2006 Milan-San Remo - Alessandro Petacchi and Tom Boonen prepare for battle on the via Roma

With Paris-Nice and Tirreno-Adriatico out of the way it is time to look forward to Milan-San Remo, the first of the spring classics. La Classicissima, "the most classic one" as it is known in Italy will be run over the traditional course for the final time. At 294 km and with over seven hours in the saddle, San Remo is the longest one-day race on the calendar. It runs from the Catholic University in the heart of Milan to the "City of Flowers", San Remo, on the Ligurian coast taking in the 532m high climb of the Passo del Turchino and the coastal hills, or capi, along the way.

Last years race was won by the Italian rider Alessandro Petacchi with a fantastic sprint finish on the via Roma. Should Petacchi win again he will have the honour of becoming the 50th Italian winner since Luigi Ganna first won in 1909. Petacchi said "If everything goes right again I know I can win Milano Sanremo for a second time". An Italian winning two years running has not been achieved for some time the last being Loretto Petrucci in 1952-53. Petacchi will be assisted this year by four-time winner Erik Zabel who has joined him in the new Milram team and his experience will be invaluable.
Although Zabel's role is to guide Petacchi to victory the German rider cannot be ruled out for the win.


2005 San Remo finish

Image © Dave Becowich
The Belgian Tom Boonen has other plans and is seen as Petacchi's most dangerous rival. Boonen could only manage 8th place last year and has this race high on his list of priorities.
Boonen was out on the course earlier this week testing the final kilometres where he encountered a headwind. The World Road Champion said "For me it can remain like that on Saturday as it would block the race and prevent the attacks on the Cipressa and Poggio".

Weather conditions are expected to be dry with sun in the morning. In the afternoon on the Ligurian coast their will be more cloud with winds increasing in strength from a North-Easterly direction.

Paolo Bettini, winner in 2003, crashed out of Tirreno-Adriatico while wearing the leaders jersey and has been suffering with back and knee pain since. He will however start on Saturday.
Hoping to improve on third place in 2005 is the Norwegian Thor Hushovd (Credit Agricole) who has beaten Petacchi recently. Oscar Freire (Rabobank) is coming back to form and look to Max Van Heeswijk (Discovery Channel) to surprise everyone.

Gilberto Simoni (Saunier Duval-Prodir) and two time Giro d'Italia winner starts his very first Milan-San Remo. Despite being a professional rider for thirteen years the Italian has surprisingly only ever seen the race on television. Simoni said "I still
have a few years of my career left and I could not finish without having competed in one Sanremo". The race will also see Damiano Cunego (Lampre-Fondital) make his debut.

So who will be the victor? Past winners have been asked for their predictions and have chosen the following.

Rik Van Looy (Winner 1958) - 1. Boonen  2. Petacchi  3. Freire
Emiels Daems (1962) - 1. Zabel  2. Bettini  3. Boonen
Eddy Merckx (1966,67,69,71,72,75,76) - 1. Boonen  2. Petacchi  3. McEwan
Roger De Vlaeminck (1973,78,79) - 1. Boonen  2. Petacchi  3. Bettini
Fons De Wolf (1981) - 1. Boonen  2. Petacchi  3. Hushovd

La Gazzetta dello Sport awards "Stars" to the riders they feel most likely to win and has Petacchi and Boonen joint favourite with a maximum of 5 stars. The rest as follows

5 Stars -  Petacchi, Boonen
4 Stars - Zabel, Freire, Bettini, Hushovd
3 Stars - Valverde, Garzelli, Rebellin, Bertagnolli, Astarloa, Thomas Dekker, Pozzato
2 Stars - Vinokourov, Flecha, Cancellara, Paolini, Cunego, Allan Davis, Jaksche, Ballan
1 Star  -  Hoste, Guidi, Eisel

It appears that the likely outcome is a similar pattern to the race as last year with an early break of 4-5 riders being caught at the Capo Berta and hopefully a few fireworks on the Cipressa and Poggio. It is doubtful that the winner will come from a break and it will all come down to a sprint finish.

Brief route description

From
Milan, piazza Sant'Ambrogio (0915 hours) to the official start on the via della Chiesa Rossa (0930 hours) the race will pass through Binasco, Pavia, Casteggio, Voghera, Tortona, Novi Ligure, Rossiglione, Passo del Turchino (km 143), Voltri, Varazze, Finale Ligure, Albenga, Allasio, Capo Mele (km 240), Capo Cervo (km 247), Capo Berta (km 254), Cipressa (km 272), Poggio (km 288), Sanremo, finish on via Roma (1600 hours approximately).



Participants

There will be 25 teams, each allowed 8 riders. Main contenders include Petacchi (winner in 2005), Zabel (first in 4 editions: 1997 1998, 2000 and 2001), Boonen, Bettini (winner in 2003), Freire (winner in 2004), Pozzato, Nuyens, Astarloa, Valverde, Sella, Grillo, Bertagnolli, Casper, Caucchioli, Hushovd, McEwen, Hoste, Eisel, Rebellin, Moletta, Cunego, Napolitano, Ballan, Figueras, Jaksche, Vicioso, Vinokourov, Nibali, Garzelli, Pellizotti, Guidi, Merckx, Flecha, Boogerd, Th. Dekker, Riccò, Simoni, Pagliarini, Cancellara, Aggiano, Contrini, Bernucci, Wesemann, Nocentini, Degano, Zaballa, Sylvain Chavanel, Van Heeswijk, Sanchez, Wegmann, Fischer.



Television coverage

The race will be transmitted live to 30 countries including almost all of Europe, the United States and even Japan. See the race on the following channels (
Timings subject to change).
Rai Tre, 1450-1700 Live
Eurosport, 1515-1700 Live with highlights on Eurosport 2 1800-1830
ZDF, 1500-1700 Live
Nederland 2 14.50-1705 Live
OLN, highlights 19th March 1700-1800 ET and
20th March 1500-1600 ET 


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