Gilbert and Freire the favourites to piece together Classic "puzzle"
Fabian Cancellara (Leopard Trek) is pleased with his form after taking his first win of the season in the final stage of Tirreno-Adriatico, but he has admitted that a repeat of the late attack that saw him win Milan-San Remo in 2008 will be a tall order.
“It will be hard to do the same thing,” Cancellara told L’Équipe. “My rivals are forewarned by now. And in any case, that kind of attack only works once every ten years.”
The last man to win La Classicissima in similar fashion to Cancellara was Andrei Tchmil in 1999, and only Paolo Bettini (2003) and Filippo Pozzato (2006) have also succeeded in trumping the sprinters at the race in recent times.
For Cancellara, Milan-San Remo is as much a tactical battle as a race where the strongest man prevails, and he compared mapping out victory to piecing together a puzzle.
“Starting from the Cipressa, you need to be attentive to everything, observe all your rivals and take everything in,” he explained. “Whoever wins will be the one who has managed to put together the pieces of the jigsaw.”
While a whole host of riders will line up in Milan with aspirations of victory, Philippe Gilbert’s (Omega Pharma-Lotto) strong showing on Italian roads in recent weeks means that he will be tightly marked. Cancellara acknowledged the Belgian’s fine form, but warned that Oscar Freire (Rabobank) has once again
“Gilbert above all, he’s been by far the most impressive,” Cancellara said. “If the race finishes in a sprint, I’d see Freire [winning] rather than Cavendish. The Spaniard knows how to make himself be forgotten, a good method that has allowed him to win three times. So why not four…”