With La Primavera only a couple of days off, the riders entered in the first big spring classic are
PIC © TIM DE WAELE Alessandro Petacchi (Milram) is unsure of his form coming into Milan-San Remo, which will be a real test of his condition. “It’s a long way back after my crash in the Giro of last year,” the sprinter told Het Laatste Nieuws. But I’m very satisfied with the start of my season. I’ve got the endurance, but I’m still missing a bit of explosiveness. I’ll only get that after doing a lot of sprinting.” For Saturday, Petacchi is hoping for “a good day and a bit of luck. Milan-San Remo is my race. After all the problems that I’ve had, it becomes even more important. I really need to win it one more time. San Remo is close to where I was born. I’m actually riding a hometown race.” Petacchi named Paolo Bettini and Filippo Pozzato as the main favourites, if a break goes on the Poggio. If it comes down to a sprint, then “Boonen will definitely be there on Saturday,” according to Petacchi. Another Italian to watch is Daniele Bennati (Lampre-Fondital), who has already beaten Petacchi head-to-head this year. “Boonen is my main example. He wins bunch sprints and can also score in the classics. I also want to do that. What the Tour of Flanders is for the Flemish, Milan-San Remo is for the ITalians. The other of all classics. A dream.” According to the Quick.Step team, it’s “almost ready” for Milan-San Remo. “The injuries of Paolo Bettini are evolving in a good way and Tom Boonen has had a strong improvement in his condition,” said the team in a statement. “Bettini trained together with Visconti, Barredo and Hulsmans on Wednesday. [Wednesday night] Rosseler will arrive at the hotel of the QSI-riders and tomorrow there is a three hour training on the program. “Tosatto, Van Impe and Boonen will arrive in Milan on Thursday. Tom’s condition is getting better by the day. Today he trained in Belgium for six hours, over a distance of 210 km. Thursday there is a training behind the car on the program.” Rabobank’s Oscar Freire finds Milan-San Remo to be a stressful race. “The field is so good, the aura of the race so huge,” he told Het Nieuwsblad. “A race where you can’t allow yourself to make a mistake. If you mess up, then in my case that always happens on Via Roma, and that is immediately fatal. I know what I’m talking about.” Freire is hoping for good lead out from his teammates in the finale. “I’m counting on [Nokere Koerse winner] Leon van Bon,” he said. “He will be the key figure in our team. A rider with experience who, without bad luck, will definitely ride the finale.” Stuart O’Grady (CSC) is feeling confident after finishing second in the final stage of Tirreno-Adriatico. Team director Scott Sunderland congratulated Koldo Fernandez for the win, but gave credit to O’Grady as well. “He’s been in great shape for a while now and he continues to be strong, so the form is definitely where it should be ahead of the real spring classics starting with Milano-San Remo on Saturday.” Predictor-Lotto’s Leif Hoste’s role in Milan-San Remo will probably be restricted to the early and middle phases of the race. After his crash on Monday, he expects to start with the aim of “racing 300km with a view towards the Flemish races.” T-Mobile is pinning its hopes on Luxembourg champion Kim Kirchen and sprinter Bernhard Eisel on Saturday. Kirchen is fresh off a second place overall in Tirreno-Adriatico. “Kim is very much in form at the moment,” said T-Mobile’s DS Valerio Piva. Kirchen will be supported by the experienced Lorenzo Bernucci, Andreas Klier, Jakob Piil, Roger Hammond and Bert Grabsch in his bid for victory in a breakaway. Rounding out T-Mobile’s roster are sprinters Bernhard Eisel and Gerald Ciolek. If it comes down to a sprint, Piva will count on Eisel to be there. And for the 20 year-old U23 world champion Ciolek, Milan-San Remo “will be first and foremost about gaining experience.” Teams and main favourites Acqua & Sapone-Caff Mokambo (Garzelli) AG2R Prevoyance (Nocentini) Astana (Haselbacher) Barloworld (Guidi, Hunter) Bouygues Telecom (Florencio, Voeckler) Caisse d’Epargne (Reynes, Rojas) Ceramica Panaria-Navigare (Grillo, Richeze) Cofidis, le credit par telephone (Moreni, Nuyens) Credit Agricole (Hushovd) Discovery Channel (Davis, Gusev, Vaitkus) Euskaltel-Euskadi (Fernandez) Franaise des Jeux (Gilbert) Gerolsteiner (Schumacher, Rebellin) Lampre-Fondital (Bennati, Ballan) Liquigas (Pozzato, Paolini, Pellizotti) Predictor-Lotto (McEwen) Quick Step-Innergetic (Bettini, Boonen) Rabobank (Freire, Flecha, Van Bon) Saunier Duval-Prodir (Ricc, Benitez) Team CSC (O’Grady, Schleck) Team L.P.R. (J.E. Gutierrez) Team Milram (Petacchi, Zabel) Tinkoff Credit Systems (Brutt, Ignatiev) T-Mobile Team (Eisel, Kirchen) Unibet (Cooke, Casper, Hunt) Got a comment? Discuss this in the Procycling forum. What else is new? Check out the Procycling blog.