Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) finished close enough a few times in Milan-San Remo to label the famous Italian Monument “unpredictable.” He lines up for the ninth time on Saturday morning with the aim to end the waiting game.
The Slovakian already finished second twice but never won even if victories in other races have seemingly come easily for him. He counts a Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix on his palmarès, in addition to six green jersey points titles from the Tour de France.
“Milan-San Remo is a special race,” Sagan said. “Sometimes you need to wait to win San Remo. Maybe it’s not this year, then you have to try next year, and if it’s not next year… It’s like the World Championship, you have to wait for your year.”
“It’s a Monument like Roubaix Flanders, Lombardia, Liège. San Remo is the start of the season, for all these Monument races. It’s also special that it’s the first one. It’s the longest one but it’s unpredictable, and very hard to win.”
Out of the five Monuments, Milan-San Remo also holds its own for its length. Other Monuments reach around 250 or 260 kilometres, but this one travels nearly 300 kilometres from the Milan business capital to San Remo on the coast.
“Depends if you’re in good shape or not. But in the end if you’re good then you can enjoy it [the seaside views],” added Sagan.
“I think Milan-San Remo, if it’s beautiful weather like today, is an enjoyable race. It’s not like the Belgian Classics – Flanders or Roubaix.
“You just start, you are going 100km, then you have Turchino, you have to be in the front, then after you come down to the coast, then you have another 100km to think just about ride, eat, drink. The race is starting in the last 50km. After 250km you can start to be concentrated really in the race, what to do, how you feel – stuff like that.
“But the Tour of Flanders and Roubaix are starting already after kilometre 10, or kilometre zero sometimes. It’s a big difference.”
With the long Po Valley stretch and the seaside run, he can let his mind wonder.
“You can enjoy it. That’s also nice. That’s why this race is special, because if it’s good weather you can really enjoy the ride. You are riding in Italy, then you come to the coast, you have nice views,” he continued.
“In Belgium there’s no time. In San Remo the last 50km not – you have to be concentrated because the race is open. But if the race goes very smoothly, then it’s a nice race.”
Sagan is not a hot favourite like in years past, having started his European season at Tirreno-Adriatico last week after a bout of sickness over six days.
Instead, riders like Michał Kwiatkowski (Sky) and Deceuninck-Quick-Step’s Julian Alaphilippe or Elia Viviani are spoken as potential winners. But no one will count out Sagan entirely.
“Maybe there’ll be some consequences later on, but I have no more problems anymore with the stomach,” he explained.
“I needed to finish Tirreno for sure because it’s a very important part of the season before the Classics. You have really like six or seven days of hard work on the bike. Now all the training process is done, and it’s now about concentrating on the big races. We will see.
“We still have one month of Classics, then after that I’m going to tell you how I really felt during this period.”