Wednesday, 16 March 2011

La classica di Primavera

Milan-San Remo (MSR) is one of my favourites. It is a true sign of spring, and normally it is the first time all the spring favourites are in the peloton. Before MSR we've had the Tour Down Under, the first Belgian classics of the year, we have had the Tirreno-Adratico and Paris-Nice. This Monument in cycling is actually the longest one-day race of the entire season, at 298 kilometres, and is also referred to as the sprinters classic.

Cav overtaking Haussler with the smallest margin in 2009

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The race was first held in 1907. Much the same as in France and le tour, a newspaper was behind it. The lead editor of the newspaper La Gazzetta Dello Sport visited San Remo and spent some time in a café, talking to locals. Apparently, the area was known for a car race but the interest had dropped significantly. The people who organised the car race used to send people out on bikes to check the route before the cars, to report on status and accessibility. This gave the guys the idea to start a bike race. Lucien Petit-Breton won the very first edition of the race, while later that year, he won the tour de France. Many distinguished riders have won this beautiful race, Merckx seven times(!), Coppi, Bartali, De Vlaeminck, Kelly and Fignon to mention a few.
In the early years some thought that the big Passo del Turchino was placed too far from the finish to make an impact on the outcome. Therefore, the organisers introduced the Poggio in 1960, with the Cipressa being introduced as late as 1982.

René Vietto abandons on the Turchino in 1947, getting alcohol and sugar...

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The longest race took place in 1910, making the winner finishing in 12 hrs 24 minutes in a snowstorm, while Freire used some 7 hours last year. This of course depends heavily on the weather, and the forecast for this weekend indicates much rain, making the riders more likely to finish in 7 hours than 6:30.

What to expect
The race is very long and this is what wear the riders out. The race takes place early in the season and riders tend to forget that it is a whole other game when a race exceeds 200 km.
Normally a breakaway takes off quite early, but there are many teams who want a piece of that cake so they will do what they can to get it back, hopefully before the final climbs.
There is not that many climbs these days in the race. However, the last two climbs normally does it, those who are strong enough there can attack and make it to the finish line in San Remo. The last two climbs are called the Cipressa and the Poggio, the last one translates to "little hill". The Cipressa comes with 20 kilometres to go. With 278 km in the legs, that will hurt. The riders' pace will now be furious and teams will not be present with many riders at this crucial time of the race, they will vanish back of the peloton, or what's left of it. 
The pace will continue to be frantic as the riders are getting close to the oh-so-decisive Poggio. Being only a few kilometres from the finish, this is where the Italian favourites will try to escape along with a rider like Gilbert. The sprinters will have made it to the front before the climb in hope to be there by the end. After a fast and dangerous descent the final kilometres are flat, giving hope to the riders with power in the legs, but the sprinters will continuously try to get the best position while preserving some energy for the final.

Who will be victorious and win this great Classic? I don't know about you, but I have cleared my schedule on Saturday. I am ready to find out.


  1. Great post! I'm all about Haussler :)

  2. Hi Janne; Haussler in shape is one of the favs, no doubt! Will be something I really look forward to, seeing JV pick who will be the main captain. Probably all three of them will be given carte blanche? Garmin-Cervelo have a luxury problem methinks...

  3. a bit nervous actually for G-C...afraid they'll blow it cuz there is no stand out captain. But it gives the race an extra edge, so i guess it's a good thing :)