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Mathieu van der Poel: I’m getting old but I’ll come back to win Milan-San Remo

Dutch rider tips his hat to Mohorič but calls out a lack of cooperation in the chase group.

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Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) cut a frustrated figure at the end of Milan-San Remo after taking third on the line in a tense and explosive finale.

The Dutch rider followed all the key moves on the final climb of the Poggio and looked in contention for the win in his 2022 debut but he was left reeling when winner Matej Mohorič tore off the descent of the last climb to take the biggest win of his career.

“I’m still disappointed. From maybe the biggest favorites I win the sprint for third place,” van der Poel said at the finish. “It’s a shame that we couldn’t sprint for victory today but that’s Milan-San Remo.

“It’s a few times that it’s happened like this,” he said. “It’s a difficult race to win. Suddenly he had a gap and I didn’t really expect that. He had Pogačar in his wheel and suddenly he had a small gap but we all know that he can do quick descents. I thought that the group was big enough to close the gap but I think that he deserved it. It’s strong if you can maintain the gap until the finish line.”

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Van der Poel was late addition to the race after only being drafted into the Alpecin lineup 24 hours before the race. He had not raced in 2022 due to lingering back injury but due to illness in his team’s camp he headed to Italy with his form at a relative unknown.

The 27-year-old may have lacked racing miles but he was present and accounted for on the Cipressa and on the Poggio he was one of the few riders who could hold the pace of Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates), who made no fewer than five attacks.

There was no immediate response, however, when Mohorič clipped off the front during the descent and despite van der Poel forming part of the chase, and Mohorič suffering a late mechanical the Slovenian rider hung on for the Milan-San Remo win. Anthony Turgis (TotalEnergies) attacked in the closing stages to take second.

Van der Poel also blamed a lack of cooperation the finale. In truth there were few teammates left to do the work after nearly 300km of racing and only a handful of rider committed to trying to bring back Mohorič when the road flattened out.

“There was a bit of a lack of cooperation behind. I think that we had three riders with me, Pedersen and van Aert who really tried to close the gap. We needed just one or two teammates to close it for us but that’s racing. I hope that I can come back and win, but I’m getting old. This was another missed chance.”