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This Saturday, the 102nd version of one of the all time great races will take place – the Milan-San Remo.  Arguably the greatest of all the Classics, the Milan-San Remo is 298km of top notch racing through North West Italy, starting in the centre of Milan and finishing in San Remo on the picturesque Ligurian coastline.  The longest of all the Classics, the race often comes down to a sprint finish; previous winners include Mark Cavendish (2009) and Oscar Freire (2010) and if the racing we’ve seen so far is anything to go by, we can expect to see quite a battle.

The Route:

The Milan-San Remo starts in the shadow of Milan’s cathedral before heading south towards the coast road.   The route is likely to follow a set pattern, there will inevitably be some early breaks which will most likely, be allowed to exhaust themselves – the downside of a 298km race perhaps!  It will then be mostly a procession until riders approach the Passo del Turchino, this steady climb comes near the halfway point and we could well see some reshuffling as the climb takes effect.

Picturesque San Remo.

The next key point is at 204km and the climb of Le Manie where those who are feeling strong will start to turn the screw. From here on, there are some small undulations which lead up to the famous Poggio finale.  Although not massive climbs for riders of this calibre in the final 100km, the opportunities for recovery are few and the pace is likely to be high, so riders will start to feel the lack of rest and relentless changes in gradient.  The final milestone will be the fabled Poggio; the summit of which is just 6km from the finish.  Traditionally, being first to the top was a huge advantage – as it’s downhill to the line – but with the strong teams supporting key riders in the modern peloton, any breakaways will be chased down as they set up their sprinters for glory.  Expect to see some pretty fast and furious descending as riders jockey for position before the final showdown in San Remo.


PBK Wine Guide.

The Ligurian coast line, if anyone could transport us there it would be much appreciated.

This week we’ve chosen a wine from the Ligurian region of Italy, the home of San Remo, called Rossese di Dolceacqua.  We imagine a nice glass or two will be enjoyed by the riders to soothe their aches and pains after a long day perched on the bike.

Rossese di Dolceacqua was Liguria’s first DOC wine and probably the best.  A ruby red in colour, it is best served at room temperature. It has a smooth, full bodied pallette and goes perfectly with white meats, fish or as an aperitif before attacking a full cheese board (the only way to eat cheese Chris says).  Settle down with a nice chicken salad and a full cheeseboard and watch the race.

It’s a wine best enjoyed relatively young, up to 3 years or so, so don’t spend too much getting an old bottle!  A good example can be bought for between £8-£15. As always let us know how you get on.

The Riders:

The mighty Thor Hushovd, PBK's pick of the non-sprinters.

The Milan-San Remo has become a race contested by sprinters in recent years, Freire, Cavendish, Cancellara all boast a Milan-San Remo victory in their palmares.  But the race, while predominantly flat has the series of climbs in the final 100km which can (and have!) buried many a sprinter with ambitions.  This means there is quite a list of potential winners, from Thor Hushovd and Nibali to Mark Cavendish, there’ll be no shortage of riders wanting to win this classic.

Garmin Cervelo bring an incredibly talented team, they’ll have the combined firepower of World Champion Thor Hushovd, Tyler Farrar – fresh from stage victory at the Tirreno Adriatico and the talented Heinrich Haussler who has shown he can mix it up with the best of them.  At the Tirreno-Adriatico, Thor showed his form by acting as lead-out man for Farrar, setting him up perfectly to win a stage.  The footage of Thor leading Farrar out is worth watching, he seemingly effortlessly dispatches other sprinters whilst still sat down!  Reports are that the riders will all be allowed to race their own race, so it seems unlikely that Thor will be acting as a ‘superdomestique’ for Farrar, watch out for the big guy ramping up the pace in the hills.

Cav winning what he calls the most beautiful race in 2009.

Mark Cavendish won this race in 2009 and according to both Cav and HTC’s sports directors his form is as good as, if not better than is form in 2009.  While Cav has not had the best start to 2011, he’s spent the last week putting some big miles in on the Tirreno-Adriatico and he’s feeling good.  Cav is always dangerous, so with a bit of help from his friends he may be able to make a repeat of 2009.  Matt Goss, another HTC-Highroad rider has also had a phenomenal start to his season.  Expect to see Goss in contention and although Cav has been confirmed as the HTC’s leader, Goss won’t be shy.

Oscar Freire (Rabobank) will be going for his fourth Milan-San Remo win. So far, his season hasn’t been marked by the strength of his performances, but he’s a history of coming good, so expect to see him closely watched in the final kilometres.


Robbie McEwen, focused for the Shack Attack.

RadioShack have had a great start to the year, their sprinters Robbie McEwen and Robbie Hunter will form a two pronged attack in what is a strong team.  They’re both familiar with the race and they’re going well, riding on the wave of a Shack Attack – so watch out!

There are plenty of other sprinters worth keeping an eye on; will this be the race we see Cav and Greipel go head to head?  Unlikely following Greipel’s crash in training, it’s more likely that Gilbert will lead the Omega-Pharma Lotto charge, especially because of his strong ride at the Tirreno-Adriatico.  Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre-ISD), Tom Boonen (Quick Step), Bennati (Leopard Trek) and Boasson Hagen (Team Sky) will all also be having a go if they make it to the end…

Alessandro Ballan

Out of the non-sprinters not already mentioned, Cancellara (Leopard Trek), Pozzato (Katusha), Di Luca (Katusha) and Ballan (BMC) all will be out to have a go and see which sprinters they can despatch on the climbs.

All in all it is going to be a pretty exciting race – so much can happen in 298km that the smallest accident can turn the form book on its head.  Secretly of course we all probably dream of a classic breakaway like that of Fausto Coppi, but in reality, the majority of the action is likely to happen in the final 50km’s.  PBK’s top tip?  If we had to pick a sprinter and an all rounder we’d go for Mark Cavendish and Thor Hushovd: Cav’s had a slow start but he’s a passionate rider who loves this race and we think those could be the ingredients for success.  As for Thor, he’s shown already he has the legs, he’s had a good warm up and he sounds well up for it!

Who is your top tip?  Have you got a favourite wine from North-West Italy?  As always, we’re keen to hear your opinions!

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