Mark Cavendish Hoping to Regain Milan-San Remo Champion Title on Saturday
British cyclist Mark Cavendish is looking to make an early statement ahead of the London Olympics with a victory in Saturday's Milan-San Remo classic.
British cyclist Mark Cavendish is looking to make an early statement ahead of the 2012 London Olympics with a victory in Saturday's Milan-San Remo classic.
Cavendish won the season's opening single-day classic in 2009 and is again the man to beat in the 298-kilometer (185-mile) race concluding on the Italian Riviera.
Cavendish can become the first rider to win in San Remo while wearing the rainbow-colored world champion's jersey since Italy's Giuseppe Saronni in 1983.
Other contenders include Tom Boonen of Belgium, defending champion Matthew Goss of Australia, emerging Slovakian Peter Sagan and Swiss time trial specialist Fabian Cancellara.
Third in this race in 2009 and 2005, Thor Hushovd is sidelined with a fever. It follows a stomach sickness that affected him in the opening days of Paris-Nice. "Monday night I woke up with fever and was cold and sweating," Hushovd told Roadcycling.com. "I have felt bad for two days now so there's no chance to race on Saturday. I am really disappointed because it was obviously one of my first goals of the year."
The top local favorite is Vincenzo Nibali, who will likely need to attack before the finish to win.
When Cavendish won in San Remo three years ago it was something of a surprise. He had already established himself as a top sprinter but hadn't yet proved that he had the endurance to win the nearly 300-kilometer race.
Now, he talks like a veteran.
"Milan-San Remo is the perfect example of an Italian style race - it's kind of like an opera," Cavendish told the Cycling News website. "There's a beginning, a middle and an end. The beginning gets you into it gently and gets you into a rhythm and then it builds up toward a crescendo right at the end.
"You have to think all the time," he added. "You have to conserve energy as much as possible."
Cavendish warmed up with a stage win in the Tirreno-Adriano race last week.
The biggest event for Cavendish this year is the road race on July 28 at his home London Games. But Milan-San Remo is often called the "spring world championship."
"It's the easiest race to finish and the toughest to win," Cavendish told the Italian daily La Repubblica. "It's beautiful and absurd. You start pedaling and it's cold and wintry, then you go over the Turchino, go into a tunnel and when you come out everything is sky blue and there's the sea, and in an instant it's spring."
The race begins at 10 a.m. in central Milan and ends seven hours later on the Ligurian coast. In between, the course goes over the Turchino pass near the race's midpoint, then there is another small climb to Le Manie at the 200-kilometer (125-mile) mark. It's the final two small climbs - the Cipressa and especially the Poggio - where most of the action occurs.
The race usually ends in a sprint finish, but Nibali, who showed excellent climbing form in winning the Tirreno, will want to attack on one of the final climbs to avoid a sprint, since that's not his specialty.
Nibali rides for the Liquigas team, but he appears to have an ally in the other major Italian squad, Lampre, which is directed by Saronni.
Damiano Cunego of the Lampre team has similar characteristics to Nibali.
"We at Lampre can give them a hand. I would like to see three or four teams with us," Saronni said. "I don't want Cavendish to take away my privilege of being the latest winner in the world champion's jersey.
Watch 2012 Milano-San Remo video highlights in the video section here on Roadcycling.com after the race.