2012 Milan-San Remo winner Simon Gerrans will not start tomorrow's edition of the race due to illness. Gerrans was expected to lead Orica-GreenEdge at the race but has been suffering with allergies in recent weeks. According to the team Gerrans fell ill overnight and he will be replaced by Brett Lancaster.
“Simon came down sick overnight,” said Matt White. “The decision was taken today that he would not start. He’s not in any state to race any race let alone our longest and one of our most difficult races of the year in 24 hours.”
“Today’s news comes as a big disappointment for Simon and the team, but we need to look ahead. Other riders will now get the chance to step up in the absence of our team’s most reliable athlete.”
GreenEdge came into the race with Gerrans and Michael Matthews as their key riders. Simon Clarke will now take on further responsibility within the squad.
“Not too much will change in terms of our plans for tomorrow,” said White. “Michael will stay our option for the sprint but now Simon Clarke will be given more freedom in the final.”
“Brett adds a wealth of experience to the roster,” White continued. “He will be a very valuable asset for Michael in his pursuit of a big ride tomorrow.”
Briton aiming to build on fast start to the season in Ronde and her home tour
Having claimed a debut World Cup success at the Ronde van Drenthe last weekend, British champion Lizzie Armitstead has set her sights on at the Tour of Flanders in a fortnight’s time and the inaugural Women’s Tour, which kicks off in eastern England on 7 May. Beyond that, the 25-year-old Briton has two more principal goals: the first-ever edition of the La Course by Le Tour in Paris on 27 July and the Commonwealth Games road race title a week later in Glasgow.
“I’m building towards the Tour of Flanders at the moment. My form is currently pretty good and now it’s all about adding another five per cent before we get to Flanders in a couple of weeks’ time,” Armitstead told Cyclingnews.
“In terms of prestige it’s second only to the Olympics and the World Championships. It’s our biggest Classic race. For me, the short and steep that you get in Flanders are definitely the best. They are very much like the roads I train on when I’m back home in Yorkshire.”
The Boels-Dolmans rider has looked sharp from the start of the season. Second on a stage at the Tour of Qatar and then third in Het Nieuwsblad, she bagged her first win of the year at the Omloop van het Hageland in early March and backed that up with her World Cup victory six days later.
Although now focused on Flanders, she also has the first edition of the Women’s Tour in the back of her mind. “The organisers have put a lot of effort into making it a race that’s on a par with the men’s Tour of Britain – same hotels, same prize money, etc. I’m hoping the women’s peloton see it as the next big race,” she said.
“Personally, I’m hoping for a stage win. I’ve heard that the course isn’t going to be that challenging, so it might be difficult for me to have a massive impact if there aren’t any tough climbs, but I...
"I am feeling better as time goes by and also with each race I do," Sánchez said in a team press release.
"During Roma Maxima, I was there at the end and I expect to continue my improvement, step-by-step."
Sanchez signed for BMC after the Euskaltel-Euskadi WorldTour team folded at the end of last season. The 35-year-old joined the team a week after Alessandro Ballan was sacked from BMC due a two-year doping suspension. Sanchez recently completed a training camp where he honed his form ahead of Catalunya, which starts on Monday.
"It was a very positive experience at all levels in a professional environment: from food to masseurs, coaches, mechanics, directors and osteopaths. I also had the chance to meet more teammates and begin a friendly relationship."
Sanchez will be joined by American Tejay van Garderen who is returning to racing following a bout of illness. The 2013 Tour of California winner was forced to pull out of the first stage of Paris-Nice earlier this month.
"I may be lacking some race rhythm, but I was able to train well the past 10 days," van Garderen said. "My hope is to get stronger throughout the race, earn a top 10 result, and help my teammates if needed. I am also excited to do my first race with Sammy."
"This will be a hard race, but Samuel is ready and motivated and Tejay van Garderen has recovered well," said team DS Yvon Ledanois.
"We have a good team here and I have confidence they will help our leader make a good...
Tosatto joins teammate Breschel in the injured ranks
One of Tinkoff-Saxo's hope for the Classics, Matti Breschel, is still suffering from a horrific crash in Oman and therefore will not compete in Milan-San Remo. On Saturday, the team announced that Matteo Tosatto is also injured and will also have to sit out.
Tinkoff-Saxo Team Doctor Piet de Moer explained Tosatto's condition. "Matteo has a lot of pain in his cervical spine. This pain goes all the way to his left arm. On an MRI-scan, they found pressure from the discs on the nerves, which is the reason for the pain he's feeling."
"In other words, Matteo has suffered a herniated disc. He will see a specialist later today to decide the treatment. But I don't think it's realistic for him to do any races for at least a week," said de Moer.
Tosatto most recently finished Tirreno-Adriatico, where he supported teammate and overall winner, Alberto Contador.
Nikolay Trusov will replace Tosatto in tomorrow's Milan-San Remo.
The 40-year-old is enjoying something of an Indian summer to his career after returning from a short-lived retirement last season to take on a new role piloting Cavendish in the sprints.
The strong Omega Pharma-QuickStep lead-out train looks to have hit its stride at the right time - they piloted Cavendish to an emphatic victory on the penultimate stage of Tirreno-Adriatico on Monday - and Petacchi is confident that they have the firepower to repeat the feat this weekend.
"I'm at the race to support my teammates, Cavendish in particular," Petacchi told Gazzetta dello Sport. "We're a very strong team: Stybar, Kwiatkowski, Renshaw, Trentin and me. If Mark has three of us near him on the Poggio, he'll become unbeatable. Did you see the sprint in Sant'Elpidio? Even before the crash, people were losing the wheels. We're going really well."
Indeed, such was QuickStep's dominance at Porto Sant'Elipidio that Petacchi was able to help himself to second place behind Cavendish after leading him out for the win. Although he downplayed the prospect of contesting the sprint for himself on the Lungomare Italo Calvino on Sunday, the 2005 Milan-San Remo winner believes that he can step up to the plate if Cavendish is dropped in the finale.
"Mark is our leader and I'm convinced that he will be there. But if the team needs me, I'm ready. Tirreno gave me an important confirmation. I know how to take my responsibility and I've never betrayed [team orders]. I'm setting out as if I was aiming to win, but I'll do whatever the team asks of me,"...
A year on from the rain and snow of the 2013 edition of Milan-San Remo, the riders in this year's La Classicissima also face a long day in the rain with forecasts predicting only a slight chance dry roads for the final part of the 294km race.
Light rain and temperatures of nine degrees Celsius are forecast for the start in Milan, with a risk of thunderstorms at Genoa mid-way through the race. The thunderstorms should mark the tail end of the rain, with the sun expected to emerge for the final hour or racing.
The wind is always a factor in Milan-San Remo and forecasts suggest that the riders will face a headwind on the coast and on the final climb. This will make it hard for any breakaway attempts to stay away and so favour the sprinters.
The head of cycling at race organiser RCS Sport Mauro Vegni was hoping that this year's race would be held in dry, sunny conditions after battling through the rain and snow in 2013. He predicted the rain will mean the riders race on wet roads for six of the expected seven hours of racing.
"We were hoping that after all that we faced last year, with the rain and snow, we'd be paid back with some sun. Unfortunately that won't be the case," he told Cyclingnews.
"The forecast is for rain right from the start, with a good chance of things clearing up from four o'clock onwards. That means it could be dry for the finish but of the seven hours of racing, we're expecting six of hours or racing will be in the rain."
Vegni predicted that the rain will mean a more controlled race early on but with a traditional crescendo finale, attacks on the Capi climbs and then a thrilling finish.
"I think the rain will affect the race. I'm sure there will be an early break but I bet the leading teams won't let the move gain a lot of time. They will ride to ensure a more controlled race because there isn't the Manie this year...
The Spaniard first signed for the then Team Rabobank in 2009. In the Haarlem Court, he will argue that under Dutch collective-agreement law, he is entitled to a one-half month's salary for every year that he was with the team, since the team did not start dismissal actions against him. Since he was with Rabobank/Belkin for five years, he would be eligible for 2.5 years salary.
When a contract is not renewed, the athlete must be given a three-month notice, Garate's lawyer told the Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf. “When no new contract is signed, you can continue using the old contract.”
He has refused to disclose his reasons for not signing. “My reasons are private,” he explained. "If Belkin needs me, I am ready to come back. But at the moment I am not welcome with Belkin. It's a personal thing and has nothing to do with money. And no, it’s not to do with doping either."
The peloton gathered under rainy skies for the start of the 2014 Milan-San Remo on Sunday morning. The 9°C and rain may not have been optimal conditions for the 299km race, but they were significantly better than last year's freezing cold and heavy snow.
There were lots of smiles on the faces of the bundled-up riders as they prepared to take off from the Arco della Pace in Milan for the first major Classic of the season.
Gerald Ciolek (MTN-Qhubeka) proudly wore the number one dossard and dreamed of repeating his upset victory from 2013. Top stars and favourites including Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-QuickStep), Andre Greipel (Lotto Belisol) and Peter Sagan (Cannondale) were also amonst those signing in.