The longest professional one-day race, Milan–San Remo is an unusual test of endurance early in the season. It is won often not by the fastest sprinter, but one who’s spent the off season in a monastic existence of training and abstention from all temptations designed specifically to pack you away into the hurt locker in the early season. The Cipressa and Poggio have foiled many sprinters who could not stay with the front group and this year these two hills will definitely separate the men from the boys.
Last year was all about Mark Cavendish (HTC – Columbia). They said he couldn’t do it, they all said he was too young, too inexperienced and it was too far for him, yet the Manx man showed them all and won one of the most exciting races in years. Cavendish won a thrilling sprint to take the 100th edition of Milan-San Remo by the narrowest of margins. Heinrich Haussler (Cervelo Test Team) surprised everyone by jumping the leading group of 40 riders with under a kilometre to go and he looked to have the victory in the bag, but Cavendish came back and took him at the line, signalling his intent for the rest of the year!
So can the 2010 edition live up to last years epic encounter? The longest Classic Race of them all this year covers 298km and includes the usual 2 climbs of the Cipressa and Poggio. These two climbs are keenly watched by all the teams as this is where the wild guys attack. From the top of the Poggio it’s a short but fast 6km run in to the finish and every year without fail, there will be an attack by several of the big guns. Riders who aren’t out and out sprinters, but who are the near suicidal descent specialists who will fly down the mountain at break-neck speeds to try to make sure the bunch sprint at the finish doesn’t happen. The revised route could play into the hands of late attackers as well, as the final kilometre cuts straight into the centre of town, avoiding the waterfront used in the last two years and the Via Roma. It’s got all the ingredients of a real cracker.
The Tirreno-Adriatico which has its last stage today is usually a good indicator of who’s firing well and up for the fight. Pre race spin saw Cavendish claiming he wasn’t feeling strong and this has proved to be the case with him currently lying in 151st place and 1 hr 43 mins behind the race leader – Michele Scarponi (Androni Giocattoli). Heinrich Haussler who last year finished a close 2nd will be absent this year due to a knee injury, so it leaves it wide open for a number of hopefuls wanting to stamp their authority and put a marker down on the season ahead.