Milan-San Remo, the first ‘monument’ of the professional cycling calendar, will be held on Saturday (17).
Mark Cavendish (Team Sky) has made no secret of his ambition to win the prestigious one day Classic a second time, this time in the rainbow jersey of world road race champion. The Manx Missile crossed the line first in San Remo in 2009.
The seven hour, 298km race from Milan to the San Remo sea front includes some of the most famous landmarks in cycling, the ramps of the Cipressa and Poggio among them. A sharp descent with 15km to go sets up the riders for a pan flat finish that justifies the tag ‘the sprinter’s classic’.
Cavendish will be supported in his ambition to win in the rainbow jersey of world road race champion by most of the squad who led him to victory on the second stage of last week’s Tirreno-Adriatico.
Fellow Brits, Ian Stannard and Jeremy Hunt, will again ride in support alongside Cavendish’s right hand man from his time at HTC-Highroad, Bernard Eisel. Teammate, Edvald Boasson Hagen, is also capable of victory, and showed his form with victory on stage three of Tirreno-Adriatico.
RadioShack-Nissan-Trek will also field two potential winners in the shape of Italian sprinter, Daniele Bennati and 2008 winner, Fabian Cancellara. The Swiss hardman showed his Classics form with victory less than two weeks ago in the Strade Bianche.
Tom Boonen’s return to his finest form will also render him a threat to Cavendish’s ambitions. An impressive early season run of results includes overall victory in February’s Tour of Qatar and stage two of last week’s Paris-Nice. He will be supported by Tour of Oman winner, Peter Velits, but the attacking Sylvain Chavanel, a top 10 finisher in the ‘Race to the Sun’ last week, has withdrawn from the squad with illness and will be replaced by Matteo Trentin, who will make his Milan-San Remo debut.
“For me, to ride San Remo is a dream come true. I still haven’t had the time to get used to the news, but I am very happy. I’m going to do my best, giving my all for the team,” said Trentin.
Current leader of the IG Markets Professional Cycling Index, Philippe Gilbert, will lead a BMC Racing squad arguably stronger than any of its rivals. Two former world road race champions, Thor Hushovd and Alessandro Ballan, and former road captain to Lance Armstrong and Cavendish, George Hincapie, will all line-up in for BMC in Milan. Greg Avermaet, who, with Ballan, rode strongly in this year’s Strade Bianche, will be another asset to Gilbert.
If BMC has the potential to coalesce behind any one of four contenders, GreenEDGE will ride solely in support of one man: defending champion, Matt Goss. “The ambition for Saturday is to put ‘Gossy’ back on the podium. It’s the first big goal for him during the 2012 season. The team will be supporting him one hundred per cent,” said GreenEDGE directuer sportif, Matt White. The Australian’s victory last year surprised many, but he will be a marked man in 2012.
Garmin-Barracuda have two possible contenders for victory in sprinter, Tyler Farrar, and winner of last year’s Paris-Roubaix, Johan Van Summeren. Both will call on the strength and considerable experience of Britain’s David Millar, who showed his abilities as road captain in last year’s world road race championship.
Other contenders include three-time winner, Oscar Freire (Katusha), victor in 2004, 2007, and 2010, and Lotto Belisol’s Andre Greipel, a formidable sprinting talent with multiple stage victories in this year’s Tour Down Under and Tour of Oman.