Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) had few regrets as he reflected on his performance at Milan-San Remo, accepting there was little he could do against a rampant and very race-smart Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Deceuninck).
Pogačar attacked once on the Poggio and drew out the vital selection of big names: only Filippo Ganna (Ineos Grenadiers), Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) and Van der Poel could go with him and try to hang on to his back wheel on the final kilometre of the Poggio.
True to nature, Pogačar was generous in the way he drove the group along near the summit but then he had no reply when Van der Poel attacked over him then dived down the descent to victory in the Via Roma.
“No, no regrets,” he told Cyclingnews and Eurosport as the Italian tifosi crowded in on the UAE Team Emirates bus.
“Last year I attacked four times, this year just once. I tried to go to the top. Maybe I was just not strong enough to go solo to the top, but it was a really great effort from all the team today.”
Pogačar praised Tim Wellens for setting up his attack on the Poggio and Van der Poel on the way he counter-attacked, admitting he had no response when the Dutchman blew past him.
“Mathieu was sprinting at the top [of the Poggio]. I was already dead from my turn,” he conceded.
“He opened the gap really fast and then on the downhill, he was also better than us. Out of the corners, you could see he was really sprinting. The three of us, we couldn’t do the same as him. As a result, he won.
“I had one goal today. And that was to attack after Tim’s [Wellens] pull. Tim did a really perfect job, I have to thank him a lot. I was not strong enough to go solo, I was with four guys. Then Van der Poel attacked, and I couldn’t follow, he was too strong. Then I was dead to the finish.”
Pogačar will next face Van der Poel and his Classics rivals in Belgium at the E3 Saxo Classic and then the Tour of Flanders.
He is not looking for revenge, just more good races.
“The best man won. And the best man will win in Flanders for sure,” he said sportingly.