This Saturday sees the first monument of the year, the 2016 Milan-San Remo. Also known as The Spring Classic or La Classicissima it’s usually a race for the sprinters and a race every sprinter dreams of winning but every now and then is won by a rouleur or grand tour winner. Here’s a preview of this years race.

2016 Milan-San Remo Route

Milan-San Remo is the longest one day cycling race in the world and this year is raced over 291km starting in Milan and finishing on the via Roma in San Remo. After starting in Milan the race crosses the plains of the Po Valley for 118km before hitting the small town of Ovada and commences the gradual climb of the Passo del Turchino that peaks at 532 metres elevation and marks the half way point of the race. Normally there will be a break crossing the Turchino a long way ahead of the peloton but it almost certainly won’t contain the eventual winner. The last Milan-San Remo winner that crossed the Passo del Turchino first was Fausto Coppi in 1946.

Onwards and descending from the Passo del Turchino the riders race to the edge of the Mediterranean Sea at Voltri and then on to the remaining 137km around the coast to San-Remo including the decisive climbs of the Cipressa and the Poggio di Sanremo. The Cipressa averages 4% over the 5.6km climb with sections at 9%, the sprinters legs will be screaming after 270km of riding and many will be dropped before the end of this climb but the race almost certainly won’t be won here, in the last thirty five years I can only think of Francesco Moser in 1984 that went alone and won from this far out, or earlier.

Then it’s on to the Poggio di San Remo, the Poggio is the final climb of the 2016 Milan-San Remo and positioning is everything hitting the right hand turn off the main coastal road to commence the climb and at only 3.7km and an average of 3.7% gradient the riders will race it full speed, almost a sprint race up the the climb.

Top of the poggio climb, red telephone box
The top of the Poggio before commencing the downhill section to the finish

At the top of the Poggio a sharp turn, a red telephone box and probably a sponsor balloon mark the start of the final act of the race, 5.5km left to race with a fast descent down the side of the hill with sharp turns and then a flat run in for the final 2km before the finish on the via Roma.

2016 Milan-San Remo profile
2016 Milan-San Remo profile
2016 Milan-San Remo route
2016 Milan-San Remo route
MSR Last 5km from the Poggio to via Roma
Last 5km from the Poggio to via Roma

The Contenders

Defending champion John Degenkolb will not start this year due to a training accident in January this year where he and five team mates were hit head on by a car, the good news for Degenkolb is that a return to racing is scheduled for May and he will then target Tour de France stage wins in July. In his absence the favourites are:
Alexander Kristoff won Milan-San Remo in 2014 and was runner up last year, so far this year Kristoff has won stages in the Tour of Qatar and Tour of Oman and also finished second in last months Kuurne–Brussels–Kuurne. Kristoff has a powerful sprint, he’s strong at the end of tough races and has a strong team to support him. He is the favourite.
Michael Matthews finished third in last years race and has had a strong start to this season at Paris-Nice winning the prologue and stage 2 as well as holding the yellow jersey for five stages. Matthews will be the sole leader of the Orica-GreenEdge team with previous Milan-San Remo winner Simon Gerrans not starting.
Peter Sagan is another contender and has had an impressive run of second place finishes this year so the current world champion is in good form. Peter Sagan’s best result in this race is second and he probably won’t want to know that the last time Milan-San Remo was won in the world champion jersey was in 1983 by Giuseppe Saronni, in fact only five winners have ever won wearing the world champion jersey.
Fernando Gaviria is only 21 years old and last week Etixx sport director Brian Holm declared “He is the best neo-pro that I have ever seen in my career as a DS”. Fernando Gaviria had a stage win at Tirreno – Adriatico beating Peter Sagan and Caleb Ewan and earlier this year at wins at Tour de San Luis and Tour La Provence.
Fabian Cancellara would love to win another Milan-San Remo in his final year, of the five contenders he’s been on the podium the most with a win in 2008, three second places and a third place. Cancellara won the Strade Bianche two weeks ago and the ITT of last weeks Tirreno – Adriatico.

As well as …

Nacer Bouhanni sixth last year and in good form this year with a stage wins at Paris-Nice and Ruta Del Sol as well as third at Kuurne–Brussels–Kuurne behind Alexander Kristoff.
Greg Van Avermaet has finally shaken is run of second places winning Omloop Het Nieuwsblad ahead of Peter Sagan as well as a stage and the overall GC of the Tirreno – Adriatico, also ahead of Peter Sagan. Van Avermaet is strong enough to be in the final bunch and force the pace on the Poggio, it depends how many remain in the bunch if he’s to win the race.
Mark Cavendish and Edvald Boasson Hagen ride for Team Dimension Data and Boasson Hagen will be wearing the team leader jersey, he’s had stage wins at Tour of Oman and Tour of Qatar this year. Cavendish won the race in 2009 but is not sure of his form after racing on the track.

Also worth mentioning as possible winners are Michał Kwiatkowski, Vincenzo Nibali and Zdenek Stybar.

The race starts at 10:10am in Milan which is 8:10pm AEST Saturday, television coverage is on Eurosport and SBS.

Follow the race on twitter using #MSR


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