Milan-Sanremo: Sergeant says Gilbert is in great form, but admits course makes things difficult
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Friday, March 18, 2011

Milan-Sanremo: Sergeant says Gilbert is in great form, but admits course makes things difficult

by Shane Stokes at 6:00 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Milan-Sanremo
 
Greipel is Plan B, but recent crash could hamper his chance

Philippe GilbertOmega Pharma Lotto directeur sportif Mark Sergeant has one of the big favourites for the race on his team, and believes that Philippe Gibert is in superb form. However he also admits that the nature of the Milan-Sanremo course makes things difficult for Gilbert, and may ultimately prove to be an obstacle to his chances of victory.

“With Philippe Gilbert, our team has one of the top favourites, and he has been thoroughly prepared,” he said. “His recent victories at Strade Bianche and Tirreno - Adriatico show an optimal condition. Phil will do the utmost to win.”

The complicating factor for Gilbert – who has one of the best short-climb accelerations in the peloton – is the fact that the summit of the Poggio comes 6.2 kilometres from the line. A twisting 3.2 kilometre descent is followed by a flat section of three kilometres, giving – on most occasions – just enough time for the sprinters’ teams in the front group to bring everything together.

The Belgian could well blast over the top several seconds clear, but he’ll need a big advantage to hold off those chasing like fury behind. He said recently that it might take a tailwind for him to succeed.

Sergeant is hopeful, but also realises that it would take a huge effort and some luck for an attacker like Gilbert to stay clear. “He certainly will fight for it, but he won't be disillusioned if he does not win,” he explained. “Milan – San Remo has always been, and still is, a very difficult race to win. Storming solo after Poggio is practically impossible; most times, a leading pack remains after the Poggio, and they sprint for the bouquet.”

If the latter situation materialises, Omega Pharma Lotto could have another card to play. On his day, André Greipel is one of the quickest riders in the peloton, and he would love to pull off a coup ahead of his former team HTC Highroad. However his preparation has not been ideal due to a fall in the Tirreno-Adriatico. Apart from the injuries to his face, it also caused him to withdraw from the event, thus losing valuable racing kilometres that would have honed his form and boosted his morale.

“All his preparation could have been reduced to little by his recent nasty crash,” Sargeant admitted. “Last Wednesday, he did very well at Nokere Koerse, but André realizes that the 300 kilometres of his very first Primavera will not be an easy affair. If he does not feel to be in top condition, he will not hesitate to race at 100 percent for Phil [Gilbert]. If he crosses the hills well, all is possible.”

Gilbert has had a superb season to date, winning a stage at the Volta ao Algarve and also taking those victories at Strade Bianche and Tirreno-Adriatico. Greipel has also topped the podium in 2011, winning a stage of the Algarve race.

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