Will Kuiper get a successor after 36 years? ‘Mathieu is going to be super good in San Remo’

With Mathieu van der Poel, a Dutch top favorite will start in Milan-San Remo on Saturday. The last Dutch winner of ‘La Primavera’ 36 years ago was Hennie Kuiper, who is impressed by his young fellow countryman.

“It is sometimes said of Milan-San Remo that it is a lottery, but that is absolutely not the case”, Kuiper told NU.nl. “With 299 kilometers it is a very tough race, you really have to have a great day to be able to win.”

The weather conditions can play a major role in early spring in Northern Italy, Kuiper knows from experience. The race was often ridden under a bright spring sun, but sometimes the peloton also rode there in harsh winter weather.

On Saturday a lot of rain is forecast at about 10 degrees, which could be an advantage for Van der Poel. The leader of Alpecin-Fenix ​​made a big impression last week by winning a stage in the Tirreno-Adriatico after a solo of more than 50 kilometers.

“Such a long attack in Milan-San Remo is really only possible when the weather is really bad,” said Kuiper. “Because normally the race is too fast to stay ahead for that long. Then it makes no sense at all to attack the Capo Berta, for example.”

In cold, Milan-San Remo becomes a battle of man to man

Kuiper’s victory in 1985 also took place under harsh conditions. “It was extremely cold that day and it stormed in the Po Valley”, the former rider and team leader looks back. “I remember that Francesco Moser was at the start wearing such a bearskin and motorcycle gloves. Other riders rode in a kind of ski suit, it was that cold.”

“If it gets that cold again this Saturday, Milan-San Remo is really a man against man battle. But otherwise it will probably be decided at the Poggio.”

The Poggio has often been the executioner of the Italian cycling classic at 6 kilometers from the finish. With a gradient of 3.6 kilometers over a distance of 3.6 kilometers, it is the last, but not the toughest climb of Milan-San Remo.

“If you put a devastating acceleration at 800 meters from the top of the Poggio, the lactic acid will spray out of your ears, but so will the other riders,” says Kuiper. “Anyone who has a gap of eight or twelve seconds above and goes down like crazy can hold on to the line if he is in top form. And fortunately Van der Poel is a very good descender.”

Climbs in Milan-San Remo

  • Colle del Giovo (5 km / 2.8 percent) after 171 kilometers
  • Capo Mele (1.9 km / 4.2 percent) after 247 kilometers
  • Capo Cervo (1.9 km / 2.8 percent) after 252 kilometers
  • Capo Berta (1.8 km / 6.7 percent) after 263 kilometers
  • Cipressa (5.6 km / 4.1 percent) after 277 kilometers
  • Poggio di San Remo (3.6 km / 3.6 percent) after 293 kilometers

‘A rider like Mathieu is born once every 25 years’

Van der Poel already booked four victories this early season, including the beautiful victory in Strade Bianche. Kuiper is also impressed by the performance of the 26-year-old Dutch champion.

“A rider like Mathieu is only born once every 25 years in the Netherlands. I really enjoy his performances. He is unyielding, has an enormous experience for the sport and is very balanced at his young age.”

Kuiper raced in the past with father Adrie van der Poel, who became eighteenth in Milan-San Remo in the year that Kuiper won. “Mathieu and his brother David also owe a lot to Adrie. Adrie already had a great attitude as a rider.”

“And if Mathieu has trained 150 kilometers one day, then he just asks his father if he wants to go with him on the moped for another 100 kilometers. They don’t care if it is 20 or 3 degrees, they just go. makes that as a top athlete he has enormous resistance during the races. ”

Van der Poel, together with former winners Wout van Aert and Julian Alaphilippe, is considered a top favorite in Milan-San Remo, but according to Kuiper there are many more contenders. “There are 200 men at the start of whom 25 will compete for the victory.”

“In the Netherlands we think that Van der Poel is going to win for a while, but it is and remains a person. He will really have to be in top form to drive away on the Poggio after 290 kilometers. But if you see him driving in recent weeks, then you know he’s going to be super good on Saturday. ”

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