This bill will probably remain open forever. For a time, Peter Sagan was considered difficult to defeat in those difficult one-day races, where his enormous abilities came into their own. When it came to the classics to wear down the opponents with high speed in the duels man against man and then leave them in the final with his sprinting skills. The Slovakian star won the Tour of Flanders, Paris-Roubaix, among others, and three world championship titles speak for themselves.
Only at Milan-Sanremo in March, also a monument of cycling, he simply did not want to and does not want to win. "In this race you can't control so many things, it can be decided in milliseconds. It's always all or nothing," says the aging star (Team Totalenergies), who will end his illustrious road career at the end of the year.
Abstruse length of almost 300 kilometers
Nine times Sagan reached the top ten, five times he was fourth, twice second. One of them was at the legendary 2013 edition, when snow almost brought the race to a standstill and the drivers were finally loaded onto buses and taken down to the Ligurian coast. At that time, Sagan was surprisingly defeated in the sprint by the German Gerald Ciolek. Three years later, John Degenkolb secured another German victory on the Via Roma in the centre of Sanremo, which was once also the domain of Erik Zabel (four wins).
In any case, the coup in the snow race of 2013 was a unique triumph for the Cologne Ciolek in a race that is also unique on the cycling calendar. If only because of the abstruse length of almost 300 kilometers. "La Primavera" is what the Italians call it. The journey starts into spring in the Piedmontese plain, where nature is still barren in winter.
On the route, which has been changed only slightly since 1905, spring-like blooming landscapes await behind the Turchino Pass. Some dismiss Milan-Sanremo as too long, too slow, too boring. In fact, six out of seven hours of racing not much happens, the breakaways do their job rather dutifully, knowing that they will never get through to the finish in the center of Sanremo.
But when the coast comes into view, the peloton traditionally heads for one of the most captivating finales of the racing year. The tempo increases just like the tension more and more. Before the pent-up hustle and bustle discharges on the two famous final climbs shortly before the finish, Cipressa and Poggio, which are actually more hills, but executioners on this race day.
The mere fact that the superstars Tadej Pogacar, Wout van Aert, Mathieu van der Poel and Julian Allaphilippe are all at the start (with ambitions for victory) promises a show starting at the latest at the foot of the 3.7-kilometre ascent to Poggio.
"Milan-Sanremo is more of a lottery. Everything is decided in the last five kilometres, so you don't really have time to correct mistakes or turn things around," says 33-year-old Sagan. Particularly appealing: Depending on the course of the race, climbers, classics specialists or sprinters can come to the decisive train on the last kilometres.
Last year, Pogacar, the outstanding man so far in the first weeks of the 2023 season, launched four attacks, but in the end his Slovenian compatriot Matej Mohoric won after a breakneck descent on the hairpin bends down from Poggio. Milan – Sanremo is considered the easiest of the five monuments, but the most difficult to win. Ask Peter Sagan.