Sanremo big guns nominate one other as favourites
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Friday, March 19, 2010

Sanremo big guns nominate one other as favourites

by Ben Atkins at 9:48 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Spring Classics, Milan-Sanremo
 

tom boonenOn the eve of Milano-Sanremo, the big names are all attempting to take the pressure off themselves by nominating one another as the favourites for the race. Fabian Cancellara (Saxo Bank), Filippo Pozzato (Katusha), Tom Boonen (Quick Step) and Philippe Gilbert (OmegaPharma-Lotto) top many commentator lists as riders to beat. The four riders have entirely different styles and will hope for the race to go in different ways, but all are pointing to reasons why they won’t win but their rivals might.

2008 winner Cancellara had a quiet 2009 classics campaign by his own standards. This time last year the Swiss champion dropped out of Tirreno-Adriatico and elected not to start the Milano-Sanremo, citing poor form and sickness. A snapped chain on the Koppenberg saw him fail to finish the Ronde van Vlaanderen, and he finished an anonymous 49th at Paris-Roubaix.

This year he hopes things will go differently, but points to two of his big rivals as the ones most likely tomorrow. "Spring of 2009 was a dark period for me, but now I can see the Sun," the Swiss champion told Sporza. "My condition is good. In Tirreno[-Adriatico] I saved myself a bit, but I know how I can perform."

"Boonen and Pozzato are the top favourites,” he said of the Quick Step and Katusha riders. “They seem stronger than the rest of the pack. If Boonen survives Le Manie [a steep climb with 91km to go] he will be a dangerous customer at the finish."

Pozzato, like Cancellara, names Boonen as the number one, and adds the Swiss rider. He starts the race as Katusha’s only captain, with Australian sprinter Robbie McEwen left at home. "I love that status and responsibility," he said in Het Laatste Nieuws.

"I feel great, but I will have to attack. If I win, I can’t finish with the top sprinters," he added.

"The favourites? Tom Boonen, Philippe Gilbert and Fabian Cancellara,” said the Italian champion. “Tom is my friend and training mate in Monaco. He is the most logical winner, but the favorite does not always win Sanremo. You need luck, but luck you make yourself."

"Tom has become calmer. He has less stress… Tom has always been strong."

Boonen himself is confident in himself tomorrow, but knows that it needs more than good legs to win a race like la Primavera. "I know how much luck is involved in winning", the Belgian champion said in de Telegraaf. "Among the good riders it’s a lottery.”

“In 2007, when [Oscar] Freire prevailed, I should have won, but I got blocked. And last year I got into an ideal position in the last kilometre, but in the sprint I got cramps in my legs. To be good at last and for your legs to fail; this was maddening."

Gilbert wants this race more than any other, but suggests that this year may not be his time after a run of indifferent results. After abandoning the final stage of Paris-Nice a period of recovery has given him confidence though.

"I don’t start as main favourite, but I still have the ambition," the Belgian said to Sporza. “In Paris-Nice, my condition was not good, I abandoned. Since then, I rested a lot and my condition has improved; I’m ready.

"Sanremo is a strange course,” he continued, “because it can be won by all kinds of riders. This ensures that there are a lot of favourites at the start. I hope I am there too; I am confident."

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