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Milan-San Remo 2022: who are the favourites?

In-depth
14 Mar 2022
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With the first official Monument of the season fast approaching, here are the riders most likely to win in San Remo

Words Will Strickson

La Primavera, La Classicissma, the first Monument of the season, the Sprinter’s Classic, the long one that’s boring for 260km, whatever you want to call it, it’s Milan-San Remo time once again.

The race heads south from Milan and over the Passo Turchino before following the picturesque Ligurian Riviera west over the famous Cipressa and Poggio climbs before finishing on the Via Roma in San Remo after 293km of racing.

It’s one of the most iconic and oldest races in the calendar, having started in 1907, and has seen some truly special performances over the years. It’s also the one Monument that continues to elude Philippe Gilbert from completing his historic set.

With riders still counting the cost after Tirreno-Adriatico and Paris-Nice, the start list for the 113th edition of the race is currently unconfirmed, but that doesn’t mean we can’t speculate.

After Jasper Stuyven’s heroics in 2021, some will be looking for redemption, meanwhile others are looking to make their mark on one of cycling’s biggest stages.

Here are the favourites for the 2022 Milan-San Remo.

Who are the favourites for Milan-San Remo 2022?

Wout van Aert

Photo: Milan-San Remo

Wout van Aert is undeniably the man to beat. He has already won Milan-San Remo once in 2020 and is arguably the perfect man for the race given, as Primož Roglič recently said, ‘Wout can do everything.’ He can climb with the best, he can sprint with the best and he’s a Classics specialist – even if he did have a disappointing 2021 in the one-day races.  

As for this year, he’s been a cut above. He was utterly dominant in cyclocross and at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and has been part of two 1-2-3 finishes for Jumbo-Visma at Paris-Nice. The first of those two historic finishes was pretty much a practice run for the team’s inevitable record-breaking train up the Poggio to drop the sprinters and keep the climbers at bay.

He has also been saving his legs at Paris-Nice, taking it easy on the climbs to be stronger in the Classics while teammate Roglič rode to the GC win. It’s Wout’s to lose.

Caleb Ewan

Photo: Chris Auld

If it does come to a bunch sprint, Caleb Ewan will be the favourite. He has proved with his two second place finishes in 2018 and 2021 that he can make it up the climbs and still have enough in the legs to outsprint everyone else, he was just unfortunate that there was a lone rider ahead both times.

Ewan is undeniably one of the two fastest sprinters in the world – and very easily argued it’s not the second fastest of the two – and his only  competition in that elite bracket, Fabio Jakobsen, is highly unlikely to make it over the Poggio with the main group.

If it’s all together after the final descent, it’ll be all eyes on Caleb.

Update: Caleb Ewan is OUT of Milan-San Remo with an illness. Rest up king.

Julian Alaphilippe

Photo: Milan-San Remo

We all know better than to count out Julian Alaphilippe. A World Champion, a showman, a born winner. He’s the greatest puncheur of his generation and is more than capable of creating a gap either up the Poggio or on the descent and has a powerful sprint on him.

He has won this race before, he’ll surely win it again, but there are two problems he needs to overcome for 2022 to be that year. The first is his back – his flip in the wind at Strade Bianche was brutal and if he’s still feeling the effects he won’t win here. Secondly, having won it before and with his main Classics target for the season lying in wait in the Ardennes, there’s a chance he isn’t as desperate for this win as some of his competitors, which could be enough to give someone like Ewan – or the next man – the edge they need.

But betting against Julian is a risky game.

Update: Julian Alaphilippe is OUT of Milan-San Remo with Bronchitis, rest up king.

Tadej Pogačar

Photo: Chris Auld

Comfortably the best cyclist in the world and he’s only 23. Tadej Pogačar might be just getting started but he has already won two Tours de France and two Monuments (arguably three, depending on your view of Strade Bianche), and comparisons to Eddy Merckx are no longer being rubbished.

It seems like an inevitability that he’ll win all five Monuments over his career, and he’ll definitely want to win this one on the day – as he does every race he enters. If anyone can distance the Jumbo-Visma train on that final climb, it’s him. He could even attack on the Cipressa – we saw at Strade Bianche that he’s more than capable of holding onto a long range attack. And let’s not forget he also has a very strong sprint on him should it come down to a reduced group.

When it’s renamed the Pog-gio we’ll all be sorry.

Sonny Colbrelli

Photo: Chris Auld

Before 2021, the suggestion that Sonny Colbrelli could win any big races would’ve been laughed off. Technically a sprinter, he was in the Michael Matthews mould of being actually alright at climbing so would only be favoured for the hillier stage race sprints.

Little did we know that he was one of the world’s best cobbles riders. His Paris-Roubaix victory last year was a huge moment in his career, and completely changed how we view him. Milan-San Remo is more like the parcours you’d have expected him to thrive on anyway, add a touch of confidence, a good start to the season and a strong side backing him up and the Italian could bring it home.

Let’s hope he can shrug off the illness he got at Paris-Nice in plenty of time.

Update: Sonny Colbrelli is OUT of Milan-San Remo with brochitis. Rest up king.

Tom Pidcock

Photo: Chris Auld

Tom Pidcock or Ethan Hayter. Take your pick, there are certainly optimistic and pessimistic views for each of their chances. We’ve gone with Pidcock here because of his Classics experience and proven quality, though if Hayter miraculously finds himself not at the rear of the peloton up the Poggio he’ll definitely be in play.

Pidcock has also struggled with illness this season, having had to withdraw from Strade Bianche just over a week ago, so we’ve got no idea how he’ll go, or whether he will go at all, but such is his ability that he has a chance of winning any one-day race that he starts.

With bags of talent both uphill and in sprints, if he finds himself in a reduced group Pidcock could sneak his first Monument win.

Mads Pedersen

Photo: Chris Auld

Mads Pedersen will be Cyclist's pick to win on Via Roma.

The great Dane has all the attributes to give Trek-Segafredo back-to-back wins in La Primavera and the spot to lead the team just opened up with reigning champ Jasper Stuyven ruled out with an illness.

The former World Champion has a point to prove after his 2020 season in the rainbow stripes was ruined by Covid and his 2021 was disappointing, but he has been on fire so far this season. Impressive wins in Étoile des Bessèges and Paris-Nice and several other high placings prove his legs are there both on punchy finishes and in sprints.

He’ll climb better than the sprinters and sprint better than the climbers, making his skillset a great match for this one, though admittedly he’d benefit from more of an uphill finish.

It's a Mads, Mads, Mads, Mads world.

Mathieu van der Poel

Rip up the script. Cash out your bets. He is back.

That's right, Mathieu van der Poel will make his racing return this Saturday at Milan-San Remo having taken the first time off in his professional career to let his back heal.

Do we know how his form is? No. Does that matter? Not one bit.

When Van der Poel is racing, anything can happen, something he’s proved time and time again. If there’s one thing that will terrify everyone else on this list it is the presence on the start line of this man.

Lone attack, reduced group, bunch sprint, you wouldn’t couldn’t bet against him.

Outside bets

Photo: Milan-San Remo

If last year taught us anything it’s that anyone can win this race, so expect big performances from riders not classed as ‘favourites’. We've picked out a few riders that might upset the proverbial apple cart.

We’ve already mentioned Ethan Hayter but Ineos Grenadiers’ chances don’t just rest on the two young Brits, they’ve also got former winner Michał Kwiatkowski and the super-human Filippo Ganna waiting for an opportunity.

Speaking of former winners, Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux will have a revitalised Alexander Kristoff looking to cause an upset in a bunch sprint, as well as hot prospect Biniam Girmay. The Eritrean is having a super-strong start to his first season in the WorldTour and has a ridiculous sprint on him as well as the ability uphill to find himself at the business end in San Remo.

If it does go to a bunch sprint, one man everyone will be worried about is Jasper Philipsen. Alpecin-Fenix’s go-to fastman is in good form, having won two stages of the UAE Tour and is capable of getting over small climbs. If teammate Mathieu van der Poel isn't race-ready yet, he'll be their man in the final.

Don’t rule out an attack from Matej Mohorič. He's is one of the best descenders in the world so he could spring an attack over the top of the Poggio and potentially hold it all the way to the Via Roma. Plus, with Colbrelli now out he'll likely have free reign.

Similarly, Søren Kragh Andersen has been tipped by many to get Team DSM a surprise victory. He has proven his ability to hold off a raging peloton plenty of times before, and a reduced group should be easier to keep at bay if he finds a gap.

EF Education-Nippo's Alberto Bettiol will be looking to get a result, too, especially with Magnus Cort sadly injured. The Italian has a huge engine and his Tour of Flanders win in 2019 proved he can do it on the biggest stage.

Finally, I’m convinced Ivàn García Cortina (Movistar) will win a big race at some point. I’m sure of it.

For more of our Classics coverage and info on the 2022 Milan-San Remo visit our Classics hub.