Friday, March 16, 2012

Favorites for Milano - San Remo

It feels good to be back again, even though I’m just relaxing on the couch recovering without much to do. I have had some time to catch up on the last days though and I feel pretty confident stating the following riders as my favorites for Saturday’s Milano - San Remo.

As always there are two scenarios; mass sprint or break away on Poggio. Therefore I have divided my favorites into two categories. Here they are:

Break away:
Nibali attacking with
2 km to go in 2010.
One of the strongest riders uphill right now is Vincenzo Nibali. Ever since San Luis in Argetina, Nibali have been showing great condition and his overall win in Tirreno-Adriatico proved he is probably the best pick for break away win in San Remo. The last two years Nibali has tried to get away on the descent from Poggio but even though his skills on the downhill sections are amazing he has never been able to stay away. Personally I think that if Nibali tries to attack already on Poggio, stronger and more powerfull than he did last year, and get a gap before the descent he will be close to impossible to catch again. It will require head wind and a sprinter with at least 3 team mates in the peloton to rail him back as I see it.

Cancellara's solo win in 2008.
One of the only riders who would be able to follow Nibali on the descent is Fabian Cancellara. He has been in shape since Tour of Qatar and he only gets better and better now. In Strade Bianche he went solo without even attacking, he simply just set up the pace a bit. I doubt Cancellara will have any difficulties following the strongest on Poggio and even if so, he shouldn’t be too far off when they start the on descent. Cancellara knows what it takes to win Milano - San Remo and after his recent performances he must be named as one of the big favorites.

Mass sprint:
Cavendish' photo-finish win in 2009.
The number one favorite, should the peloton reach the finishing line together, is Mark Cavendish. No doubts about that. In January Cavendish said he felt as good as in 2009 when he won the race and looking at his team this year you’ll find Eisel, Löfkvist and Hagen to support Cavendish just like they did in 2009. Milano - San Remo is a huge goal for Mark Cavendish this year. According to his team mates all he talks about is winning this race in the rainbow colors and if he manage to stay in front on Poggio I’m pretty sure he will repeat his win from 2009 – without letting get as close as back then.

Freire made it look easy with his third
Milano-San Remo victory in 2010.
There is one sprinter you just can’t count out  no matter what. Oscar Freire! The former multiple World Champion has won Milano – San Remo not just once or twice, but three times already. He surprised a lot of people when he did it in 2010 and this year he seems to be even stronger. Freire has confirmed that the 2012-season will be the last in his glorious career and what better way of saying good bye that start out winning one of the biggest races of them all. Freire showed in Tour Down Under and Vuelta Andalucía that he still knows how to win mass sprints and he even came very close to beating Mark Cavendish in Tirreno-Adriatico. Freire is strong on the hills and he is experienced enough to know where to be when it counts. If Oscar Freire is in first group when the peloton gets to San Remo I would be very surprised not to see him in the top3 at least.

No fun without a couple of jokers, so here we go. First up is Marco Marcato. A lot of people may have forgotten this, but Marcato actually had a real chance of winning Milano - San Remo last year. Being the only other fast guy in the front group after Poggio, Marcato crashed on the descent and never managed to get back to the front. This year Marco Marcato seems to be stronger than ever before and after having worked hard on his sprint in the winter season, I think Marcato could be right up there among the best riders on Saturday.

Being as close as only Zabel has been to winning Milano - San Remo, Heinrich Haussler was denied the win by Mark Cavendish in 2009. Ever since Haussler has only been “close” to winning big races. Nevertheless he is always in the mix when the winner has to be found. To me it seems like Haussler is in good enough shape right now to pull off a top performance again this time and if it comes down to a sprint, he is definitely a rider to watch.

Other names for a mass sprint is Andre Greipel and Tom Boonen while Alessandro Ballan and Matti Breschel are good picks in a break away group.

Update: A lot of people is already asking why Peter Sagan isn't on the list. Well, of course Sagan has a real chance of winning Milano-San Remo but so many things need to go his way. If it comes down to a sprint, Sagan most likely needs to beat Cavendish, Greipel, Freire etc - can he do that? If not, he has to get away on Poggio and as I said, I think that is Nibali's only chance. Of course if something happens to Nibali, Sagan can play his cards on Poggio, but a lot of things really need to Sagan's way in order to win this race.

No comments:

Post a Comment