Two leaders, two approaches to La Primavera

Trek-Segafredo holds a strong hand with Stuyven and Pedersen for Milan-Sanremo

The course

It’s official. Spring is here, and with it the first Monument of the year. Milan-Sanremo, one of cycling’s most beautiful offerings will grace our screens on Saturday 18th March. 294 kilometers take riders and viewers from bustling Milan down to the picturesqueLigurian coast on a symbolic journey into springtime. The springtime opera rumbles quietly the first four hours and the audience can be forgiven for drifting off to its dulcet tones. In fact, it’s advised for riders and viewers alike to save their energies until required later in the race.

Three notable climbs punctuate the otherwise flat race: Passo del Turchino, the Cipressa and the Poggio. Whilst the former comes far too early to play a key role in the race, it adds depth to the performance and feeds the fatigue. The crescendo begins with the Cipressa, or rather the run in to the Cipressa, where a good position is key to avoid added stress later.

You have four and a half hours of cruising and then the shit hits the fan. - Mads Pedersen

The forecasts predict a tailwind on the Cipressa and the Poggio, which could be an added incentive for those wishing to play their cards early. In the last 23 years, there have been an equal number of winners emerging from attacks up the Poggio as there have been on its iconic descent. In recent history, long range attacks from the Cipressa have not been successful. Despite the slim margin of success, attacks on the Cipressa are used to soften up the sprinters in the hope that the elastic snaps on the Poggio.

All roads lead to Via Roma, where the winner of La Primavera will be crowned outside the Sanremo Casino. Trek-Segafredo hold a strong hand with a pair of kings: 2021 winner Jasper Stuyven and former World Champion Mads Pedersen. The last time Stuyven raced Milan-Sanremo, he was the winner. Illness last year robbed him of his chance to defend his title, and Mads Pedersen was drafted in at the last minute, who finished in 6th. This race is often touted as the most difficult to predict, and rarely does the bookmakers’ favorite take the win. The stakes are high, but Trek-Segafredo have two cards to play.

Our hand

Both Mads Pedersen and Jasper Stuyven have their sights set on Sanremo, but have chosen different paths to prepare themselves. The Dane lined up at the Etoile de Bessèges and Paris-Nice stage races and took a win at each whilst putting 1500km of competition in his legs. Stuyven, on the other hand, elected to build his condition through a series of altitude camps and will arrive in Milan with only three race days in 2023. Each rider is different, and what works for one may not work another. Stuyven knows his body well, and has decided that a meticulous build up is the best option to reach his best condition.

“I prepared with a long training camp in Teide, Opening Weekend and then another training camp at an altitude hotel in Dénia,” explained Stuyven. “I chose this approach because it allows me to prepare more precisely with more structured training and save mental freshness until Roubaix. I’m feeling pretty good in training and I’m happy with my shape so I’m looking forward to starting the race in Milan. It’s nice to arrive at the start line without any doubts. I’m hoping for a scenario in which one of us can win the race.”

They can go as hard as they want on the Cipressa, it’s a race that always comes down to the Poggio. - Jasper Stuyven

After winning the second stage of Paris-Nice Mads Pedersen said “It’s good confirmation ahead of Sanremo that I did the right training and my sprint didn’t disappear over the off season. It’s nice to have a win and it shows some good signs ahead of the Classics and especially the sprints.”

A strong sprint is a good card to have, given that since the year 2000 eleven editions of Milan-Sanremo have finished with a bunch sprint, and a further four victories have arrived from a sprint of a reduced group. However, Pedersen is prepared for any scenario, and showed last year that he has the legs to get over the Poggio with a small group.

There can be so many different race scenarios that I didn’t really stop to think about a specific one, but I trust my sprint so hopefully we can go down the Poggio in a smaller group. A tailwind on the climbs will make it super fast. Headwind would have been nicer but everything is still possible.

Last year I didn’t plan to do Sanremo so my final preparations are a bit different this year. Nothing major, just in this last week leading to the race. I had a cold at the end of Paris-Nice so I stopped the race earlier to recover and then be able to train better in the days before to the race.” 

I trust my sprint. - Mads Pedersen

For Jasper, it’s a race close to his heart and the biggest win of his career to date. “It’s very nice to be at start line of one of the biggest races of the season and one that I have already won. Of course, I would have loved to have been there last year to race with the number one bib, but nevertheless it will be a special day to be back in Milan for that beautiful race.