MILAN, March 14, 2013 (AFP) – Slovakian Peter Sagan will be among the big
names to watch when Milan-SanRemo kicks off the season of major cycling
classics this weekend.
Although only 23 years old, Sagan is already regarded as one of cycling’s
next big stars and could take his stock further with a maiden, historic
history in “La Primavera” on Sunday.
The Slovakian highlighted his form with two stage victories in the
Tirreno-Adriatico race last week when his former Liquigas teammate Vincenzo
Nibali, now at Astana, triumphed for the second year in succession.
After a fourth place finish last year, when Australian Simon Gerrans pipped
Swiss star Fabian Cancellara at the line, Sagan went on to win three stages
and the sprinters’ green jersey at the Tour de France.
Having beaten British sprint king Mark Cavendish in last week’s outing at
Tirreno, Sagan is confident in his chances.
“I think the team will ride to support me in the race,” said Sagan.
In the event the race does not finish in a small group sprint, Cannondale
have another option in Moreno Moser — the recent winner of the gruelling
Strade Bianche one-day Italian race.
Sagan added: “If it turns out a different race, Moreno gives us another
guarantee and that means I could be even more comfortable, and confident”.
The first of the season’s five “monuments”, the race is a near 300 km slog
which begins in Milan and heads south towards the coast where the first of
eight climbs begin taking a steady toll on the peloton.
Usually it is on the Cipressa, the race’s penultimate climb, or the Poggio
– whose summit is barely six kilometres from the finish — that decisive
attacks and counter-attacks usually come and go as a dwindling bunch races
towards the flat finish.
Although Sagan is riding strongly, the Slovakian will not be without
Despite failing to win a stage in the past week, 2009 champion Cavendish
remains a threat — if he can manage to stay near the front of the peloton
when the going gets tough later on.
Cancellara won the race in 2008 and his runner-up place last year suggests
the Swiss still has the legs to challenge for what would be his second win.
Meanwhile, for the first time the race will welcome an African-registered
team. While MTN-Qhubeka’s leader for the race is German sprinter Gerald
Ciolek, all eyes are likely to be on Sozengo Jim.
“Songezo Jim will become the first black South African to participate in a
WorldTour race,” the team’s manager, Doug Ryder, said midweek. “Songezo and
the other riders will be working in support of Ciolek.”
Team Sky’s hopes, meanwhile, will be shouldered by Norwegian Edvald Boasson
Hagen — a strong all around rider who is well suited to the race’s climbs and
has a fairly strong sprint finish.
Gerrans recently said he was not on the form of his life and that
Orica-GreenEdge teammate Matt Goss, the winner of a stage at Tirreno and the
2011 champion, would be a better bet.
“With Gossys Tirreno win late last week, hes shown that hes in fantastic
shape at the moment,” Gerrans told greenedgecycling.com.
“If the race comes down to a bunch sprint, which is the most likely
scenario, he’ll be our man.
“The team will line up with the plan to support Gossy. Ill have a bit of
free rein in the final. That was our approach last year, too.”