The first Monument of the cycling season comes on Saturday March 19th with the 103rd edition of Milan-San Remo.
San Remo is regarded as one of the Monuments thanks to its eye-watering distance of around 300km, and is commonly known as ‘La Classicissima’ or ‘La Primavera’.
‘Monument’ is a name given to five historic one-day races with Milan-San Remo being the first followed by the Tour of Flanders, Paris-Roubaix, Liege-Bastogne-Liege and Il Lombardia.
There is an amazing mix of talent on the startlist with Wout van Aert, Tom Pidcock, Tadej Pogačar, Fabio Jakobsen and many more besides.
At 293km, Milan-San Remo is easily the longest one-day race of the season. The route is largely flat aside from the Passo del Turchino, which comes in the middle of the race, and the five short climbs at the end.
After the Turchino berg, we have to wait just over 90km before the next climb. That is the first of three ‘capos’: Capo Mele followed by Cervo and Berta.
The riders then have a wait of 10km before the first major climb on the route: La Cipressa. A quick descent brings them to the final climb of the day, Poggio di Sanremo.
A technical descent on tight and twisty roads will bring the race careering into the town of San Remo and by a mad dash to the finish in the final 3km will likely ensue next.
There are huge names on the startlist for the race, but one notable omission is defending champion Jasper Stuyven. The Belgian rider, who pulled off an impressive late attack in 2021, is suffering from illness which means Trek-Segafredo is opting to take former World Champion and strong sprinter Mads Pedersen to the race. Pedersen has had a solid start to 2022, getting a win in Paris-Nice just last week, and he is well-suited to the finish of San Remo if he can get over the climbs that come before the flat run-in to the line.
Pedersen isn't the only one of the world’s very best sprinters planning to take part in San Remo. The strength and depth in the sprinting field this year is greater than ever and one man who has been dominant is Quick Step's Fabio Jakobsen, who is also down to start the race.
The 25-year-old Dutch man has asserted himself as one of the most talented riders in today's peloton, with wins in Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, Paris-Nice and Volta Algarve. Quick Step have opted to take Jakobsen to the race with World Champion Julian Alaphilippe currently resting due to contracting bronchitis. This makes us think that 'The Wolfpack' are going to be riding to encourage a bunch gallop to the line.
BORA-Hansgrohe bring the likes of Ide Schelling and Max Schachmann who are suited to the punchy climbs that come at the end of the race. This means that the German team has options and, without their sprinter Sam Bennett in the race due to illness, they will be hoping to sneak away from the bunch to take the win solo or from a small group.
Of course, Jumbo-Visma cannot be overlooked and will hope to use their amazing depth of talent with Primož Roglič, Wout van Aert and Christophe Laporte all listed as starting the race. Laporte's strong showing in Paris-Nice proves he is a valuable lead out man for Van Aert, who has the options of waiting to sprint from a reduced bunch or trying to go for a solo move. The Dutch team will likely hope to make the race difficult so that Van Aert can sprint from a reduced group.
Van Aert worked hard for Roglič in Paris-Nice, and the Slovenian rider has stated that he will repay this favour in Milan-San Remo, making us think Van Aert will be Jumbo's sole leader for the race.
Of the pure sprinters, other riders with a chance of getting a strong result include Alexander Kristoff, Giacomo Nizzolo, Elia Viviani, Jasper Philipsen and Arnaud Demare to name but a few.
Of course, there will be many riders hoping that the race doesn't finish in a group. They will aim to split the race on the two crucial climbs before the finish to drop some of the faster men. Out of these riders, Tadej Pogačar sits firmly at the top of the list.
The UAE Team Emirates rider has had a stunning start to the season, winning every single race he has started so far this year. Pogačar's 50km solo attack in Strade Bianche was a move that will go down in history, and it proved he is not afraid to race aggressively, despite being a marked rider. We wouldn't be surprised to see UAE Team Emirates taking the race on from an earlier point than usual to try and set Pogačar up for one of his blistering attacks – the other teams are going to have to think hard about how they can stop the Tour de France champion from dominating the race.
Another team which will have options if their sprinter doesn't make it over the climbs to the finish is Ineos Grenadiers. The British team bring both Tom Pidcock and Ethan Hayter to race San Remo and both riders are well-suited to the punchy terrain. Italian superstar Filippo Ganna should not be overlooked either – he proved he is climbing well at Tirreno-Adriatico and will be able to sustain a long-range attack, as well as pull some big turns to set up the likes of Pidcock to make a move.
Though he will likely be working for Caleb Ewan, Lotto-Soudal's Philippe Gilbert has won at all of the Monuments except Milan-San Remo and has made the race his main goal. He has openly discussed ‘Striving for Five’ and wants become just the fourth rider in history to achieve the incredible feat.
To add to the incredible list of talent in this race, rumours have recently been circulating that Mathieu van der Poel will make a surprise comeback at San Remo. The Alpecin-Fenix rider is yet to race on the road this year after suffering from an ongoing back injury, and it was thought he wouldn't be in the peloton again until Coppi Bartali on the 22nd of March. Sightings of MVDP on a plane to Milan the day before the race and reports on Sporza are suggesting he will make an appearance at San Remo, however.
Other riders to note are Biniam Ghirmay of Intermarche Wanty who has had a strong start to his season, as well as Matej Mohoric who forms part of a impressive Bahrain Victorious squad (one which also includes young rider Fred Wright who showed fantastic form at Paris-Nice).
Other riders to look our for are Connor Swift, Magnus Cort, Søren Kragh Andersen, Greg Van Avermaet, Alessandro Covi and many more.
The wonderful thing about this race is how many different riders can win. In the past 10 years we’ve seen pure sprinters, puncheurs and Grand Tour winners all raise their arms in victory.
So, how do you predict that? Well, you play it safe… We’re going to go very safe and say that the man who will win Milan-San Remo 2022 will be Wout van Aert.
Our other prediction is that a top 10, maybe top 5, place awaits Eritrean star Biniam Ghirmay. The 21-year-old has had a wonderful start to his first full WorldTour season and big things are expected of the rider who finished second in the 2021 U23 World Championships road race.