Latest: La Primavera; Unibet worried; 23 teams for Amstel
ilan-San Remo takes place this Saturday, and almost all the favourites are in good form, as Jeff Jo
PIC © TIM DE WAELE All set for La Primavera This Saturday’s 98th Milan-San Remo will kick off this year’s spring classics season. La Primavera, as it’s known, is raced over a massive distance of 294km and is nearly always the longest of the classics. The distance is mitigated by the lack of climbing, although what climbs there are are generally ridden flat out. Especially the Cipressa (21km to go) and Poggio (6km to go), which are usually the key points in the race. Last year, Filippo Pozzato rode a superb finale to snatch victory from a Poggio-initiated breakaway. It looked as though his break would be caught by the peloton in the final kilometre, but he launched a huge sprint with 350m to go to hold off Alessandro Petacchi and Tom Boonen to win. This year, Pozzato won’t be riding on Boonen’s team, but his Liquigas boys should be up to the task of keeping him out of trouble, especially with riders like Di Luca and Pellizotti on the squad. Pozzato has already shown his devastating final kick by winning the Omloop Het Volk a couple of weeks ago. Can he do it again in Milan-San Remo? The sprinters have often had it their way in recent years, as long as they have the legs to last nearly 300km. Alessandro Petacchi (Milram) and Oscar Freire (Rabobank) won it in 2005 and 2004, while Tom Boonen (Quick.Step), Robbie McEwen (Predictor-Lotto), Thor Hushovd (Credit Agricole) are all solid favourites. 2003 winner and world champion Paolo Bettini (Quick.Step) is under a cloud at the moment after crashing twice during Tirreno-Adriatico. Bettini has a bruised left knee as a result. “My knee is nearly black and that’s a sign that the blood is moving out of the joint. And that is mostly a good sign,” Bettini told Gazet van Antwerpen. Predictor-Lotto’s Leif Hoste abandoned Tirreno-Adriatico after crashing in stage 6 on Monday. He bruised his hip, and pulled out as a precaution. “More because I didn’t want to take a risk in the lead up to Milan-San Remo than anything else,” said team director Hendrik Redant to Het Nieuwsblad. “In principle, his start won’t be in danger.” It’s not so good for Ivan Basso, who also crashed during Tirreno-Adriatico and injured his wrist. The Discovery Channel rider won’t do Milan-San Remo, but instead resume racing in the Vuelta a Castilla y Leon (May 26-30). Unibet worried The Unibet.com team has a start in Milan-San Remo, but hasn’t been able to participate in either Tirreno-Adriatico or Paris-Nice. “What can we show in Milan-San Remo?” said team director Lucien Van Impe to Het Nieuwsblad. “The others have got a leg up on us in any case. Even thirty years ago I had better preparation in the legs. I wouldn’t want to be in the shoes of our boys. “The guys will want to prove that they are worthy of the ProTour, and there is already a risk in that. Maybe they’ll put their foot in it? But I’ll let them do it.” Three wild cards for Amstel The Amstel Gold Race (April 22nd) will feature 23 teams this year. One of the few ProTour classics to remain outside the battle between the UCI and the big organisers, the Amstel Gold Race will include all 20 ProTour teams. In addition, Skil-Shimano, Chocolade Jacques and Wiesenhof-Felt have all been granted wild cards. Got a comment? Discuss this in the Procycling forum. What else is new? Check out the Procycling blog.