99th Milan-San Remo - Saturday 22 March 2008

Race Preview

The Milan-San Remo, one of the five 'monuments' of the cycling season, is almost with us once again. Twenty five teams of eight riders will start from Milan's Castello Sforzesco on Saturday morning for a long day in the saddle. This year they have further to race than normal due to road closures in the region of Capo Noli. The diversion, caused by a landslide, takes the riders over the new climb of Le Manie. Le Manie is a narrow steep climb with a technical descent. The new hill should have no influence on the outcome at the end as it comes with around 100 km of the race remaining. The old finish on the via Roma, first used in 1949, will not see the arrival this year. Instead there is a new finish on the seafront - the Lungomare Italo Calvino. We brought you images of the new finish yesterday (here) and will endeavour to provide better images on race day.

Race history
It all started at 5.18 on the morning of 14 April 1907 when 33 men set out from Milan in the rain. They had 288 km and over 11 hours of racing ahead of them before they would reach the
"Città dei Fiori" San Remo. The eventual winner was Lucien Petit Breton who rode to victory on the Corso Cavallotti in Sanremo to great applause 35 seconds ahead of Gustave Garrigou and Giovani Gerbi. Only 14 would complete the arduous journey with the last, Luigi Rota, arriving over three and a half hours later. The distance covered gradually increased with the inclusion of hills such as the Poggio (1960) and the Cipressa (1982) but the climb of the Passo del Turchino has been there almost every year from the start.
Start of 2007 Milan-San Remo from Castello Sforzesco
Image © Magnus Gille

2008 Sanremo
Expect an early break of 5-6 to go away on the flat Lombardy Plain leading up to the Turchino Pass before they are slowly reeled in close to the climb of the Cipressa. From there on in the race usually comes to life with numerous attacks leading up to the final climb of the Poggio. More often than not these escapes are brought back and the finish fought out by the sprinters. The riders on Saturday will cover 298 km!

Who will win?
Look out for last years winner Oscar Freire (Rabobank) who has come to form at the right time following his two wins in Tirreno-Adriatico recently and must start as favourite. Thor Hushovd (Credit Agricole) who rode well in Paris-Nice to take the prologue and stage one will be out to stop him though. Hushovd may have history against him as the last time the winner of Sanremo rode the Paris-Nice as preparation was back in 1999 (Andrei Tchmil). Everyone since then has come to the race from Tirreno-Adriatico.
The omens look good for Alessandro Petacchi (Milram). Petacchi won stage four into Civitanova Marche at Tirreno-Adriatico. The last time he won the stage into Civitanova Marche (2005) he also won Milan-San Remo. Others with a good chance should it come down to a sprint are Tom Boonen (Quick Step) and Danilo Napolitano (Lampre). For a lone victor look no further than Philippe Gilbert (Française des Jeux). Gilbert rode a stunning final 49 km solo to take Omloop Het Volk at the beginning of the month. Look for something similar at the weekend.

The record number of victories goes to Eddy Merckx who won seven times between 1966 and 1976. Merckx is followed closely by Costante Girardengo who dominated from 1918 to 1928 achieving six. Next in line come Gino Bartali and Erik Zabel with four - Fausto Coppi and Roger De Vlaeminck three.
Brief route description - hills highlighted in bold
From Milan, Castello Sforzesco (0920 hours) then the via piazza Castello, via Minghetti, piazzale Cadorna, via Carducci, via De Amicis, via Molino delle Armi, Corso Italia, piazzale Porta Ludovica, via Teulé, via Castelbarco, via Bazzi, via Lampedusa, via Valla, piazza Agrippa, via Medeghino, piazzale Abbiategrasso, via dei Missaglia, via Boifava to the official start on the via della Chiesa Rossa (0945 hours).

The race will pass through Binasco, Pavia, Casteggio,
Voghera, Tortona, Novi Ligure, Rossiglione, Passo del Turchino (km 143), Voltri, Varazze, Le Manie (km 204), 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 the Lungomare Italo Calvino (1630-1700 hours).

Weather conditions - Cloudy conditions are expected for the whole day. In Milano at the start the temperature is expected to be 6°c. At the finish in Sanremo it will be warmer at around 12°c with a light easterly wind.

Television coverage - See the race on the following channels (Timings subject to change).
Rai Tre, 1450-1700 CET Live
Eurosport 2, 1400 1600 GMT Live
Eurosport 1600-1715 highlights

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