Pogacar, Van der Poel, Pedersen, Laporte… Who are the favorites for the season’s first Monument?
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Pogacar, Van der Poel, Pedersen, Laporte… Who are the favorites for the season’s first Monument?

The 115th edition of the Primavera takes place on Saturday on the roads of northern Italy, with a duel announced between Mathieu van der Poel and Tadej Pogacar.

France Télévisions – Sports editorial

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Tadej Pogacar, Mathieu van der Poel, Mads Pedersen and Christophe Laporte during the 2024 season. (AFP / SIPA)

The first highlight of the 2024 season. The riders meet in northern Italy, on Saturday 16 March, to compete in Milan-San Remo. If the announced route – 288 kilometers long starting from Pavia, a city an hour’s drive from Milan – is shorter than the other editions, the usual slopes will be taken. After Cipressa (5.6 km at 4.1%), the peloton is waiting in the legendary Poggio (3.7 km at 4% with a maximum slope of 8%), traditional right of peace in Primavera five terminals from the line.

A year after the victory, Mathieu van der Poel puts his monument back into play with the firm intention of doubling his effort. To do this we must resist the other favourites, starting with Tadej Pogacar. According to our consultant Yoann Offredo, seventh in the event in 2011, “everyone will run according to Slovenian”which goes with a head start though “many outsiders can win”. The Van der Poel-Pogacar duo is also favored by Laurent Jalabert, the 1995 winner now at France Télévisions.

Tadej Pogacar: new Italian robbery?

The double winner of the Tour de France switched to Italian time this season. While he will discover the Giro in May (before continuing with the Grande Boucle), Tadej Pogacar performed two weeks ago at the Strade Bianche, winning after a solo break of 81 kilometers. Enough to cast doubt on his strategy this Saturday? “On paper, Pogacar is very scary. With him, we can really expect anythingpredicts Yoann Offredo. When he decides to attack, he’d better be at the head of the pack or it’ll be unplayable. Not many people will be able to answer him, except a collective.”.

Beaten despite multiple attack attempts at Poggio in 2022, beaten again after having his teammates roll from Cipressa in 2023, the leader of UAE Team Emirates had given up. “Maybe next year I’ll have to try something different“, he predicted at the end of the race.

Hoax or not, he comes with the sign. “I couldn’t ask for a better start to the year, I’m excited for Milan-San Remo. This race is one of the most difficult to win. We will definitely make a plan and put ourselves in the best possible position”, he explained upstream of the monument. In one of the rare races that oppose him, “Pogi” will have the opportunity to rely on a high-level team with the third of Paris-Nice Brandon McNulty and the classics Marc Hirschi and Tim Wellens. “The UAE will try to tighten up quickly, Pogacar is the only one with an advantage in this scenario”judge Laurent Jalabert.

Mathieu van der Poel: the troll was never satisfied

Winner of Milan-San Remo in 2023, 62 years after his grandfather Raymond Poulidor, Mathieu van der Poel is the other natural candidate for his own legacy. Since his victory at Via Roma, the Dutchman has competed in prestigious races between Paris-Roubaix and the World Championships in Scotland, where he adorned himself with a rainbow. And it’s not his near-perfect cyclo-cross winter that will question his status (13 wins in 14 races, including Worlds). “An unknown remains: his state of form”warns Yoann Offredo. Although he will return to the road on Saturday, Van der Poel has been preparing in Spain during an altitude training course in recent weeks.

“We are happy with Mathieu’s fitness level, we are not afraid of a lack of competitive pace.”

Christoph Roodhooft, Sports Director of Alpecin-Deceuninck

at Het Nieuwsblad, Belgian media

To become the first man to keep”Classicissima” since Erik Zabel (1997-1998 and 2000-2001), “VDP” will be able to count on a great resource in an event known to be so indecisive: he is the one with the most qualities to adapt to today’s scenario. Mathieu’s advantage is that he climbs well, he has a lot of punch so he can keep up with Pogacar and he sprints quickly.”explains Yoann Offredo. Unless his teammate Jasper Philipsen manages to follow him and the title holder then becomes a pilot fish, as was the case at the last Tour.

Mads Pedersen: the luxury spoil sport

Mads Pedersen, on the other hand, is not the most experienced at “MSR”, but he came sixth in the last two editions. Places of honor served as a trigger for the Dane, who then confirmed his world track title acquired in 2019 to everyone’s surprise. Now a stage winner at the three Grand Tours and often placed on the podium at the final ‘Ronde’, the Lidl-Trek jack-of-all-trades can hope to do well.

“It has power and good resistance, more difficult weather can smile on it,” Laurent Jalabert projects. “He has the same qualities as Van der Poel: he knows how to hurt himself and ride very hard. He missed the boat at Paris-Nice [deux deuxièmes places] but he is one of the very solid runners at the start of the season”, observes Yoann Offredo. If he admitted, after winning the general at Etoile de Bessèges and at the Tour de Provence in February, that he prefers to win Paris-Roubaix, Pedersen will not spit on a Primavera.

Christophe Laporte: making people forget Wout van Aert

If two former French winners are to start, Arnaud Démare (2016) and Julian Alaphilippe (2019), the best French chance is Christophe Laporte, for the two consultants. The usual Visma-Lease a Bike lieutenant replaces Wout van Aert at short notice, who is absent this year.

He will try to beat the odds with his sprinter-puncher skills, which could allow him to pass the Poggio with the best. “I have been riding for this team for two years and I am happy there. Everything is in place and I hope to contribute to the team’s success in the spring.” he declared in January. The Frenchman was crowned European champion in 2023 and now feels ready to aim higher.

Frenchman Christophe Laporte (right) with his European champion jersey next to his Belgian runner-up Wout van Aert, September 24, 2023. (DAVID PINTENS / AFP)

“I won a stage at the Tour [en 2022 à Cahors]then a classic [A travers les Flandres et Gand-Wevelgem en 2023]. The only step forward I can take is a monument”, he recently admitted referring to “Classicissima” where he never did better than 13th place, blamed on his permanent role as teammate. “This is Laporte’s 10th participation in ten years, it is not a handicap, far from it. Knowledge of the terrain is very important, experience from the different racing events plays in his favour”, Jalabert thinks. Failing that, Dutch sprinter Olav Kooij, double stage winner from Paris-Nice, will also be there to make the yellow and black flag shine.

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