Friday Group Ride #160

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I don’t know whether my belief that only Peter Sagan can win this weekend’s Milan -San Remo comes from my unabashed admiration for his swashbuckling style, or from an accurate analysis of the race and the current form of the top favorites. The guys here at the office pointed out for me that completely writing off Mark Cavendish, Fabian Cancellara and Philippe Gilbert, not to mention Matt Goss, is the work of a fan boy, not a commentator.

So sue me.

Let me tell you what I think. Mark Cavendish is still the fastest man on two wheels, despite Sagan beating him to the line in Stage 3 at Tirreno-Adriatico just last week. But the Cipressa and the Poggio will put paid to Cavendish’s hopes of sprinting for this one. Sagan and his Liquigas cohort are too smart not to push the pace high enough to eliminate the Manxman early.

Fabian Cancellara is the fast man in the world on any stretch of flat road, and he’s got a good sprint on him. But he doesn’t have Sagan’s top end speed. If the two come to the line together, the Slovak wins every time.

Philippe Gilbert, current World Champion, shares Sagan’s love of punchy uphill racing, but like Cancellara, who both Sagan and Gilbert can drop on the Poggio, Gilbert won’t beat Sagan in a sprint. He’ll have to get away earlier…but won’t.

That leaves Matt Goss. Matt Goss is maybe the third fastest guy mentioned in this post. He’s a canny racer and a worthy contender, but he doesn’t have the team to manage the end of this race successfully.

Sagan will win this race because he can climb with anyone and sprint with the best, but also because he has a great team, who could, if Sagan falters or is over-marked, put Moreno Moser on the top step of the podium instead.

This week’s Group Ride dares you to disagree with me. If not Sagan, then who will win 2013 Milan – San Remo? Explain your reasoning. How will they win? Or why will Sagan lose?

Image: Fotoreporter Sirotti

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17 comments

  1. cormw

    Challenge accepted!

    Sagan will meet his match this weekend, much the same way that Spartucus met his match in the Paris-Roubiax in 2011. Sagan will be marked by the entire peloton during the race and his chances of successfully getting away with a small group will be nil. After the Cannondale team displayed their tactics in Strade Bianche, the field will be on full alert, so I cannot see Moser sneaking away either. The field is not going to let Cannondale make the race.

    I see another surprising winner this year, similar to last year with Gerrans.

  2. DanL

    Who’s been hiding out in Tenerife crunching out miles and spreadsheets instead of all this great racing? Oh yeah, that Sky classics team — so they’ll emerge and (freed of dragging along Cav) line up that same darn locomotive and EBH bursts off the front for that first big win….. ugh.

  3. wade

    Was your turn of phrase “swashbuckling style” meant to evoke Il Pirata? ‘Cause we need some excitement out there to counter the SKY machine (as much as I love it).


    1. Author
      Robot

      @Wade – Actually, rereading it, I think that’s lazy writing. I’ve fallen back on a cliche, haven’t I? In reality, Sagan is less a swashbuckler and more of a marauder. He oozes power but also handles his bike better than anyone on the road. He has this ability to pick the best line through a corner, and he manages traffic intuitively. Pantani, who I loved despite his failings, was a far different rider.

  4. gmknobl

    I like your reasoning for Sagan. He’s got talent if not something else. So, my 1-2 is Sagan then Cancellara if he can get away after the last hill. But that’s a little less likely since he’ll have to get away in about the last two Ks by himself. If it comes down to a field sprint with Cav there, then he’ll win but if Kittel is there too, he may take it. I don’t know if he’s riding the event or not.

  5. Chris

    The thing I love about the classics is that for every race one by the favourite, be it Cancellara, Boonen, Gilbert, there are two one by someone that wasn’t even in anyone’s top 10 list – Nuyens, Goss and Gerrans, Vansummeren. My prediction for Sunday: everyone is wrong!

  6. SusanJane

    Actually I see this as a closer race. I watch Paris-Nice and Tirreno-Adriatico very closely. The top riders are much closer in fitness this year. That includes Sagan. The steep hills hurt everyone. The descents no longer favor the super descenders. That doesn’t mean someone can’t still reach into the bag really deep and grab a spectacular win, but I really think there are no hands down favorites. Luck, tactics, brute skill are just as important as fitness to determining the winner this year. I can’t wait to see the race!

  7. scaredskinnydog

    Bo-Dog was gonna be my pick but since two people already have him I’m going with Chavanel. He’s on good form and has the skills to win in almost any situation.

  8. Jesus from Cancun

    Nobody has mentioned Greipel, so I will. I belive that Cav’ is faster on a head to head sprint, and I believe that Sagan could very well be the fastest man in a smaller leading group, sans Cav or Greipel.

    But IF Sagan has trouble with the distance or tactics, IF Cav doesn’t have it his way, it could very well be the Gorilla.

    Or, Chavanel, who seems to be in great form and could break things up the Cipressa and Poggio.

    Then, there is also Tom Boonen…

  9. Champs

    I might stop watching the races altogether if Sky sucks all the oxygen (and excitement) out of another race.

    Looking back, It was mixed opinion whether Cavendish could make it over the Poggio, but everyone seems to discount The Terminator’s limited experience in tests of endurance like Milan-Sanremo. If he’s not marked out, Sagan could very well peter out.

    Consequently, I have no favorite. If Boonen was going just a little better, I’d say this was a lock for Omertà Pharma. He, Chavanel, and Cavendish in almost any lead/chase configuration ought to be deadly.

  10. farmerjohnscousin

    Look for Sky to try to control the race in the lead in to the Poggio with an attack from ‘G’ Thomas somewhere after halfway up in an attempt to hold off the bunch all the way to the finish. Eddy Boss Hog to mark the chasers and try to take the sprint if ‘G’ is caught. Only flaw in the plan is one Slovakian who will probably be able to hold onto the ‘G’ attack and take him at the finish.

  11. Wsquared

    Early report: the weather is so bad they’re doing a bus transfer in the middle of the race to bypass snow on Torchino. Would seem to favor somebody with bad weather bike skills lik Gilbert.

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