Wout van Aert: 'I wasted a lot of energy on Pogačar’s attacks'

Belgian says lack of cohesion in the chasing group cost them a shot at Milan-San Remo victory

Wout van Aert at Milan-San Remo 2022
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) points to his marking of Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) as the key reason he was unable to fight for victory at Milan-San Remo on Saturday.

The Belgian champion was the most active in bringing back the rampaging Tour de France champion, who was intent on breaking the race up on the final ascent of the Poggio with numerous attacks.

>>> Five talking points from Milan-San Remo 2022

After Matej Mohorič slipped away on the descent of the Poggio, Van Aert was unable to make the effort to get across to the lone leader due to his spent energy, while the chasing group - which contained the likes of Pogačar and Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) - was unable to work well enough together to close the gap. The 2020 winner Van Aert suggested some of those in the group were already eyeing a potential podium spot instead of victory, which hampered the chase.

"I wasted a lot of energy on Pogacar’s attacks”, Van Aert said. “That’s why I didn’t manage to be with him when Mohorič attacked. I knew he was dangerous. You can’t give him 10 meters because he’ll be gone. I chased him to win. Maybe others were already busy trying to get a podium place. They have every right to do so, of course."

Van Aert entered the near 300km race as the key favourite after a sterling start to the season in which he has won Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, as well as a stage at Paris-Nice. Despite using his energy reserves chasing down Pogačar, Van Aert remained staunch in his opinion that he wouldn't have approached the race any differently in hindsight.

"I don’t think we should have handled the race differently," he said. "I am pleased with the work the team did today. If I can’t win, I prefer going down fighting. I think that’s what happened”

His Jumbo-Visma sports director Arthur van Dongen agreed, saying: “Of course we are disappointed. After all, we were riding for victory. In hindsight, I don’t think we can blame ourselves. The team did an excellent job. We made a plan beforehand and all our riders executed it well. Wout is a little disappointed, but he is proud of the work of his teammates. That feeling prevails.”

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