2010 Milan-Sanremo Preview: Rouleurs in with a chance
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Friday, March 19, 2010

2010 Milan-Sanremo Preview: Rouleurs in with a chance

by Steve Jones at 11:54 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Milan-Sanremo

Mark CavendishOn the eve of the 101st edition of Milan-Sanremo there is much speculation on how tomorrow’s winner will arrive near the port in Sanremo. With the past six winners taking part in the event, and all but last year’s victor Mark Cavendish (HTC-Columbia) having shown themselves as being on form, the possible combinations are many, and should make this edition one of the most exciting in years.

The fastmen cometh

Last year saw Cavendish accomplish the unexpected. He was charged as “too young” to win Milan-Sanremo by his critics, but the defiant Manxman leapt from the peloton in the final meters to close an impossible gap to Heinrich Haussler (Cervélo TestTeam) and win by a hair. This year Haussler will miss La Primavera due to a knee injury, and Cavendish has had a slow start to the season. The HTC-Columbia leader had a tooth problem which delayed his training, and he has yet to win a bunch sprint in 2010. His best finish was second place in the Clasica de Almeria to Haussler’s new teammate Theo Bos. Cavendish just rode Tirreno-Adriatico as pack fodder eyeing only the final day, but ended up being taken out by a crash in the last 10 kilometers with an apparent equipment failure. His team opted to leave sprint ace André Greipel at home, despite having already notched up five wins this season.  The German's absence could be an indication of how Cavendish is really feeling, or simply signs of an internal problem between the sprinters.

Tom BoonenSprint legend Mario Cipollini has tipped Belgian Tom Boonen (Quick Step) as his number one favorite for Milan-Sanremo. Boonen has taken four victories so far this season and, at 300 kilometers in length, his strength and versatility are what the Italian thinks will be the differentiator in the finale. He won his first race on Italian soil last week in Tirreno-Adriatico, and will use that as motivation for the year's first Classic.

Edvald Boasson Hagen (Team Sky) was Cavendish’s teammate last year and will look to take a seemingly impossible win tomorrow at just 22 years of age. The Norwegian will have a powerful team of sprinters to back him up in Greg Henderson and Christopher Sutton, along with a wealth of experience to guide him on the road and in the team car. Eddy Merckx said he sees himself in Boasson Hagen, a rider capable of winning anything he desires with the proper focus. He’s already proven he can beat the best sprinters in the world, now it is only a question of what sort of affect the high kilometers count will have on the young talent.

Two-time Milan-Sanremo winner and triple world champion Oscar Freire can never be counted out in a bunch sprint. Especially when considering he’s already taken three wins where he’s beaten both Cavendish and Greipel. He’s avoided his typical early season bad luck and, since the final climbs will not be an issue for the Spaniard, there is the potential to see him unleash his trademark burst to the line and once again rise to the occasion.

Italians Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre-Farnese Vini) and Daniele Bennati (Liquigas-Doimo) have both had good starts to their season. Petacchi has had four wins on the year, but each of them in smaller Italian races. He will have the advantage of a leadout from German teammate Danilo Hondo that, if Petacchi has fully recovered from his crash last week, could see him win Milan-Sanremo for a second time. Bennati has only two wins in 2010, but both were in front of quality fields at the Tour of Oman and Tirreno-Adriatico. His team has said they’re arriving at the race with four leaders, which could diminish his chances for glory. He has however been cited by Boonen as his biggest threat.

Outsiders in with a chance include Garmin-Transitions riders Robbie Hunter and Tyler Farrar. Hunter won two stages in the Vuelta a Murcia before heading home for fatherly duties, and Farrar had a series of near misses in the Tours of Qatar and Oman. Thor Hushovd (Cervélo TestTeam) finished in third last season, but had his training interrupted due to illness. He will have the whole TestTeam at his disposal for the finish, but the lack of training could take its toll.

Philippe GilbertMotivated and ready to strike

In order for the sprinters to get their chance, their teams must first neutralize the flurry of attacks sure to come before they reach the line in Sanremo. Chief among the attackers will be Omega Pharma-Lotto’s Philippe Gilbert, who says he’s feeling strong, but doesn’t have a win to his name this season. The Belgian puts La Primavera at the top of his wanted list with respect to palmares, and will have the entire Omega Pharma-Lotto team at his disposal. The last time Gilbert was in town he took no prisoners winning the Giro di Lombardia, the Giro del Piemonte and the Coppa Sabatini, also defending his 2008 Paris-Tours title in between. Now with the rare opportunity to win three consecutive Monuments of cycling, he will be highly motivated at the start.

Time trial world champion Fabian Cancellara won Milan-Sanremo two years ago and, after a dismal start to his 2009 campaign, has begun the season well by winning the inaugural Tour of Oman. He rode anonymously last week in Tirrenno-Adriatico to build up his form, and is expected to put in a big challenge to upset the sprinters.

In 2006 Italian Filippo Pozzato (Katusha) used Milan-Sanremo to jump out of the shadow of then teammate Tom Boonen, and hasn’t looked back since. He has still found himself shadowing the big Belgian, but this year he has said he’s determined to make his mark in the Spring Classics by picking up another win. His compatriot Damiano Cunego has had a good build up to his season this year, and will be a wild card to back up Petacchi for his Lampre-Farnese Vini team. Team Sky also has the same situation with Boasson Hagen and a fit, motivated Juan Antonio Flecha, who recently won his first Belgian semi-Classic, the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad.

Others who have shown well this season include Thomas Löfkvist (Team Sky), Nick Nuyens (Rabobank), Luke Roberts (Milram), Stefano Garzelli (Acqua & Sapone-Caffè Mokambo) and Sylvain Chavanel (Quick Step), with any one capable of pulling off a surprise.

There are many factors which go into winning a Milan-Sanremo, and this year with so many legitimate contenders at the start, the rider who can make his own luck just might be the one to come out on top on Saturday. The proposed plan to move the finish closer to the base of the Poggio this year didn’t happen, but the chances are still better than usual that the Poggio will see a group break free that will have enough strength to ride away with the victory. A bold move from the Cipressa with the right mix could also spoil the party.


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