Thursday Group Ride: Milan-San Remo

What? A Group Ride on a Thursday? Well, yes. I promised when the Het Nieuwsblad Group Ride went off a few short hours before the race itself got underway that I’d do a better job as the season went on. So here we are, all standing around the parking lot, unexpectedly, pulling up our warmers and sucking on our water bottles and waiting for someone, anyone, to head out.

Rather predictably, this week’s topic of discussion will be the 300k ‘classicisima’ Milan – San Remo. This is the sprinters’ classic and one of the monuments of the sport. You know. It’s important.

And accordingly, the list of favorites is as long as your arm, which is a curt way of saying there is no favorite. Last year Mark Cavendish shocked the cycling world by dragging himself over the races many climbs in good enough working order to win the sprint at the end. It was an announcement that the one-trick pony had added another trick, a really good one.

But, Young Cav has crashed on the final stage of Tirreno – Adriatico, and, if we’re clinical about this, he hasn’t really seemed to round into form just yet, so those who might otherwise say he’s the man to beat are keeping their powder dry at the moment.

So who else is in it to win it? Well, the list takes in a selection of the peloton‘s strong men and sprinters. It looks something like this: Fabian Cancellara (Saxo Bank), Thor Hushovd (Cervelo Test Team), Tom Boonen (Quick Step), Juan-Antonio Flecha and Edvald Boasson-Hagen (both Sky), Tyler Farrar (Garmin), Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre), Oscar Freire (Rabobank), Philipe Gilbert (Omega Pharma Lotto), Filippo Pozzato (Katusha). And those are just the light colored horses. There are dark ones, too.

I won’t even break this down and tell you why each of these riders can win. These folks have already done it.

What I will do is ask you who YOU think will win it and why? Two weeks ago, frequent commenter Champs called Paris-Nice, but really, picking Contador isn’t a very risky maneuver, is it Champs?

Image: John Pierce, Photosport International

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  1. Natextr


    No, seriously, I would like to see Cancellara, Flecha or Chavanel take it. It is always one of my favorite Saturdays…

  2. SinglespeedJarv

    can’t even type my own name properly anymore. Anyway, forgot to say Boonen for the win because he’s going well enough to make the selection and there’s not many that can outsprint him from small groups like you get at the end of MSR

  3. Yorkie

    Agreed, no particular favourites, but I think looking at how the riders have been going in early season races, my money is on Tommeke.

    Bo Hag is quality for sure, but I think some of his wins so far this season have been relatively easy victories, and the 300k + sprint model doesn’t fit with my current assesment of him (can’t see anyone letting him get away early on either).

    Pippo is my #2 favourite – Russian pride says that the team will be going balls-out to get him up there for the finale. But looking at the way that Boonen raced those early Belgian races, I’d say his legs are as good as they’ve ever been (particularly after 2009’s nightmare season) – and a bit of ‘white line fever’ may well work in his favour 😉

  4. cthulhu

    Well, Boonen looks to be in form again, he is the top bet at the bookies and all the “experts” also he is still missing a victory in Sam Remo. I guess he will be highly motivated, but I’m not sure if he is still keeping himself for the Belgian cobblestone classics, a third Roubaix in row would look really impressive and a third Flanders win wouldn’t look too shabby aswell, especially in Belgium.
    Boasson Hagen is fit aswell, but I guess 300k could prove to be a bit much without experience.
    Pippo is definitely hot, his training grounds/home region, his favourite classic and he has full team support. also he is due for a big win and was showing good form already this season.
    Petacchi is also back again. He is fitter than he was in years and had some morale boosting victories early this season. A Milan-San Remo victory on his farewell(?) season wouldn’t look bad and the old man has still got the legs for it.
    Cancellara is my dark horse. He might not be in form yet but I guess he will use this opportunity as a first serious test for the cobbled classics, though his chances of winning are low.

    Although I see Boonen with the best chances I say Pippo does it, he is due for a big victory. Boonen will have his share back in Flanders where he will be battling with Cancellara. Petacchi and Boonen will complete the podium with Boasson Hagen and Freire completing the top five.

    Now bash me for my predictions 😉

  5. j

    For me it’s less about who wins and more about how they win. Sure, last years panic, mad-dash sprint was exciting but that lasted for all of 20 seconds…of a 300k race.

    Here’s hoping someone will take the race by the balls and attack the Poggio or Cip, or hell, go earlier… Not that I don’t like a good dash, but the Classics, the Monuments deserve so much more… This isn’t a transitional stage of a 21-day grand tour after all…

  6. MattyVT

    Somehow I find myself rooting for Pippo for all of the reasons listed above. He was pretty consistent last spring and has shown well thus far this season. And I think he’s due.

    Boonen will probably go well, but he’ll be so heavily marked that he’ll be effectively neutralized. If everyone is sitting up and waiting for Boonen to sprint then that could play into the hands of Pippo, Gilbert or Cancellara. Maybe I’m talking myself out of Pippo in favor of Gilbert…

  7. dvgmacdonald

    I know Thor’s not yet in perfect form, but he seemed to come out of nowhere last year, so I’m taking him for the win. Boonen to place. Van Summeren to show. Really, I’d love to see Van Summeren take it. I thought he made the worst decision of last year when he held up to pace Hoste back in Paris Roubaix. I can’t understand turning what would have been a sure podium (remember Pozzato went down in the same crash & came back for 3rd) into 4th & 5th for Lotto.

    Anyway, I’m guessing he didn’t call that tactic himself, and hoping that he’s given some chance to ride for himself this season.

    Plus, Garmin seems to me to call a lot of tactics on the road. Very little seems to go to plan for them, so getting their first monument win by somebody other than their leader for the day just seems likely to me.

  8. soul_cramp

    Like the concensus Boonen looks really good for Saturday. Cancellara will be watched too closely to escape for the win again. I’d like to see Boonen and Pozzato follow an attack on the Poggio or Cipressa and battle it out to the line. But honestly I just want to see some fireworks and not a mass sprint.

  9. Alex Torres

    I have a feeling that this one will go to the italians, but I concede that Boonen is the fave. I´m staying with Benatti or Pozzato.

  10. Bob Gade

    Pippo, because he loves the foreplay.
    It’s time for MSR to go to an Italian again. Boonen will be too heavily marked.
    BUT, only God will judge him.

  11. C.Monaco

    Pettachi looks beat after every sprint he has contested, be it 110- or 180k. I don’t think he has it in his head to get to the line.

    Pozzatto finished 2nd at last year’s Paris-Roubaix due to JVS’s selflessness and I say that he has the greatest race-savvy-to-legs ratio of any of the other contenders. Boonen is too headstrong – trying to take the race into his own hands, likely – and will be off the front, hurting himself too often to win, hence his lack of palmares in this race. But I’d love to be surprised!

  12. Robot

    I think this one is going to go to an experienced sprinter. Could be Petacchi. Maybe someone else.

    Boonen’s mode is to try to make a decisive move late, but not too late, to break the race before it can mass at the end. With a 300k monster like this, it will cost him too much energy to pursue that strategy AND maintain form for the Flanders/Roubaix period. I think the only way Boonen wins this weekend is if he makes the bunch sprint and outfoxes the pure sprinters.

    Or I’m wrong. As usual.

  13. Doug

    Favorite: Boonen/Pippo
    Dark Horse: Cunego

    I don’t think Cancellara can throw the coupe again. The year he took it, he was already winning at Tirreno and La Eroica. The way in which he won required incredible form and I don’t think he has it yet.

  14. randomactsofcycling

    And so we have another race where everyone is marking everyone else! Wow, who’s in form and who’s faking it? No-one is going to let Boonen, Cancellara, Gilbert or Pozzato take an inch, so I think it’s coming down to the bunch kick and Petacchi must be hungriest for the big win.
    My Dark Horse…..George Hincapie.

  15. Souleur

    interesting observation, one which all cyclists know in their heart, yet we so oftentimes forget it….that all cyclists are liars come race day. Lance was never world fave’…cause Ulrich was soooooo strong afterall. Cav’ seems to have perhaps pulled one here?? Cause nobody has picked him, heck, even some in the peloton has turned attention elsewhere, so is he really out of shape and well…just still going to race…for nothing??

    not enough for me to pick him:-)
    I suppose we will see though

  16. SinglespeedJarv

    Having read an article yesterday I’m inded to slide towards Gilbert getting away on the Poggio. It’s going to be a huge ask because over recent years a lot of very good riders have tried this and failed. But he’s stated he want’s to win MSR.

    Cav is probably riding to get fitness for later races and on a wing-and-a-prayer that he’ll get over the hills. Remember Cipollini took this approach every year, he was never certain of managing it. Also he maybe to provide a diversion for other HTC riders, Mike Rogers hs been riding well recently and Velits has shown in a couple of races.

  17. SinglspeedJarv

    A great last 15km and good to see a few people chance their arm. I thought Gilbert left it too late on the Poggio, but it seems so hard to get away if rides like Garxelli are going full-gas on the front. WHo was he working for anyway, Petacchi?

    Not a direct call, but I’ll take that with my No.1 Dark Horse

  18. SinglespeedJarv

    My comment seems to have disappeared. I know people tend to find that the race ending in a sprint devalues it slightly, but I think the last 15km of this edition were fantastic. Perhaps people need to try attacks earlier than the Poggio if they want to stay away, couldn’t see anyone getting away from the bunch with riders like Garzelli hammering away on the front. Does anyone know who he was riding for anyway because I couldn’t see anyone else from his team.

    Anyway, great finish by Friere, should’ve put money on

  19. Bob Gade

    I think Garzelli must of been paid by Petacchi or something along those lines. I had the same question when I was watching. It appears there is too much flat ground before the Poggio to attack before hand. When was the last time the winner attacked on the Cipressa?

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