Lefevere: 'A Boonen win in Milan-Sanremo is as good as Flanders'
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Sunday, March 14, 2010

Lefevere: 'A Boonen win in Milan-Sanremo is as good as Flanders'

by VeloNation Press at 2:15 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Spring Classics, Milan-Sanremo
 

This week in Tirreno-Adriatico Belgian Tom Boonen finally managed to win a race on Italian soil. In one week's time the first Spring Classic of the season will also take place in Italy.  It is there on the Italian Riviera where he will look to secure his next big victory in Milan-Sanremo. Ever since his eighth place finish in 2005, crossing the line first on the via Roma has been a major objective for the sprinter.

Already this season Boonen has shown good sprinting form, kicking off the year with two stage wins and third overall in the Tour of Qatar, and winning a stage in the inaugural Tour of Oman. With his win in Tirreno-Adriatico's stage two, Boonen looks to be in the best position to win Milan-Sanremo in years.

"I'm very happy," Boonen told Het Nieuwsblad Thursday after taking his first win in Italy. "I have won all around the world, but never in Italy."

"However, I love Italy and Italian races," he added, thinking about his first big target, La Primavera the following week. "This victory gives me hope and confidence for the coming classics, starting with Milan-Sanremo. I was motivated before I traveled to Italy and I am even more [motivated] now."

Boonen's long-time manager Patrick Lefevere said his team leader is much better this year then he has been in years previous. Surprisingly, he told the newspaper that a win in Milan-Sanremo is worth "at least as much" as the Tour of Flanders, which is considered to be Belgium's biggest race.

His best finish in the Italian classic was third place in 2007, where Spaniard Oscar Freire won the race for a second time in front Australian Allan Davis. The Belgian also took fourth in 2006 behind his then teammate Filippo Pozzato. Pozzato managed to steal victory from the sprinters with a well-timed move on the via Roma just 300 metres before the line. Defending champion Alessandro Petacchi waited too long to catch the flying Pozzato and finished in second that day.

Petacchi has been highly motivated this season after switching to the Lampre team. He won two stages of the Giro della Provincia Calabria, took his fifth victory at the GP Costa Etrusca and a stage of the Giro di Sardegna. Earlier this week Petacchi had a run-in with a stray flower pot on the road, which required five stitches to a wound on his chin. He also suffered bruises to his right shin and ankle which prevented him from pedaling normally. He looks to be recovering well, although he was beaten by Daniele Bennati in Tirreno-Adriatico's third stage. Boonen proved he was capable of beating Bennati when he won stage two, which will give him a psychological advantage.

Another factor improving Boonen's chances in La Primavera next week is that last year's Milan-Sanremo podium hasn't had the best start to the season. HTC-Columbia's Mark Cavendish was the victor in 2009, and commented afterwards that it felt good to ride by Boonen as he was dropped on the climbs.

This year, however, it might be Boonen getting the last laugh, as Cavendish began the year with a dental problem that has put his training well behind. The Manxman has been practically anonymous in this year's Tirreno-Adriatico thus far. He won the final stage in last year's edition, but it was Boonens comments about his fellow sprinter being dropped on a climb in 2009 that is said to have prompted Cavendish's harsh words.

Heinrich Haussler, the second place finisher in 2009, has ridden extremely well so far this season, but pulled out of Paris-Nice early this week due to knee problems. He lost Milan-Sanremo by the smallest of margins last year, and will no doubt be looking for redemption. But at nearly 300 kilometers in length, the talented young German could have a problem making it to the finish with an injury. His teammate Thor Hushovd, who rounded out the podium in third, has also had health issues which have affected his preparation.

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