San Remo or Sanremo and the names that won't die
Milan-Sanremo or Milan-San Remo or La Primavera or whatever you want to call it is the kick off to the classics season. You don’t need to look far down the list of past winners to see that cycling’s greats have all claimed a victory in this opening classic. From Eddy Merckx, to Sean Kelly, to Mark Cavendish and numerous others – great riders have stood on the top podium of this iconic race.
But what’s sport without a surprise? We had that last year with Germany’s Gerald Ciolek outsprinting (or some might say enjoying the generous draft from Fabian Cancellara to sling shot around him) to take the win. This year the Milano-San Remo route was going to include a new climb to the top of Pompeiana, basically eliminating any chance for the sprinters. However, as it turns out Mother Nature likes the sprinters. So a harsh winter, combined with a landslide, made the new climb unrideable. So with that Sanremo, once again, favored the sprinters.
Cannondale’s Peter Sagan was a heavy favorite as were Trek Factory Racing’s Fabian Cancellara and Omega Pharma – Quick-Step’s Mark Cavendish. For sure there are numerous others who could have taken the win. With a race route just shy of 300 kilometers almost anything can happen – mechanical mishaps, crashes, or just plain old-fashioned running out of power – because no matter how pro they are, 300k is a heck of a long ride.
You can read the nitty-gritty details of the race, but crossing the line first was Alexander Kristoff of Team Katusha. Kristoff’s win isn’t a huge surprise. The Norwegian had several top-10 placings in the 2013 Tour de France as well as several top-5 results throughout the season, with a few victories sprinkled in. So yes, he wasn’t a five-star favorite, but not a name to rule out either.
While team Katusha was over the moon in winning Sanremo a few other race favorites weren’t quite as happy.
Rumor has it that Cancellara was so upset that Team Trek staff had to roll him over and rub his belly like you do to calm a shark. The sometimes volatile former winner Mark Cavendish is also rumored to have hurled his team-issue aero helmet so hard it skipped across the Mediterranean Sea like a smooth stone and landed somewhere in the Sahara desert. Apparently aero is indeed everything.
Regardless, big congratulations to Alexander Kristoff for a strong win to start off the season.
Names From The Past Continue To Haunt Cycling
It’s time for another round of Redacted Name Bingo. Last time we left off with this game some names were leaked, while other names remained unspecified. Who was mystery name 15? Who was number 17? Who knows? There were some solid guesses of whose name went with what hidden name. There were the denials from the athletes, but finally the commotion died down and we got back to our other daily activities such as securing our Strava KOMs and posting our dinner to Instagram.
Suddenly it looks like we may have to dust off our bingo cards as Travis Tygart of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) is saying he is willing to go public with the redacted names. Much like the local newspaper that publishes the names and mug shots of guys who employ the services of prostitutes in the hope the public shaming is enough to teach them a lesson, Tygart says that until all the names are public and are removed from a position of power (directors, trainers, coaches, doctors), nothing will change - cycling will remain as dirty as a newborn’s diaper.
I’ve said this before, I still truly believe that cycling has taken a turn for the better and is much cleaner than the Lance Armstrong era. Don’t get me wrong, when you have two guys on the same team turn up positive doping results and in the not so recent past employed a doctor with a shady history, I raise an eyebrow. But I’m not willing to accuse a team of organized doping. You’re always going to have a few guys that are going to cheat. Hell, you have that in every walk of life, from the boardroom, to our resumes (I might have exaggerated a little on my LinkedIn profile and claimed to have invented the umlaut), to Strava. Anyways, I digress.
Will publishing the blacked-out names do anything for the sport now or is it just an idle threat to force riders to give up names and doping suppliers? I’ve seen enough episodes of CSI: Miami to know that all it takes is the threat of jail and suspects roll over like a dead goldfish. And you know the old expression about a dead fish – it starts to stink from the head down.
Tygart is looking to cut off the head and remove the stink. It’s a viable plan and one that might work. But again, if there’s anything I’ve learned from Detective Horatio Caine it is you cut off one head and another one will appear. That said, it’s still important that the names become public so all cheaters know that eventually they will be caught and their reputations ruined. Look at Armstrong now. Just a few years ago he had the world at his feet and was a seven-time Tour winner and founder of LiveStrong. Now, he is forever known as the guy who cheated, bullied, and got kicked out of his own foundation. No one wants to have their reputation destroyed like that. By making the names known it is forcing the hand of the UCI to react. Like Tygart said, the honeymoon with the new UCI President Brian Cookson is over. Now it’s time for action.