In a day when we were waiting to see how Tadej Pogacar would try to win his second Italian WT classic race of the season, it was another Slovenian who rode away from his wheel to claim the first Monument of the 2022 season. Below are five of the riders that left their names etched in the history of the 2022 edition of La Classicissima.
Matej Mohoric (Bahrain Victorious)
Well, of course, the winner deserves the most praise. His victory did not come without controversy, though. Firstly, I don’t understand how the rest of the pack still gives Mohoric any space at all. Haven’t they understood how dangerous he is? As I wrote on the preview, his intelligence and ability to read a race is world class. If he’s making a move close to the end it’s likely going to be the winning move. However, I understand that it’s easier to write this than to actually follow a great descender after nearly 300km of racing. In the end, it was certainly more about Mohoric’s skill than the others’ inability to follow him.
Still, there’s no career defining victory without controversy. And this one is no different. Michael Matthews pointed out that the Slovenian’s winning effort was greatly facilitated by the motorbikes that cover the race. I think it’s impossible not to have noticed this during the race. I don’t particularly empathize with Matthews’ complaints in this occasion: he has had plenty of opportunities to win La Classicissima and never accomplished this feat. I don’t think he would have done it this year even if the motorbikes hadn’t helped Mohoric.
However, as mentioned, it seems clear to me that the Australian is 100% correct. From the images we got during the live broadcast, I would say that drafting behind the motorbikes was worth way more than two seconds to the Slovenian. Of course, gaps and race tactics would have changed dramatically if not for what happened, so things are not this simple. Maybe Mohoric would have won still. I mean, he certainly deserved the victory in my opinion. Is this a problem that must be addressed, especially on a descent? No question!
The second less controversial point but just as interesting is Mohoric’s usage of a dropper post. For those less familiar, a dropper post allows the seat to be lowered which improves maneuverability and lowers a rider’s center of gravity. It is widely used in mountain bike competitions and, in road racing, apparently also provides great benefits especially if you’re planning to attack on a downhill to win the Milano Sanremo.
Anthony Turgis (Total DirectEnergies)
The French rider has been on an ascending trajectory in the classics during the past few years. Last year, he was 2nd in the Kuurne Bruxelles Kuurne, 10th in the Milano Sanremo, 9th in the Gent Wevelgem, and 8th both in the Dwars door Vlaanderen and the Ronde Van Vlaanderen. His biggest top-level result prior to yesterday had been a 4th place in the 2020 Ronde Van Vlaanderen.
He is not a rider that wins a lot, but his ascending trajectory is undeniable. And he’s still only 27 years old. Adding to all this the fact that he is also a good finisher, makes his value unquestionable, in my opinion, especially for a French team. He doesn’t seem like the kind of rider that will just take over a WT race but he’s certainly one of the best in a lot of races of the French calendar.
Mathieu Van Der Poel (Alpecin Fenix)
Coming back from injury with a bronze medal in the Milano Sanremo is only at the grasp of the predestined. A great result from a quality rider like Turgis stands out in the Frenchman’s career. For Van Der Poel, a 3rd place after coming back from injury is a result to improve upon. This is not a knock on the Frenchman’s career. It just shows how exceptional Van Der Poel really is.
Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates)
Ironic that it was another Slovenian to defeat Tadej Pogacar in a WT race for the first time this year. Mohoric really showed everybody the way. Since it’s clear that it’s impossible to drop Pogacar on the climbs, well, on the descents it is! Pogacar was the rider positioned behind Mohoric when he made his move and opened up the gap that led him to victory. The Tour winner should’ve known how dangerous compatriot is when given even the tiniest of gaps. However, let’s not lose sight of what we (I) were (was) expecting of Pogacar: since 2000, Vincenzo Nibali was the only Tour winner that won the Milano Sanremo (2018, at 33 years of age). None of the others were even competitive, let alone won it. A 5th place for Pogacar at 23 years old is an incredible result for someone with his characteristics as a rider. Just not the 1st place we’re used to from him.
Vincenzo Albanese (EOLO-Kometa)
An 11th place for a wildcard team is a great result, in my opinion. The young Italian sprinter showcased his ability in hillier one day races at the beginning of the season in the Trofeo Calvia, where he placed 3rd overall, and 2nd in the group that arrived behind the winner, Brandon McNulty. At the Milano Sanremo he proved that he can ride with the best in the world even after 293km and a very difficult finish. Not only that but he still had the strength to sprint for 2nd place in his group, only behind former winner, Arnaud Démare.
This is the best result from a truly secondary team in the professional cycling landscape since 2016, when Filippo Pozzato and Sonny Colbrelli were 8th and 9th, racing for Wilier – Southeast and Bardiani CSF.
I’m sure Eolo-Kometa would have preferred a place inside of the top-10, but an 11th place and the best Italian finisher are certainly results that the team would have gladly taken before the race.