While Arnaud Démare took the victory of one race that headed out from Milan, Wout van Aert and Caleb Ewan will take their encouraging performances into the one that really matters, which starts on Saturday.
The Frenchman had the fastest sprint in Turin, benefitting from the flat finish rather than the uphill stretch EF’s Michael Woods won on last year, holding off both Van Aert and Ewan, as well as Peter Sagan, to take the spoils.
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Démare has already won Milan-San Remo, and will surely relish another win if his legs are firing at the weekend as they were today. But it will be the other podium finishers who are the likelier to stand on a sun-drenched top step looking out over the Mediterranean, and both are raring to go after strong sprints today.
“Yeah it was good, I wanted to be near the front in the last corner, I was right where I wanted to be, I got a bit unlucky because Sagan came around and Démare had his wheel…could have been better,” Ewan said after the race.
The diminutive Australian has already won at the Tour Down Under as well as an uphill sprint at the UAE Tour, and should Philippe Gilbert fail to spring a surprise and claim his fifth different Monument, Lotto-Soudal will turn to their star sprinter.
“I looked at the new course…it’s going to depend how other teams race on the first climb, I’ve done all I can [to prepare].”
Meanwhile, it’s another Belgian who’s put down early markers since racing resumed, with Van Aert forcing himself past Sagan and into third place.
After taking victory in Siena at Strade Bianche, the 25-year-old, speaking in the third person, said this is maybe the best Van Aert we’ve ever seen. Today was the first bit of proof for that assessment.
“I didn’t expect to sprint like this,” Van Aert said. “It’s good prep for Milan – San Remo. When you’re in that position in the final corner but guys who are in front are the best in the world, it’s a good result.
“Of course, I look forward to Saturday, let’s see how things work out, it’s a harder race than this one but sometimes it ends in a sprint, it’s good preparation.”