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Cycling: in San Remo, Tadej Pogacar also wants to have his festival

Look no further for his successor, Eddy Merckx has just found him forty-four years after his farewell to cycling. “I have heard many times about runners saying thatand “it’s the new Merckx” without the conditions being met, but with Tadej I think we really have it this time. » The tribute of the former Belgian rider dates from October 2021; Tadej Pogacar then comes out of a victory in the Tour of Lombardy. The next day, one of the Slovenian’s equipment manufacturers organized the meeting with the greatest cyclist in history.

Saturday March 19, Tadej Pogacar will start Milan-San Remo, a classic won seven times in its time by a Merckx more “Cannibal” than ever on Via Roma. Italy also inspires its heir. At 23, the rider from the UAE team wins almost all his battles there, like a Bonaparte with a bib on his back. In addition to Lombardy, Pogacar has also already imposed its law on Tuscany and its Strade Bianche, on March 5, and won a second Tirenno-Adriatico with disconcerting ease.

Read also: Pogacar wins the Strade Bianche for the first time

But San Remo is another song. “La Primavera” is not only taken with the strength of the calves. “It’s the hardest classic to win but the easiest to lose”, summarizes in one sentence the Italian of the French team Groupama-FDJ, Jacopo Guarnieri. With its 298 kilometres, this race at the start of spring invites patience, opportunism and daring when everything accelerates in the ascent and descent of the Poggio, the ultimate difficulty after six hours in the saddle where boredom has taken the place of a faithful companion.

The double winner of the Tour de France, he likes to shake the coconut tree from afar, without thinking about the consequences. For a bit, we would fear to see him nose dive in a race not selective enough to drop the punchers and some sprinters along the way. But Pogacar knows the rules of the game. “If we go there as an adventure, there is a way to have fun in the end, he confided to The Team at the start of the season. It’s pretty standard every time: we have to go to the Cipressa [l’avant-dernière côte à gravir], where the pace picks up. Then it’s flat out, in the Poggio and all the way to the finish. There are no surprises. »

In 2020, he had respected this tradition to the letter to finish 12and in a small group that came to fail two seconds behind Belgian Wout Van Aert and his runner-up, Julian Alaphilippe. Since then, his record of one-day races has gone from a small M to triple XL, with two “monuments” already won: the Tour of Lombardy, therefore, and Liège-Bastogne-Liège, in April 2021.

“A huge praline in the Poggio”

For the third, the route plan is already known. “Attacking before the Poggio is useless except to lose the race”reminded the World, before the last edition, Franck Alaphilippe, uncle and trainer of the double world champion. No need to fantasize about a ride like that of the Italian Claudio Chiappucci, winner in 1991 after running away 150 km: the times no longer allow it.

“Everyone knows that to win, [Tadej Pogacar] must and will put a huge praline in the climb of the Poggio. We can even say where within five meters, predicts Steve Chainel, six participations in the “Primavera” and Eurosport consultant. He has no other solutions to blow up the sprinters and start alone or with a small group. » Then, the former mountain biker has the downhill qualities necessary to sow less skilful pursuers on a narrow road winding along the walls of the houses.

Read also Article reserved for our subscribers The Poggio, this embankment that Milan-San Remo has erected into a myth of cycling

In an interview at The Gazzetta dello SportEddy Merckx found this scenario plausible after the demonstration of his new protege on the Strade Bianche. Steve Chainel, he still sees a pebble in the shoe of the Slovenian – a “big stone even” – with the always cumbersome presence of Wout Van Aert. “In a small committee sprint, Pogacar has already beaten Alaphilippe on a Liège-Bastogne-Liège, but against Van Aert he is losing. He will have to manage to slip away without him, otherwise the two will neutralize each other. »

Not easy. The Belgian from the Dutch team Jumbo-Visma has also been caressing the pedals since his winning start at Het Nieuwsblad, descends like a boss and knows how to raise his arms on the Riviera, or if he is imposed in 2020. In the near future , Belgium imagines the cyclo-cross specialist becoming the next member of the winners of the five “monuments” (Milan-San Remo, Tour of Flanders, Paris-Roubaix, Liège-Bastogne-Liège, Tour of Lombardy) in the company of his compatriots Eddy Merckx, Rik Van Looy and Roger De Vlaeminck.

Unless Tadej Pogacar overtakes him from the right with his air of never touching it. If successful in San Remo as a near-neighbor, the Monegasque resident would only have the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix to tick off his list. Not really his playgrounds on paper, but with this boy the paper often ends up in the trash.

Steve Chainel takes up the bet and sees him compete with the “Flahutes” in April for his discovery of Flanders. “He drives well, he knows how to rub, get back on his feet and will be supported by an experienced guy like Matteo Trentin. Frankly, it will be necessary to count on him. Even a “Roubaix” is in his strings when he decides to line up there. »

Despite his featherweight physique (1.75 m for 66 kg), the climber has already made an appointment on “the hell of the North”. “One day, I would like to try my hand at five, so in Paris-Roubaix as well. But not immediately he says. In 2016, he had tried the pavement with a 13and place in the juniors. Since then, Tadej Pogacar has learned to win, regardless of adversity or terrain.

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