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Van Aert, Ewan, Démare brace for Sanremo after Milano-Torino podium finishes

Torino's top three gain late confidence-boost ahead of this weekend's Sanremo showdown.

The podium of Wednesday’s Milano-Torino could well be the top-three we see at Milano-Sanremo Saturday.

Arnaud Démare (Groupama-FDJ) took yesterday’s sprinter-adapted race, beating Caleb Ewan (Lotto-Soudal) and Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) after a day of pan-flat racing.

The trio now turns their attention to the next, far more prestigious Milanese race – this weekend’s Milano-Sanremo.

It was no surprise to see renowned bunch sprinters Ewan and Démare on the podium in Turin. However, van Aert, who took third, is known for nearly everything but his sprint, with the Belgian being able to time trial, punch over short climbs and handle his bike over the roughest terrain – all which he displayed in his breakaway victory at Strade Bianche last weekend.

“Démare and Ewan didn’t sprint faster than me,” van Aert said with a swagger after the race Wednesday. “They were just better placed.”

The Jumbo-Visma star opted to start Milano-Turin purely to have the opportunity to test his legs against a swathe of the sprinters he’s likely to encounter on Sanremo’s Via Roma Saturday, and the decision paid off.

“It was important to do the sprint here,” van Aert told Het Laatste Nieuws. “Now I know when I go to the sprint with those fastmen on Saturday, that I should not be afraid. It will be much more difficult on Saturday. That should normally be in my favor. ”

2016 Sanremo champion Démare launched an impressive acceleration to take victory in Turin Wednesday afternoon, netting his first victory of the season having been twice edged out for second places in fiddly finishes at last week’s Vuelta a Burgos.

Success in Milano-Turino finally rewarded the form that Démare has been displaying since the season resumed late last month.

“I have great feelings at the moment and the guys know that,” Démare said after the race. “Winning today is perfect to gain confidence before Milan-Sanremo. It is a good sign, and it confirms our very high ambitions for this weekend.”

“We knew we had the legs but it was important to show that we could win, not just take second places,” he added. “It’s good to have the condition but the most important is to raise your arms.”

Behind him came Ewan, racing for the first time since the coronavirus racing stop. Having lost a teammates’ wheel in the final bend, the diminutive Australian managed to surf the wheels before latching onto the back of Démare to take second place. Despite admitting “the sprint didn’t go the way I wanted,” Ewan also added he’s satisfied with his first stretch of the race legs since Paris-Nice in March.

Although the odds are long, you wouldn’t bet against seeing the same three atop the podium in Sanremo this weekend.