The 2014 Milan-San Remo may be set for one final change with landslides near Sportorno causing concern for RCS Sport who could be forced to alter the route to safer roads. This would be a minor change in comparison to the inclusion and then removal of the Pompeiana climb which has tipped the balance back toward sprinters and away grand tour specialists. 2009 winner Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) is a starter while Alejandro Valverde will no longer take part in La Primavera and preliminary-favourite. Vincenzo Nibali (Astana), has given up hopes for victory.
Sportorno comes 95km from the finish and the change to the route is unlikely to have a bearing on the overall result. The race can pass the town on the Via Aurelia now but with rain expected on both Saturday and Sunday, an alternative course is being looked at. The alternative option is to leave Aurelia before Spotorno, climb above the town and return seaside near Noli.
The gradient of the new climb is only 3% although a final decision is set to be made on Thursday as teams are still deciding on their final rosters for the first Monument of 2014.
"You've got to know the course before you select [your teams]," Team Sky's general manager David Brailsford said.”It's one of the joys of this sport that every year the same race has a different [route], that’s a great side of it, but what would be nice is that the course details come out early enough to make strategies.
"It'd be fair for teams to be given a lot more notice so we can sit down and prepare properly. You can get the riders in the right shape for the race rather than to do what we all do, which is choose riders for the races and wait for the course to come out to see if we got it right or not. If we had it earlier then the riders could prepare...
Team Sky rider's case relates to anomalies in his biological passport
According to UK Anti-Doping chief executive Andy Parkinson the case of Jonathan Tiernan-Locke, who was found to have anomalies in his biological passport, which charts an athlete’s blood and urine values to highlight any irregularities that could indicate the use of banned performance-enhancing substances or blood doping, will be heard before the end of the Month. Tiernan-Locke received a letter from the UCI which called into question his blood values dating back to September 2012 prior to signing with Team Sky. He has not ridden for the WorldTour team this year and is no longer listed on the Team Sky rider website.
Parkinson, speaking at the Tackling Doping in Sport conference at Wembley on Wednesday is reported by The Telegraph said when asked: "Months, a month or so. Clearly the issue with that case is that it was in the public domain earlier than was ideal, and earlier than we put out a notice of charge.
"The process has seemed longer than it has been because we only received the notification after Christmas. Biological passport cases are difficult; difficult to...
Western Australia to enjoy week of cycling festivities
With the National Road Series (NRS) all set for the Tour de Perth to open proceedings again in 2014 from March 26, Western Australia will also be treated to Velofest, a celebration of cycling next week.
The four day NRS event returns with a few amendments from last year to open up the possibilities of the general classification to more than just time trialists after Joe Cooper (Huon Genesys) romped to victory after his impressive race against the clock on Rottnest Island last year.
The Tour de Perth begins with an twilight criterium in Fremantle, followed by a decisive hilltop road race at Kalamunda. Stage three will see riders tackle a 19km individual time trial on Rottnest Island although due to new rulings, no time trial bikes are allowed in the 2014 NRS. The stage race will conclude with a road race around Perry Lakes.
There are 155 riders down as starters spread across 19 teams which, including three Asian teams, Pro-Continental outfit Drapac Pro Cycling and six Western Australia based teams.
As the driving force behind the event, Craig Smith-Gander told Cyclingnews that as the opening race of the NRS, there is a level of pressure that comes with opening the NRS season.
"I don't think it’s something we explicitly feel [pressure on being the first NRS event of the year] but you do have to set the standard and because we are remote, on the other side of the country, it is in some ways kind of easy to be forgotten and dismissed. To put an event on over here, you have to run it to a high standard as you don’t want to give people excuses not to come," Smith-Gander said.
"If you’re putting on a good race, people come to it, if you have good prize money and you look after people in terms of transport, transfers accommodation and that stuff, then...
Omega Pharma leader talks ahead of first Classic of 2014
After his impressive win on the penultimate stage of Tirreno-Adriatico, Mark Cavendish’s attention has quickly shifted to this weekend’s Milan-San Remo.
Cavendish has a genuine love for the race and won it at his first attempt in 2009. After a gentler approach to this season Cavendish has built up momentum just when he needs it most – his Tirreno win came after a stage win in Algarve – and he will line up for Milan-San Remo as one of the pre-race favourites.
A change of race route, with a more sprinter friendly parcours, will certainly help him after the Pompeiana climb was removed due to safety concerns but with André Greipel, Peter Sagan and defending champion Gerard Ciolek all set the start the competition will be fiercer than ever. He will have the full backing of his team, however, after Tom Boonen pulled out of the race for personal reasons.
Regardless of the course modifications, Milan-San Remo remains one of the most iconic races in the sport and in this video Mark Cavendish talks about his thoughts on Milan San, describing it as the "easiest race to finish but hardest race to win" and how the near-300km race builds towards an epic crescendo on the streets of San Remo.
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"Last year's experience was an important lesson for me - it showed me how unpredictable and hard this Classic can be. For this reason, there is a long list of contenders. I'll be satisfied at the end of the race if I've done whatever is possible to do my best and win," Sagan told Tuttobiciweb.
Sagan started last year’s race as joint favourite with Fabian Cancellara, but was beaten to the line by surprise victor Gerald Ciolek.
He will again be one of the favourites, but late route changes mean he will have many more challengers for the title. Sprinters such as Mark Cavendish, André Greipel and John Degenkolb will be lining up against the Slovakian. He will also face classics men such as Fabian Cancellara and Philippe Gilbert.
This season, Sagan has taken two victories, one at the Tour of Oman and recently at Tirreno-Adriatico, where he ended the week with as the winner of the points competition. Despite the raft of opponents that he will face at San Remo, Sagan is adamant that his form is where it needs to be and that the course changes haven’t hurt him.
"I have done what I had to do in order to improve my condition, and the results I achieved make me confident," said Sagan. "Milan-San Remo has always been one of the most important goals of my season. I plan to succeed at this race and ready myself for the next - the upcoming Belgium Classics.
“The route without Pompeiana climb makes the race different, but I'm not worried. This change effects everyone. To win Milan-San Remo, you need to first to be at your top condition and try to own the...
The British champion will have at his disposal his trusted lead-out men Alessandro Petacchi, Mark Renshaw and Matteo Trentin, plus Milan-San Remo debutantes Iljo Keisse and Jan Bakelants.
Additionally, Zdenek Stybar and Strade Bianchi winner Michal Kwiatkowski will be in the team should the anticipated bunch sprint not emerge.
Cavendish, the winner of the 2009 edition of the Milan-San Remo, is not certain that this year's race will end in a sprint, but with the removal of the difficult Pompeiana climb from the finale, chances are better.
"There are so many variables at Milan-San Remo, and that is what makes it beautiful," Cavendish said. "It's not an easy race just because it ends in a sprint. Anyone on the start line can win, and there is no other Classic or race like that. It's a long race, the easiest to finish, but the hardest to win. I am just really happy to have the opportunity to try."
The team will be directed by Davide Bramati, with the squad's sports director Rolf Aldag also in the car. Bramati pointed to the length of the race as a deciding factor. "As a team we must stay focused and try not to do any mistakes, as every moment there is an opportunity to lose the race.
"We have a strong team that can be a factor no matter how Milan-San Remo plays out. As always anything can happen, and we are ready with a team that is motivated and has already had some races together this season."
Spartacus looking forward to taking on his younger rivals at the Classics
Fabian Cancellara had a difficult winter due to illness during the Christmas holidays and a brush with a car in early January. But as the monumental Classics loom large on the horizon, with Milan-San Remo the first on Sunday, he is convinced he has the form to again be a contender.
Cancellara celebrated his 33rd birthday on the last day of Tirreno-Adriatico and Spartacus has officially become a veteran in the peloton after 14 years as a professional. He failed to win the final time trial stage at Tirreno-Adriatico and rarely put his nose out front of the peloton, preferring to use the racing and some team work to carefully polish his fitness.
However his rivals should not be fooled. He has already raced for 24 days so far this season, doing the Dubai Tour, the Tour of Qatar and the Tour of Oman as one massive block of racing to make up for the winter training he missed.
"I started the season differently but I think it was good. When I look back I'm really happy about how things went and how things are going," he explained when he sat down with journalists to talk about Milan-San Remo and the cobbled Classics.
"I'm ready to challenge now. My time just being in the peloton and helping is over. From Sunday, the next five races are the ones that count. They're the ones on my list and the ones I want to do well in. There's some doubts about my condition but I have to be good on one day, not three or four days together. I've progressed at Tirreno-Adriatico."
Studying his rivals
Cancellara has been working intensely on his own form but also spent time studying his rivals at Tirreno-Adriatico. He has sensed that the mild European winter and more intense training methods has meant that a lot of riders are on excellent...
Milan-San Remo is one of most delicately balanced races on the calendar, and there is arguably no other Classic that has such a long list of potential victors. Ostensibly, the largely flat route and fast finale heavily favours the sprinters, but after seven hours of racing, the famous capi on the approach to San Remo swell from mere ripples to severe obstacles that can be the graveyard of so many sprinters’ ambitions and the Classics stars will have their say, too, during the 298km race.
Past winners include Gerald Ciolek, Simon Gerrans, Mark Cavendish, and Fabian Cancellara, with all four set to line up for the 2014 edition.
What happened in 2014?
Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) won the 105th Milan-San Remo taking the sprint ahead of Fabian Cancellara (Trek Factory Racing) and Ben Swift (Team Sky). He easily pulled away in the closing meters after a perfect leadout from his teammate Luca Paolini.
What happened last year?
Gerald Ciolek (MTN-Qhubeka) won a shortened version of Milan-San Remo, as snow forced organisers to cut the first two climbs. The German sprinter took the close win ahead of Peter Sagan (Cannondale) and Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Leopard) in a thrilling sprint finish.
Fabian Cancellara says: “It’s a special race with a story behind it. It’s like a bottle of champagne, you shake it , you shake it more and then you open it. It’s...