Am I on track?

Am I on track?

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Milan - San Remo 2013: Preview & Predictions

The 'real' pro-cycling season starts tonight, with the first Monument for 2013 taking place: Milan-San Remo. Also known as 'La Primavera' and 'La Clacissima', this race is the longest one-dayer on the professional calendar, taking in a 298km route across northern Italy.

By all reports, this will be raced in the toughest conditions in a long time - rain, strong winds, cold and possibly even snow are expected to test the competitors this year.

All the action is expected to take place in the last 50km of this race, when the peloton crosses two key climbs - firstly the Cipressa, and then the Poggio, before a tight, technical (but fast!) descent into the streets of San Remo and the finish.

So without further ado - here are my picks for this year's race!

Who will win - Peter Sagan (Cannondale)

If you were a betting man, Peter Sagan is the unbackable favourite - this race's Black Caviar.  He has shown outstanding form in the lead-up stage race of Tirreno-Adriatico in similar conditions, and tonight's course matches his strengths as an all-rounder & sprinter perfectly.

His biggest obstacle is the fact that he is such a stand-out favourite.  He will be watched like a hawk by all his competitors, and the attacks on the Poggio will come thick and fast as no-one will want to take him on in the final sprint.

Will he be able to deliver as favourite, or will the unpredictable and uncontrollable peloton somehow conspire to defeat him tonight?

The dark horses - Edvald Boasson-Hagen and Geraint Thomas (Team Sky)

Team Sky - controlling the race...

Both EBH and Geraint Thomas showed great form in the early season - but disappeared from view over the last few weeks.  Team Sky opted to not race their Classics squad, but instead take them away for a high altitude training camp instead.  As a result, these two guys have been out of sight and out of mind.

Are they still in form? Or are they still building to target the later cobbled classics? Who knows!  However, I have no doubt one of these two will be on the podium somewhere later tonight...

Back from the dead - Thor Hushovd (BMC)

The Norwegian God of Thunder, Thor Hushovd, had a 2012 that was more of a whimper than a bang.  Out of form due to injury and sickness, he has much to prove this year.  To that end, he has shown very promising form in the lead-up events, and I expect him to show he is almost back to his best tonight.

The Plan B riders - Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) and Sylvain Chavanel (OPQS)

Both of these riders have higher-profile team leaders tonight, but are outstanding competitors in their own right.  They are both also in great form.  I suspect they'll be the late attackers on the Cipressa and/or Poggio to try and shake up Sagan.  Will the attacks stick and give one of them the win?  Probably not - but these two won't die wondering...

My sentimental favourite - Heinrich Haussler  (IAM Cycling)

After coming 2nd to Mark Cavendish in this very race by less than the width of a tyre a few years ago, Haussler has had a rough time of it.  A very bad accident in 2011 (also involving Cavendish) has meant a very long way back to form (which he hasn't properly found yet).

Still not back to his best - but I would dearly love to see the attacking Haussler do well in this race tonight for his new Swiss team.

Live in Australia!

For the first time ever, this race is going to be broadcast live into Australia on free-to-air television!!  The broadcast begins at 12:35am Monday morning on SBS ONE - I will be glued to my screen, and drinking as much coffee as I can to stay awake.  No-one can ever say Australian cycling fans aren't dedicated....!!

Sticking my neck out

Okay, so I'll finish with my predicted finishing order for the race.  I had an awful record doing this for 2012, hopefully I'll have better luck this year!

1. Sagan (Cannondale)
2. Thomas (Sky)
3. Chavanel (OPQS)
4. Nibali (Astana)
5. Goss (Orica-GreenEdge)
6. Hushovd (BMC)

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