Milan – San Remo preview

Milan-San Remo is the first of the five one-day races known as the monuments. La Primavera snakes almost 300km from Milan to the Italian Riviera where the action unfolds in the hills behind and along the coast. Here’s a quick preview of what to expect.

The parcours

2014_MSR_Profile

  • As a result of the recent torrential weather, organiser RCS Sport has cut out the ascent to Pompeiana which it had added to the parcours in lieu of Le Manie.
  • The revised race profile is almost identical to that of 2007 (294 km), won by Rabobank’s Oscar Freire.
  • The real race starts with just under 30km to go when riders reach the base of the Cipressa, the point where the non-sprint teams have to put the sprinters under pressure and hope to open up gaps in the leading bunch. It’s not a difficult climb but comes after a leg-sapping 265km on the  bike – most probably this year in the rain.
  • After the Cipressa, the route is flat for about 9 km until the final hurdle, the Poggio. After a technical descent, there’s only 3km on the flat to the finish in San Remo.

2014_MSR_Finale

Fast facts

  • All 18 WorldTour teams will take part, plus seven wild-card teams including Italian squads Androni Giocattoli, Yellow Fluo and Bardiani-CSF, MTN Qhubeka (the team of 2013 winner Gerald Ciolek), IAM Cycling, NetApp-Endura, and UnitedHealthcare. Each team has eight riders.
Ciolek - a monument winner before his 27th birthday (Image:  Davide Calabresi)

Ciolek – a monument winner before his 27th birthday (Image: Davide Calabresi)

  • The record number of victories is held by none other than the Cannibal, Eddy Merckx (seven).
  • The youngest winner is Ugo Agostoni (20 years, 252 days) The oldest is Andrei Tchmil (36 years, 57 days).
  • Italian riders have won the race 50 times and swept the podium a total of 34 times, most recently in 2006 (Pozzato, Petacchi, Paolini).
  • The Poggio was first introduced in 1960 to stop the race from ending each year in a sprint finish. The Cipressa was added in 1982.
  • Four riders have won while wearing the rainbow jersey: Alfredo Binda (1931), Eddy Merckx (1972 and 1975), Felice Gimondi (1974) and Giuseppe Saronni (1983).

Who to watch

Given the last-minute revisions, this may once again be a race for the sprinters and it’ll probably be their last opportunity for a while. Despite the short notice, they’ll be extra motivated but the weather and a number of strong, opportunistic riders (and their teams) will hope to make it difficult for them.

Assuming it comes down to a bunch sprint, 2009 winner Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) is sure to be in contention and showed he’s in fine fettle at Tirreno-Adriatico. Then there’s recent Paris-Nice stage and points jersey winner John Degenkolb (Giant-Shimano). He too harbours big ambitions for the race and has rated himself as the sprinter most similar to Sagan.

Andre Greipel (Lotto-Belisol) is also in good shape – six wins already this season – although he lacked a little in the sprints at Tirreno-Adriatico. Like Cavendish, he wasn’t planning to ride the race this year and only changed his race schedule after the Pompeiana was taken out.

Orica-GreenEDGE have enjoyed success in the race in recent years with Matt Goss (2011) and Simon Gerrans (2012) but the rider who caught my eye in Paris-Nice was Michael ‘Bling’ Matthews who seems just as at home on the climbs as he does in the sprints. Let’s not forget Lampre-Merida’s sprinter Sacha Modolo who has already won four races this season, beating both Sagan and Cavendish in the process, and has previous form with a fourth-place finish here.

Peter Sagan (Cannondale) is most commentators’ (and the bookies’) favourite for victory. He might have won in 2012 but had to remain in the chase group while teammate Vincenzo Nibali was up front. Last year he demonstrated his strength with an attack towards the summit of the Poggio and slipped away with a handful of other riders only to be outsprinted to the line by Gerald Ciolek. It could be a case of third time lucky for Sagan on Sunday.

First big objective of 2014 season for Peter Sagan (image: Cannondale)

First big objective of 2014 season for Peter Sagan (Image: Cannondale)

I also expect Kitty’s favourite Fabian Cancellara (Trek) to be once more in the mix. His descending skills off the Poggio and locomotion on the flat have been instrumental in staving off the chasing bunch in the last two editions of the race. It all depends on who’s with him in the leading group!

Live coverage and highlights will be shown by Eurosport in the UK. For other coverage check cyclingfans.com.

Link: Official website

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