Van der Poel was part of a high quality quartet that consisted of himself, Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates), Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) and Filippo Ganna (Ineos Grenadiers).
It was Pogacar and UAE Team Emirates who did most of the damage to the rest of the peloton, before Van der Poel went for a big attack of his own just before the crest of the Poggio climb and held on to win by 15 seconds from Ganna and Van Aert.
“I don’t think we expected him to go,” said Blythe on The Breakaway. “Ultimately, you would back him in a sprint in that situation.
“Pogacar has just gone on the attack and you could see how much Wout was suffering. It was just at a point at a change of camera angles and we didn’t see the actual attack.
“We were all a little bit taken aback and were like, ‘he’s gone, he’s gone, he’s gone’. But in that situation you can see the gap increasing. Even at the top of the climb we were thinking they would get him back.
“It shocked me to see how his form was in Tirreno-Adriatico to what it was here because that was another gear up. I was quite shocked with it.”
‘I cannot imagine a better scenario than this one’ – Van der Poel reacts to Milano-San Remo win
Van der Poel won his fifth cyclo-cross world title earlier this year but hadn’t showed much on the road before Milano-San Remo.
At Tirreno-Adriatico, he largely played the team role and was dropped early on the hillier stages.
It was a contrast to 2021 when the Dutchman had a thrilling battle with Van Aert and Julian Alaphilippe at Tirreno-Adriatico, which Dan Lloyd referenced when discussing Van der Poel’s preparation for the first Monument of the year.
“What we don’t know is how much he was saving at Tirreno,” said Lloyd. “Him, Wout van Aert and Alaphilippe put so much into Tirreno a couple of years ago, it was fantastic to watch but they did pay for it a little bit down the line at the Monuments.
“I just wonder if he deliberately throttled back. He’s not a patient guy so I would be surprised if he was able to hold back if he thought there was a win there.”
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