In a sport that has well over 100 years of history genuinely new, race altering innovations are hard to come by. But Matej Mohorič found just that when he used a dropper post on his road bike to aid his blistering descent off the Poggio to victory at Milan-San Remo this year.
However speaking to Cycling Weekly the Slovenian superstar explained that it was his mechanic that found it.
“Filip Tišma is in charge of research and is a committed mountain biker himself, and knows that the dropper post has an advantage in mountain biking," Mohorič recalls. "He was wondering about the advantages on the road and came to me and asked me about the idea.
“I didn’t know if it would work or not, but I was happy to test it over the winter.”
The advantages his new weapon gave him soon became clear - a lower centre of gravity allows tighter turns and great speed. With that considered, Milan-San Remo seemed like an obvious choice to put Tišma’s idea to the test for the first time.
“We had thought about using it before, but then we decided to save it for the big one,” he says.
Looking back on his win, Mohorič explains that Bahrain Victorious managed to keep their idea firmly under wraps in the build up to San Remo. Only the Slovenian and his coaches knew exactly what aces he had hidden up his sleeve.
“I don’t think anyone knew before the actual day of San-Remo. Except for my teammates who saw the bike when we met for the race just two days before,” he said. “They were joking ‘do you really think this makes a difference? Maybe save it for another year? But I knew.”
Then, once the race was underway and the Poggio arrived, it was all or nothing for Mohorič when Tišma’s weapon was unleashed.
“I was in a perfect position on the Cipressa. UAE put in a super high pace so that split the group. As soon as we hit the Poggio, Pogačar started to attack. I just focussed on my own race and tried to hang on until the very top,” he recalls.
"I KNEW THAT IF I HAD A SMALL GAP, I COULD TAKE SOME TIME, ESPECIALLY IF I RISKED EVERYTHING"
After Pogačar was reeled back in, Mohorič got ready to launch his bid for victory, attacking just as the descent began.
“I was maybe a second or two behind the leaders at the top. I knew I could catch and pass the others and then try to force a split behind. Once I attacked I tried to focus on picking the right lines and tried to attack every corner, then sprint out of them with everything I had left,” Mohorič says.
“I knew that if I had a small gap, I could take some time in the corners if I really risked everything, especially with the dropper seatpost.”
It’s rare to feel uncomfortable watching a bike race but viewing Mohorič’s descent was terrifying especially when he very nearly came unstuck on two occasions. Looking back, he says that staying upright and avoiding crashing was purely luck.
“I think it was luck. A reflex from slipping out many times before. I tried to correct my centre of gravity as I lost both wheels at the same time,” he says. “You either have it or you don’t I guess.”
EASIER TO WIN STAGES AT THE TOUR DE FRANCE THAN TO GRAB A MONUMENT VICTORY
Once he finished the descent from the Poggio and was bursting into San Remo, disaster nearly struck when Mohorič temporarily dropped his chain.
At that point TotalEnergies rider Anthony Turgis was rapidly bearing down on him but the Slovenian still managed to get the job done.
He recalls, “To have a plan come together like this is probably a once in a lifetime experience.”
This victory was different from his others. “More people know you for winning stages of the Tour, but from the athletes perspective, it’s probably easier to win two stages of the Tour than to win a monument,” Mohorič explains. “Especially in that way.”
This interview originally appeared in Cycling Weekly magazine on 15 December. Subscribe now and don't miss an issue in 2023.
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