Teams ready for Milano - Sanremo

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22.03.2008/ Today the peloton will hit the Italian roads for Milano - Sanremo. The Italian classic one day race, also known as "la classica di Primavera" (The Spring Classic) has many favourites. The teams are ready to roll...

© Cyclingheroes
Alessandro Petacchi and Erik Zabel. (© Cyclingheroes)

The teams are ready to roll at the Italian roads for Milano Sanremo today. There are many favourites to win the race and there is a new finish.

After the start in Milano, the first part of the race will be flat. The second part of the race will start as the riders will climb the Passo del Turchino. From there the route will be hilly, with 100 kilometres to go the riders will face a new climb : Le Mànie.

With 50 kilometres to go the final will start with the Capo Mele, the Capo Cerve, the Capo Berta, the legendary Cipressa and the famous Poggio.

After the final climb, the poggio, the riders have only 6,2 kilometres to go. Its the last chance that riders without a strong sprint to win the race. The race has a new finish this year. The change of the route also brings a few extra curves which could help escapees to win the race. The change was made because there are road works at Via Roma, the traditional finish of the race. The new finish is at the Lungomare Italo Calvino.

Milram sprinters Erik Zabel and Alessandro Petacchi showed that they are in great shape during last weeks Tirreno - Adriatico and will lead the team in the 99th edition of 'La Primavera'. The two captains of the German Pro - Tour team will put their trust in the nearly 300km in northern Italy on the practiced team of the three Italians Albert Ongarato, Fabio Sabatini and Marco Velo. The team will also feature the two Germans Christian Knees and Martin Müller, as well as the young Dutchman Niki Terpstra.

"Milano-Sanremo is my favorite race," said ´German veteran Erik Zabel. "It is always the first big highlight of the season and therefore something special. The long race with the wonderful panorama makes the race absolutely fascniating." His teammate Alessandro Petacchi also has special associations with the Italian classic.  "When I was a little boy, my father always brought me to the race. With my win in 2005 I was able to fulfill a childhood dream. The race is good for me. Erik and I will arrive with a strong team and together we will win."

Both Milram sprinters have already won the race. Zabel is, next to Rudi Altig (1968), the only German to have won the race. The rider from Unna (Germany) has even won it four times (1997, 1998, 2000 and 2001), and is third on the all-time list of winners, behind the Italians Costante Girardengo and Gino Bartoli. Zabel's Italian teammate Petacchi won the Classic in 2005 and finished second in 2006.

Rabobank's Oscar Freire won two stages at Tirreno - Adriatico. Last years winner of Milano - Sanremo is ready and wants to repeat his victory. Other riders that could win the race are the winner of the 2006 edition of the race: Filippo Pozzato (Liquigas), Credit Agricole's Thor Hushovd and the numbers one and two of the overall at last weeks Paris - Nice Gerolsteiners Davide Rebellin and Rinaldo Nocentini (Ag2R) are in a great form as well.

Last year Francaise des Jeux rider Philippe Gilbert and Riccardo Ricco launched an attack át the final climb of the race, the Poggio. Gilbert already won 4 races this season and said he is "dreaming of it [winning Milano - Sanremo,editor]." After his crash at the third stage of Tirreno - Adriatico, Ricco will not start at this years edition of Milano - San Remo. Physiotherapy and ultra-sound haven´t been as effective as expected, so after a last training session for two hours on Thursday, Ricco considered that his shape wasn´t good enough to guarantee a good performance in the Italian race to run on Saturday over 300 kilometres. Moreover, tests will be done to check if there´s internal bruising that can account for the strong pain in Riccò´s right external gluteal muscle. Riccò will be replaced by Javier Megías today.

In an interview with Cyclingheroes in January, Silence - Lotto's sprinter Robbie McEwen said the race is one of his main objectives this season. His team manager at Silence - Lotto, Marc Sergeant told "Sanremo was one of the main goals of Robbie [McEwen, editor]. But because of his sickness it seemed that he wouldn't be ready in time."

Sergeant continued by saying: "But at Tirreno - Adriatico I saw his condition is improving. He did not win but that does not worrie me. You don't always have to win there, to win Sanremo. Look at Erik Zabel."

After mCewen had to give up at the Belgian opener 'Omloop Het Volk' he went to Sanremo to train. "He studied the finish very carefully. He will start with ambition," Sergeant said.

Quickstep's Tom Boonen came in third last year. The Belgian rider told that he "feels that is doing good."

Boonen normally starts at Paris - Nice before the 'Primavera' but this year Boonen prepared at Tirreno - Adriatico. "The choice to ride the Tirreno - Adriatico was perfect," Boonen said. "My first Tirreno was a succes. Its a diffent route, more like the Ardennes. Compared to paris - Nice we were also lucky with the weather."

Boonen did not win a stage at Tirreno - Adriatico. "But I am doing better than I did last year. We didn't have to win. I wanted to take it easy because from Milano - Sanremo on I have stress every day."

Boone said about his rivals: "Freire is strong, you could see that at Tirreno. But he has beaten me already and I have beaten him as well."
Boonen added: Sprints are unpredictable. Last year, I lost because Petacchi was bad."
Team High Road is sending a squad that aims to cover all bases in the first major Classic of the season, Milan - San Remo. Taking part in the arduous 298 kilometre challenge on Saturday 22nd March for High Road will be Gerald Ciolek (Ger), Bernhard Eisel (Aut), Roger Hammond (GB), George Hincapie (USA), Kim Kirchen (Lux), Andreas Klier (Ger), Thomas Lovkvist (Swe) and Vicente Reynes (Spa).

"We haven’t got a single leader we’ll be working for 100 percent, rather we’ll be keeping a look-out on all fronts.” team High Roads sports director Valerio Piva (Ita) said. "Last year Gerald ([Ciolek, editor] did very well in his first participation in San Remo, placing amongst the top 30. He was in the front group over the Poggio climb and there at the finale." Piva added: "This year, therefore, it’s reasonable to expect the same or something more from him."

"He’s done an excellent Tirreno,too. It’s true he crashed on the last day, but it wasn’t serious and he’s still in good shape."

Lovkvist’s third place overall in Tirreno was another good omen for High Road. According to Piva "he, Roger [Hammond] and George [Hincapie] will be keeping a sharp eye on the breaks on the Cipressa and Poggio."
"Bernhard [Eisel], like those three, will be trying to go with the moves before San Remo itself. Vicente was ill during Paris-Nice but he is now doing a lot better, so we expect him to be present in the finale."

Asked about the extra distance added to Milan-San Remo after the traditionally crucial Poggio climb, Piva argued that "we’ll be expecting the sprinters’ teams to keep things more under control than usual."

"They’ll have a little more margin to reel in the breakaways after the Poggio, and will want to use it."

"But San Remo is so long, something unpredictable always happens, and that extra climb of Le Manie they’ve added in 100 kilometres from the finish will make it even tougher. You have to keep a close eye out at all times!"

Team CSC's line-up is strong with Kurt-Asle Arvesen, Lars Bak, Matti Breschel, Fabian Cancellara, Karsten Kroon, Marcus Ljunqvist, Stuart O'Grady and Fränk Schleck.

"Some of them have just come from Tirreno-Adriatico and a couple have done Paris-Nice not long ago and they're all top motivated to do well. Fabian Cancellara is on absolute top form right now, but this race might suit riders like Stuart O'Grady and Matti Breschel better as it's dedicated to the sprinters. It's a hard race to win," said Team CSC's sports director Scott Sunderland on the Team CSC website.

There is no actual captain as yet in Team CSC's line-up. The way the race unfolds will decide who has the best chance. There is an extra climb 100 kilometers before the finish and some changes have also been made to the final kilometers ahead of the finish line in Sanremo.

"The question is whether anyone's planning on making it so tough for the sprinters that they might fall behind, but we'll see," concluded Sunderland.

Robert Hunter, Baden Cooke and Enrico Gasparotto are the three proteczed riders for Team Barloworld at Milan-Sanremo. All three riders have the experience, fitness and determination to do well and will be backed up by a strong team. Gasparotto showed he is in great shape, finishing second overall at last weeks Tirreno - Adriatico.

"We're relaxed but confident because we know we've worked hard and that our riders are in great shape," Barloworld's sports director Alberto Volpi reveals.

The team of manager Claudio Corti confirmed its growing reputation for excellent organization by even studying every detail of the new Milan-Sanremo finish.

"Gasparotto today saw a video of the new finish of the race and we'll also make sure Hunter sees the video. Cooke even went to see the finish in person a few days before Tirreno-Adriatico," Corti said.

"Sanremo is decided in a flash, nobody can guess what move will decide the race and even the weather can play a decisive role. We've got three leaders who are all potential winners and so we've already decided our race tactics so that each one gets a chance," Volpi says.

"The finale of Milan-Sanremo always includes three clear phases. The first is the section between the Cipressa and the Poggio, the climb of the Poggio is the second and the finish is the third,"

"We've given carte blanche to Baden Cooke for the Cipressa. He's experienced and fast but also climbs well, so is ideal for an attack on the Cipressa. If the race is not decided on the climb, Gasparotto will get his chance on the Poggio. He showed his ability at Tirreno-Adriatico and could do it again on Saturday. If the attacks on the Poggio are caught it will be Hunter's turn. He is the fastest sprinter at Team Barloworld, as he proved by winning a stage in last year's Tour de France."

"We're certain that the riders are true professionals and will respect their roles within the team strategy," Corti says.

"We trust them to suggest a different strategy if the conditions change and we're sure all three have the endurance and the distance in their legs. Unfortunately it is always difficult to predict what will happen in Milan-Sanremo. We'll study the conditions and decide any changes together but we've got an excellent race strategy."

The winner of the mountain classification at the 2007 Tour de France, Columbian rider Mauricio Soler will also start today. "Soler hasn't the fitness to be a contender at Milano - Sanremo but he's not afraid of the distance and if possible he'll try and show his climbing skills on the Poggio. Of course, his biggest objective will be to do as well as possible without taking any risks."

The Barloworld roster for Milano - Sanremo is completed with Paolo Longo Borghini, Carlo Scognamiglio and Gianpaolo Cheula will support the three ´captains, while Patrick Calcagni will be free to ride his own race within the team's tactics for the finale.

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