Kelly sees merit in one of proposed changes to Milan-Sanremo route
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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Kelly sees merit in one of proposed changes to Milan-Sanremo route

by Shane Stokes at 8:04 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Spring Classics, Milan-Sanremo
Says finishing line closer to Poggio could boost safety and drama

Sean KellyTwenty years after his stirring 1992 victory in Milan-Sanremo, Sean Kelly has agreed that one of the proposed tweaks to the route could be beneficial to the early-season Classic.

Kelly’s triumph over Moreno Argentin played out in a way that is still regarded as one of the best finales to La Primavera. The Italian attacked on the climb of the Poggio and held an eight second lead going over the top. The Irishman plummeted down the descent, dropping the others in the chasing group, and bridged across to the leader with just under a kilometre to go to win the sprint.

Yesterday race director Mauro Vegni told L’Equipe that things must change so that riders like Vincenzo Nibali have a chance to succeed. “A race that doesn’t give the possibility for an attacker to finish alone is no longer a race,” he said.

On Saturday Nibali attacked hard on the final climb of the Poggio, but was immediately marked by Simon Gerrans (GreenEdge) and then joined soon afterwards by Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack Nissan). The latter drove the pace from there and finished second to Gerrans in the sprint, with Nibali only able to take third.

One suggestion is to change the approach to the summit of the Cipressa, taking a steeper road to the top and thus giving climbers a better platform. The other is to move the finish closer to the base of the Poggio, thus handing attackers a better chance to fend off the chase of a larger group. The line is currently three kilometres from the end of the descent.

Kelly told VeloNation that he believes one of the proposals has more merit than the other. “As regards the Cipressa – making climbs harder is something the Italians seem to be on for in the last couple of years. If you look at the Giro, they seemed to be making it more difficult every year, although this year they have backtracked a bit.

“But that doesn’t mean you are going to have a better race. If the Cipressa is harder, the race may be different beforehand. There may be a lot of waiting because there is a more difficult finale.”

Kelly agrees that the proposed change may be a case of the Italians trying to boost the chances of a rider like Nibali. However even if the climb is harder, he doesn’t necessarily think that it would achieve such a result.

“A guy who is clear still has to go down the descent of the Cipressa and then on to the Poggio…he won’t do all that on his own, and even in a group of two or three it will be very difficult to do. “

The Irishman stated that there isn’t much wrong with the current route, but did see a value in perhaps moving the line from its current location.

“Right now, the run-in to the finish is quite difficult and we could see on Saturday a lot of people taking risks trying to move up in the corners to get a top ten placing. You see the result with a few people falling off pretty heavily,” he stated, referring to the crash involving Matteo Trentin (Omega Pharma Quick Step), Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing Team) and others.

“If you got a wet day, then the descent of the Poggio is going to be dangerous. But everybody knows that, and will race accordingly. But when it comes to those last corners before the finish, you’ll always get guys who will take so much more risks as the line is so close. If it is wet, you can guarantee that there will be a stack up. To have the ending on straight roads would take the danger out of it a bit more.”

It would also make it more likely that a Poggio attack or a superb descent could win the race. Kelly’s victory two decades ago is still one of the highlights in the history of the race; had the finish then been where it is now, two kilometres further away, he believes the outcome could have been different.

“When I won, the race finished closer to the descent of the Poggio,” he said. “When you come out at the bottom of the Poggio, you just had to go another 50 metres or so on the big road, then it was the final kilometre.

“If the finish had been where it is now, there was always a possibility that we could have been caught by the group behind. If you look at the situation with Argentin and myself, we could have been swallowed up in the final 500 metres. It definitely could have come back together…”

Footage from the dramatic finale to the 1992 edition of Milan-Sanremo:


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