Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Milano - San Remo: Preview and Favorites

The added s on 'favorites' in the title may be stretching it a bit, because there is only one true favorite for this race; Peter Sagan. Yes, there are many riders with a good chance of a great result, but there is only one top favorite.

Matt Goss won Milano - San Remo in 2011 and last year his fellow countryman Simon Gerrans crossed the line first. Both are in the race again Sunday, but don’t be surprised if a third Australian ends as best rider from Down Under this time - more on that later.

The last two years, we have seen a break on Poggio make it to the end and each time with Fabian Cancellara taking second place. Last year Cancellara, singlehandedly, made sure the break of three didn’t get caught, but normally you need a group of minimum 5-6 riders in order to stay clear. It also depends on the wind. Naturally, a strong head wind minimizes a break’s chances of winning the race. Regardless of the wind, we will see a lot of movement on Poggio though. Every rider without a fast finish wants to get clear of the bunch and with Peter Sagan in such good shape; even fast guys like Filippo Pozzato and Phillipe Gilbert don’t want to take their chances.

Normally the strong riders’ teams set a high pace on the climbs in order to drop the pure sprinters like Mark Cavendish and Andre Greipel, but knowing Peter Sagan can stay with the best uphill and still win in a sprint, they now need to attack as well. I think this will eliminate the sprinters’ chances this year and I will be very surprised to see a pure sprinter take the win on Sunday.

The big question is how Sagan will do the race. Will he go with the attacks on Poggio or gamble and wait for a sprint in a reduced peloton? Personally, I don’t think Sagan will respond until very near the top of Poggio. He is one of the best on the descents and even if he’s a few seconds behind on the top, he can still join the break on the descent. Of course, Sagan will only attack if it’s a group of strong contenders up front or if some of the other candidates like Gilbert or Pozzato attack near the top.

The final 30 km of Milano - San Remo includes the two climbs Cipressa and Poggio. 

It’s difficult to paint a scenario but I would like to give a go anyway. I’m not saying this is how is going to go down Sunday afternoon, but it might be. If nothing else, you’ll now have someone to point your finger at for being wrong. Here we go:

Update: When I wrote this preview last Monday, Rinaldo Nocentini was still expected to start. He has now decided to skip Milano - San Remo and target Volta Catalunya instead. Therefore, replace his name with Andrey Amador, when you read the following:

Yoann Offredo attacks early on Poggio. Rinaldo Nocentini catches up with him. Later in-shape Mauro Santambrogio puts in a strong attack and joins the duo. The three riders cross the top of Poggio first but right behind them are Peter Sagan, Philippe Gilbert and Filippo Pozzato. The chasing trio catch the break on the descent and the six guys get a gap of about 20 seconds. Everybody is looking at Sagan, hesitating to work and Offredo gives it another go. Nocentini closes the gap. Gilbert attacks, Sagan after him. The break is back together; time for the sprint. Gilbert opens, but Sagan wins. Pozzato takes second place and Gilbert third. The rest of the peloton cross the line 15-20 seconds down and Heinrich Haussler wins the sprint - there’s your Australian. This little scenario leaves us with the following top10:

1. Peter Sagan
2. Filippo Pozzato
3. Philippe Gilbert
4. Rinaldo Nocentini Andrey Amador
5. Mauro Santambrogio
6. Yoann Offredo
7. Heinrich Haussler
8. Thor Hushovd
9. Gerald Ciolek
10. Daniele Bennati

Of course, there are tons of different scenarios but if I had to pick one, that would be it. There a lot of riders able to do something great in this race, but there can only be one winner. Vincenzo Nibali, Fabian Cancellara and Matt Goss all seem to be in very good shape right now, but I keep on coming back to Peter Sagan when I think of a favorite.

Winnerpick: Peter Sagan
Podium: Filippo Pozzato / Phillipe Gilbert
Jokers: Mauro Santambrogio / Rinaldo Nocentini / Yoann Offredo

For live coverage of the race check out steephill.


  1. Where is the part where Cancellara buries himself in favor of someone else? :) Nice preview!

  2. Thanks. I doubt Fabian will take 2nd place for the third time in a row, but seems to be going well right now. Let's see..

  3. Agreed. Sagan has everything it takes to win this race except one big part - experience. But he's a very bright tactical rider so I don't see this as much of a deficiency.

  4. Wow, no place for Fabian in the top 10? That would be extremely sad. I don't think he's actually capable of winning La Primavera this year, but hey, Cancellara outside the top 10?!

    When it comes to Haussler, I don't think he could win either. But still I hope that he'll shine in the race. He simply deserves a proper comeback to the elite. Same for Thor (although I'm afraid he's not yet ready to win a 298-km race after his long absence).

    One thing is certain: this is going to be a great race!

  5. Santambrogio has really been impressive lately!

  6. That's pretty realistic in my view, but what about the norwegian Boasson Hagen? If he has developed a bit more endurance when it comes to such long and hard rides...

    I agree with KochamRowery; Thor Hushovd has made an exceptionally good comeback and I hope that he also will bee one to watch out for in the finish...

  7. very interesting, but we shall see. the fite will be between spartacus and peter the great.

  8. I know everyone is sick of Sky, but if their training-not-racing gamble pays off then at least one of Eddie B-H or Thomas should figure in the shake out

  9. Wow. Your scenario was spot on. Not exactly with the riders, but how it panned out. A few attackers with a little gap over Poggio and then Sagan group to catch them on the descent. I was very impressed by Ciolek in this race! I think he will have a good season!