Hushovd emerges as a dark horse
A straw poll amongst directeur sportifs has picked Peter Sagan (Cannondale Pro Cycling Team) as the big favourite to win Milan-San Remo, with Thor Hushovd (BMC Racing Team) as a dark horse who could emerge in the expected rain and cold.
Cyclingnews spoke to several directeur sportifs after their pre-race meeting in Milan on Saturday afternoon. Just like their riders, the men who will be in the team cars looked to put pressure on Sagan and his Cannondale team to control the race, in the hope the Slovakian will be isolated and tired by the time the race is decided on Poggio and in the streets of San Remo.
The directeur sportifs have studied the weather, the race route and the form of the pre-race favourites, with many predicting that the expected cold and rain will mean the winner of Milan-San Remo will emerge from a small group of riders and not decided by a mass sprint.
Despite having the previous two winners in his team, Australia's Neil Stephens (Orica-GreenEdge) picked Peter Sagan, perhaps trying to take the pressure off his own riders.
"I'll say Sagan will win from a small group, with [Mark] Cavendish winning the bunch sprint ahead of Gossy (Matt Goss)," he told Cyclingnews.
Valerio Piva (Katusha) also tipped Sagan. "I think there will be as few as three riders in the front group and Sagan will win it," he said.
Argos-Shimano team manager Iwan Spekenbrink also picked Sagan. "He'll win, but I think it could be from of 30 riders. People have perhaps overlooked us, but John Degenkolb and Simon Geschke are both going well," he warned.
Charly Wegelius (Garmin-Sharp) did not pick Sagan, naming Thor Hushovd as his favourite after seeing the Norwegian in action at Tirreno-Adriatico. "If the weather is as bad as people are predicting, it's going to be crazy and perhaps like 1991 (when Claudio Chiappucci won alone after being in a break for 140km)," Wegelius told Cyclingnews.
"I think Hushovd will win it. He can handle an kind of weather and is going well."
Marcel Gayant (FDJ) also predicted Hushovd. "He'll win from a group of about five riders. After 300km, you need these (slapping his legs) and he's got them," he said.
Cannondale team manager Roberto Amadio confirmed Sagan as protected team leader, with Moreno Moser likely to follow any attacks on the Cipressa and sprinter Elia Viviani selected for the team in case there is a bunch sprint. However he called on the other teams to share the work of controlling the race.
"Sagan is our team leader and is in great shape. A lot of people are saying we're the favourites but I don’t think we're the only team that wants to win," he said.
"Were ready to accept our responsibilities but we also know we can't ride for 300km. I expect other teams to do their bit such as Omega Pharma-Quick Step and BMC."