Milan-Sanremo: Cavendish aiming to join illustrious four-man group
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Friday, March 16, 2012

Milan-Sanremo: Cavendish aiming to join illustrious four-man group

by Shane Stokes at 12:25 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Spring Classics, Milan-Sanremo
Briton attempting extremely rare worlds-Sanremo double tomorrow

Mark CavendishStating that he’s already at his Tour de France weight and that his preparation has gone perfectly for tomorrow’s Milan-Sanremo, Mark Cavendish is in a confident frame of mind heading towards one of his biggest targets of the year.

The Sky Procycling rider wants to repeat the win he took in 2009, and also has the opportunity to win La Primavera while wearing the rainbow jersey of world champion.

The feat is an extremely rare one in the sport, though, with the last such double being achieved back in 1983 by the Italian Giuseppe Saronni.

Cavendish knows that he’ll be closely marked, but has worked hard to be in good condition. He’s lighter than at this time in the past, and has already clocked up four wins this year; he was first on stages three and five of the Tour of Qatar, won Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, and took stage two of Tirreno-Adriatico last week.

Other teams and riders will do what they can to shed him from contention before the finish, but he hopes that his good form and strong team can keep him in the hunt.

"This year I’m in great form, the team’s going really well and in good spirits and I think we are strong enough to deal with everything that’s thrown at us,” Cavendish said in an interview on the Team Sky website.

"With myself there for the sprint and Edvald [Boasson Hagen] there for the attacks we’ve got that covered too. I think we can be very confident.

"But what makes San Remo special is that a lot of the people who start have got a chance of winning. There are so many different variables in the race so we’ll see what happens.”

There are a number of other riders deemed to have a strong chance in the race. Last year’s victor Matt Goss (GreenEdge) is yet to win this season and has somewhat uncertain form, but the 2010 victor Oscar Freire is riding strongly. He took a stage win in both the Santos Tour Down Under and the Vuelta a Andalucia. He also pushed Cavendish closely in Tirreno-Adriatico, finishing less than half a bike length behind him on stage two.

The rider who finished second to Freire two years ago, Tom Boonen has also been riding strongly, winning five races thus far. Also triumphant this year are the Liquigas Cannondale pairing of Peter Sagan and Vincenzo Nibali, who must be watched, plus Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack Nissan) and Andre Greipel (Lotto Belisol).

Others who are yet to pick up a win but appear to be going well include Heinrich Haussler (Garmin Barracuda), Matti Breschel (Rabobank) and Alessandro Ballan (BMC Racing Team).

The latter’s team-mate Philippe Gilbert is in less-certain form, but he too will be on the radar of the other favourites and their teams. Ditto for Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre ISD), who has played down his chances but will be watched if he’s still there on the Poggio.

Like several other contenders, Cavendish used Tirreno-Adriatico to hone his form prior to tomorrow’s big race. He withdrew early to make sure he was fully recovered, and believes he’s done things right.

"Tirreno was a tough race for everyone - and everybody finished tired - but I've got good form and really good sensations in the legs. It's just been a case of resting up and letting that form come out again on Saturday."

He’s also ridden the final third of the race, becoming familiar once again with the climbs and descents which will hew away at the bunch, reducing the list of possible winners prior to the final lunge towards the line.

There are no guarantees, of course, but he’s done all he can to be ready. Tomorrow’s race will determine how successful that preparation has been, but if things pay off and he does manage to take a repeat win, he’ll join a select group of just four riders. Alfredo Binda (1931), Eddy Merckx (1972 and 1975), Felice Gimondi (1974) and Giuseppe Saronni (1983) are the only ones to do the worlds/Sanremo double.

In twenty four hours, we’ll know if that list also includes Cavendish (2012).


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