Wout van Aert was at the start line near Milano this morning starting what is the longest race of the year in pursuit of another monument win. Milano-Sanremo is a race almost perfectly suited to his attributes, and the leader of Jumbo-Visma details his run-up to the race.
"The intention was to start Strade Bianche one hundred percent fit and be in perfect shape throughout spring. I still have to grow into that shape," van Aert admits in a press release issued this morning by Jumbo-Visma. "But despite the nasty crash on the fourth day of Tirreno-Adriatico, I can look back on the past week with satisfaction."
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"Before the start of Tirreno-Adriatico, I was concerned about my shape. You never know how you will feel after an illness during preparation. Those doubts are gone now, and I'm happy about that," he says. After the Cyclocross World Championships in early February he took some days off, and travelled to Mount Teide for altitude training.
An illness delayed his preparation however, and he skipped Strade Bianche as a result, instead starting his season at Tirreno-Adriatico where he helped Primoz Roglic to the overall victory whilst working on his form. Despite a crash on the fourth day, he showed good legs on both hilly stages, and will find more favourable terrain on the approach to Sanremo.
He leads a strong team which includes classics specialists Christophe Laporte and Nathan van Hooydonck, whilst simultaneously having the support of Attila Valter and Jan Tratnik who should be able to deal with the hilly terrain relatively well. "It's essential to have a strong team at Milano-Sanremo to start fresh at the Cipressa. From there on, the race is often decided. We have a solid team, and it might make the difference;" he says.
"However, the way the race develops in Milano-Sanremo differs from a Flemish classic. Taking turns to attack is not ideal. In a fast race like Milano-Sanremo, you have an advantage if you stay in the peloton longer," the Belgian details. Having won the race in 2020, he knows how to play his cards. However, it will be a tough task to repeat that scenario, as every year the competition is very big.
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"I am very proud that this race is already on my list of honours. I was alongside Alaphilippe on the Poggio descent in the edition I won. Freshness has always played a significant role in this descent. Last year Mohoric made the difference there too. Though I don't think the race will be decided on the descent every year," van Aert concluded.