We’re not used to waiting until August for the first Monument of the cycling season, but to be honest that’s probably one of the least surprising things we’ve had to contend with in 2020.
Milan – San Remo was pushed back from it’s usual March date due to the coronavirus pandemic, but on Saturday August 8 the sprinters will get their one real chance of taking a Monument victory.
A few other changes aside from the date have been made this year. An inland route replaces the coastal scenery as various local authorities refused passage of the race due to coronavirus fears, while organisers have also reduced squad numbers to six in order to invite 27 teams to the race.
One thing that has mostly stayed the same, however, are the favourites to cross the line first.
Should the race stay together and come to a bunch sprint, the quickest fast men will battle it out for victory, while riders capable of long-range attacks and known for their swashbuckling antics are also fancied.
How do we know for certain who’s looking in shape for the win though? Go off previous races? Ask the riders or even their teams? Don’t be silly. All we have to do is refer to the omnipotent power of the bookmakers!
The favourite for the race, at 11/2, is three-time world champion, Peter Sagan. The Bora-Hansgrohe man may seem an odd choice as the most likely to take the win, but these are uncertain times and who else would you trust to deliver a result than Mr ‘Why So Serious?’ himself. The Slovakian has already won two Monuments, with victory in the Tour of Flanders in 2016 and Paris-Roubaix in 2018. So, Milan – San Remo in 2020?
He will face stiff competition from another rider who has become accustomed to wearing the rainbow bands during his career, albeit winning his jerseys in cyclocross. Mathieu van der Poel is only at slightly longer odds to win what would be his first Monument, at 6/1. The Alpecin-Fenix rider had his breakthrough year on the road in 2019, and despite the delay will be looking to continue where he left off.
Caleb Ewan has the shortest odds of any pure sprinter set to take the start line, at 13/2. The Australian had a good start to life at Lotto-Soudal in the first few months of the year, with stage wins at the Tour Down Under and UAE Tour. Should a reduced bunch make it to the finish in San Remo, Lotto-Soudal will be putting everything behind getting Caleb Ewan across the line first.
Fourth favourite is the defending champion, Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck – Quick-Step). The Frenchman got his season going at Milan – San Remo last year with an impressive sprint to take the win, but even the most ardent fans of ‘LouLou’ won’t have believed the season he went on to have.
Trying to follow up his 2019 may end up being impossible for Alaphilippe, but he’s offered at 8/1 to get his first victory of 2020 under his belt in Italy this weekend.
Wout van Aert said he’s in the form of his life after his Strade Bianche victory, and the bookies believe him, the Belgian at 9/1 to double his win tally in Italy on Saturday.
The Jumbo-Visma rider will be 100 per cent committed to the team’s GC efforts at the upcoming Tour de France, but until then Van Aert can try his best to take as many one-day victories as he can.
Fernando Gaviria showed some impressive sprinting legs at the Vuelta a Burgos last week by winning stage two, having successfully recovered from the coronavirus. The Colombian will be vying to become the first of his nation to win the Italian Monument, and is 12/1 to do so.
Should Alaphilippe not be able to repeat his ride of last year, Deceuninck – Quick-Step also have Sam Bennett who’s looked good since arriving at the Belgian team. The Irishman is 14/1 to take the bunch sprint.
The man who will be featured most heavily in the build-up to the race will likely be Philippe Gilbert. After the Belgian won Paris-Roubaix last year, talk turned almost immediately to whether he could become only the fourth rider in history to win all five Monuments. Milan – San Remo offers this opportunity, and anything is possible when it comes to the Lotto-Soudal rider. He’s 16/1 to do it, so if you’re a fan of PhilGil as well as making money, lump on.
For home fans, two Italians just about make it into the top 10 of favourites, with both Matteo Trentin (CCC) and Elia Viviani (Cofidis) offered at 22/1.
Milan – San Remo 2020 (Winner – Paddy Power)
Peter Sagan (Svk) Bora-Hansgrohe, 11/2
Mathieu van der Poel (Ned) Alpecin-Fenix, 6/1
Caleb Ewan (Aus) Lotto-Soudal, 13/2
Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Deceuninck – Quick-Step, 8/1
Wout van Aert (Bel) Jumbo-Visma, 9/1
Fernando Gaviria (Col) UAE Team Emirates, 12/1
Sam Bennett (Irl) Deceuninck – Quick-Step, 14/1
Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Lotto-Soudal, 16/1
Matteo Trentin (Ita) CCC, 22/1
Elia Viviani (Ita) Cofidis, 22/1
All odds correct at time of publication