Cycling, Milan-San Remo: meeting at the Poggio descent


Slovenian Mate Muhoric, on the finish line in Milan-San Remo, March 19, 2022.

Milan-San Remo often boils down to a hill climb. A long 285km walk from the Lombard capital to Poggio, a steep slope whose foot lies 9.2km from the end via Roma di San Remo. Saturday 18 March 114H The edition of the first “Monument” (the most important one-day events) of the cycling season should not stray from the norm.

Added in 1960 by the regulator To complicate the path, Poggio, named after a village overlooking the Ligurian Sea, is almost insignificant by its profile (3.6 km at 3.7%). However, every year he torments the legs that climb him at breakneck speeds. Since 2016 and the victory of Frenchman Arnaud Demare, the puncher has been enjoying his time there. But it slips Niccolo Bonifazio, Team Intermarché-Circus-Wanty rider who takes the Milan-San Remo roads during practice, “The ascent of the Poggio ends at the bottom of the descent.”.

Read also: The material is reserved for our subscribers The Poggio, that bridge erected by Milan-San Remo in cycling legend

Matej Muhoric will not say otherwise. In 2022, the Slovenian won thanks to his descent as he took all the risks, nosed into the exhaust pipes of the organization’s bikes, and cleaned up the falls twice. ‘I ruined cycling’He was proud after crossing the finish line, pointing to the telescopic bench seat he was the only one he had in the peloton. Allowing you to adjust saddle height using a knob located in the hollows of the handlebars, this tool allows you to lower the center of gravity for aerodynamic gain but also better control of your rig.

No one knows how decisive this technological contribution was in capturing his first ‘monument’ as Matej Mohorik figures, whatever his mountain, is among the best downhill riders in the peloton. The rider of the Bahrain-Victorious team is not a pioneer: the Belgian Eddy Merckx, in 1969, and the Irishman Sean Kelly, in 1992, have already achieved their victory in the downhill skiing that led to San Remo. But, in 2022, Mourick reminded of the importance of this lineage for those hoping to take on one of the leading roles during Primavera, the classic title that accompanies or precedes the arrival of spring.

“No time to breathe”

“Because the slopes are not so demanding, the descent can become essential or even decisive.”confirms Jacopo Guarnieri, Team Lotto Dstny rider, who trains regularly on the lemon-tree-strewn slopes of Poggio. “It’s important but going up is still necessary, Adds French Anthony Turges (TotalEnergies), second place in 2022. You have to be among the best racers at the top, those who can play for victory. » The position at the top is more important the way it is “It’s hard to get places to get off because the road isn’t wide.”Niccolo Bonifazio, fifth in the “Classicissima”, the other title of the race, in 2015.

Read also: Milan-San Remo: Matej Mohoric’s victory

The slide begins with a left turn past the famous red telephone box, an ancient object that resists modernity. After that, a three-kilometer descent with a gradient (-4.6%) is greater than an ascent (3.7%), without feeling dizzy. A total of thirty bends and four bends on a road that meanders between residential walls and where many runners have seen their dreams of success shattered. The maximum speed is about 70 km / h for three minutes and thirty seconds of adrenaline. Three minutes and ten seconds in an open road practice.Beats Niccolo Bonifazio. It is not reproduced…

“It’s a descent where you run every time you come out of a corner.”, remembers the Norwegian Thor Hushovd, twice third in Milan-San Remo (2005 and 2009). This need to pick up speed is also what makes this technical and winding descent particularly crucial after already six hours in the saddle, the last of which was swallowed up at full speed.

“The biggest difference is not the descent itself, but the way you do after six hours of cycling and the lactic acid in your legs, says Jacopo Guarnieri. It hurts as much as climbing. » Niccolo Bonifazio abounds in: “I analyzed my data from 2015, my heart rate hasn’t dropped compared to going up because of braking and restarting. It’s really tiring, you don’t have time to breathe.”

Accurate survey

An integral part of this frantic rhythm, one small mistake can cost dearly and break the pack of runners vying for victory. delicate balance “Fatigue plays a big part, which leads to errors in course and alertness”Anthony Turges exposes. “Lack of clarity can cause falls.”Jacopo Guarnieri continues.

Hence the importance of careful reconnaissance of the course, especially if you wish to lift your arms across Rome, that commercial artery on which the finish line is drawn. “I often get to know her twice before a race, Turges explains. The goal is not speed, quite the opposite, but to do it slowly, occasionally getting off the bike to get as many bearings as possible. »

“After 300km it’s not always easy to remember if you had to brake at every turn or if you went out too fast”decoded Thor Hushovd, retired since 2014. To hell with the idea of ​​separating the brain in this difficult part, the ability to focus can, on the contrary, make a difference.

Down the slope is also a strategic place. When riders rejoin the main road, they have 2.2 kilometers to go and only two turns. Primavera has often settled at precisely this moment, when the outcome is approaching and the survivors are looking at each other, spying on each other. “You can attack if you come from behind and come quickly.”analyzes Thor Hushovd, who was not able to take the lead of Swiss Fabian Cancellara in this situation, in 2008. The Belgian Jasper Stoyven managed to surprise the favorites in this way in 2021.

With or without a telescopic saddle, the Poggio descent once again threatens to present its truth around 5 p.m.


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