2005 Milan-San Remo Preview
Oscar Freire to start as favourite

Those of you who will watch Milan-San Remo on your television screens this coming Saturday afternoon may begin to understand why I became such a big fan of this fantastic race. To start it has a history going back almost 100 years. Champions of cycling such as Costante Girardengo, Fausto Coppi, Gino Bartali, Eddy Merckx to name but a few have suffered agony and ecstasy on the long road to the 'city of flowers'.

The scenery cannot be matched by any other one day race. It varies from an often snow lined route up the 532 metre high Passo del Turchino to the warmth of the Ligurian coast with its palm trees and picturesque towns. It is an unpredictable race due to the distance involved of 294 km making it the longest classic and the numerous hills encountered in the closing stages.
So who will be in with a chance this year. Following his three stage wins and overall victory in the Tirreno-Adriatico defending champion Oscar Freire Gomez will surely start as strong favourite for the 96th running of Milan-San Remo. Sanremo is the third event in the inaugural UCI ProTour and Freire will line up in Milan wearing the white and blue leader's jersey and not his World Champions colours. He will however not be without his challengers.

Also with three stage wins in the 'Corsa dei due Mari' is Italian hope Alessandro Petacchi. On paper Petacchi appears to have the better chance as he has eleven victories this year compared to Freire's five. However Petacchi could be seen going backwards recently as the road climbed whereas Freire looked strong.

Mario Cipollini has only an outside chance of repeating his win in 2002. Following the
Giro della provincia di Lucca where he out-sprinted Petacchi (although Petacchi had got himself blocked by a team-mate) he said "In the last few weeks I've been training hard for Milan-San Remo and I think my form is pretty good. I needed to see if I'm competitive with the other sprinters and I think I got the answer I was looking for." Cipollini though, like Petacchi, was also seen to have problems on the climbs. Also age is against Cipollini as he will be 38 years old just a few days after La Classicissima.

Four times winner Eric Zabel should have made it five in 2004 until he started to celebrate a fraction of a second too soon appears to be out of form and has not had a successful start to his season so far. The Italian press discounted him last year but it would be foolish to do the same again to a rider with so much experience of this route. 

The above only have a chance if the race comes down to a sprint on the Via Roma. Any number of others will be making an effort to escape at some point. A group of four or five will inevitably go away early only to be reeled in with about 30-40 km to go.
Oscar Freire wins stage four of Tirreno-Adriatico
Photo © Cor Vos

One statistic that may change is the fact that it has never been won by a non-European. Fred Rodriguez, Robbie McEwen and Stuart O'Grady will be aiming to re-write the record books.

For those of you new to Milan-San Remo the route consists of the following.

Riders will begin to gather on Milan's piazza Sant'Ambrogio from 0730 and roll out at 0915.
Official race start at 0930 on the Via Chiesa della Rossa.

Race follows course over fairly straight roads of the Lombardy Plain.
Roads become twisting and undulating as Passo del Turchino approaches.

Competitors tackle 24 km climb of Turchino - pass through tunnel at top - descend 12 km to Voltri and the Ligurian coast.

Race now falls into three distinct parts.

Voltri to Savona (30km) - couple of hills rising to about 70m with many twists and turns.

Savona to Allasio (50km) - flatter, straighter roads but with several narrow stretches through towns and villages as well as five tunnels where the road cuts through coastal headlands.

Allasio to Sanremo (50km) - the last and most famous section with the climbs of the Capo Mele, Capo Cervo, Capo Berta, Cipressa and Poggio.

Finish at around 1600 on the Via Roma (right).

Also to see - Primavera Rosa  - Coppa del Mondo Feminile - Womens race - starts in Varazze on the piazza San Domenico at 11.30 - arrives onto the Via Roma for the finish at 14.30 approx.
Start of Via Roma

Start of Via Roma Photo © P Griffiths