Living a day like this again would be more than amazing.
Three wins in the season so far for Milan with Lidl-Trek (©GettyImages)
This is an important moment in my calendar, the start of a series of races that I have been waiting for, ones that will be a remarkable test for me. My long term dream is to become a rider capable of success in these races. Becoming a Classics hunter is my ambition, my goal. I want to get there soon, but I’m also realistic. The Classics are races where experience counts a lot and that’s a factor to keep in account for me. I think the best approach is to take everything step-by-step. My motivation and desire is not lacking, nor is the confidence between me and Lidl-Trek, a strong team and certainly one of the best to be part of if I want to become competitive in the Classics.
I will face Milano-Sanremo with very high morale. My wins and performance at Tirreno-Adriatico gave me a boost and strong confidence in my form. That’s what I wanted.  I like this Monument, of course, and I dream about winning it one day, but it’s also a very difficult race to approach, really unpredictable and experience plays a pivot role. Compared to the past, it’s now a race in which the protagonists are not just the fast riders. I expect to be able to aim to be among the aspiring winners in the future, but for this year, I first want to prove myself, give my all and be an important part of the team. Mads [Pedersen] is super strong, Jasper [Stuyven] is a rider who knows how to win Sanremo, and I’ll be at their side ready to play the best role for the team’s success.
The 2024 Milano-Sanremo is an important opportunity for me to grow. I started this season with the motivation to use every race to learn, to improve. From Valenciana to today, everything has been a step forward. Now I don’t want to stop, and I feel the same ambition in the Team. It’s also a path to discovering myself as a rider and, honestly, I still can’t say how much of my potential has been seen. On Saturday, I want to give an important performance for the good of the Team. Together, we can make a great Milano-Sanremo.
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