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The 2012 Milan-San Remo podium of Fabian Cancellara, Simon Gerrans and Vincenzo Nibali
Former winner Goss misses selection
Gerrans won the 2012 edition of the race, ahead of Fabian Cancellara and Vincenzo Nibali, and will be the team leader. While Matthews will provide them with a suitable alternative if it comes to a bunch sprint. The Australian outfit believe that they have all eventualities covered.
"If a scenario does come about that big moves go on the Poggio, we've got Simon Gerrans for that and Michael showed that he's in very good condition at Paris-Nice to handle the sprint, if that's what the scenario involves," team directeur sportif Matt White told Cyclingnews.
Matthews has never ridden Milan-San Remo and will be making his debut on Sunday. He was on good form at Paris-Nice last week, sticking with the climbers on some of the trickier finishes. The 23-year-old was forced to quit after the penultimate stage due to saddle sores.
Gerrans also took an early flight home from Paris-Nice. The former San Remo winner was suffering with his allergies and took a tactical decision to abandon the race. White believes that the two riders are close to their best ahead of the year's first monument. "They're both pretty close to being at 100%," he says. "Simon had some allergy issues at Paris-Nice and Michael had a pretty big saddle sore, so we thought one extra day recovery would do it the world of good for Sunday.
"I think that they are going to be very competitive. I don't think it’s going to do us any favours going back to the old Milan-San Remo course. I would have liked le Manie or the Pompeiana to be included, but that's life and we've got to deal with that."
One notable omission from the Orica-GreenEdge roster for Sunday is 2011 winner Matthew Goss. He was also racing in France, and took a second place on stage 3 but struggled later in the race to stay with the front-runners and also took early leave. This seems to have been the clincher in him not making the team.
"Gossy's moving quite well, but I think those two guys are climbing a lot better than Gossy at the moment," said White. "At the end of the day it is more than likely that it is a sprint, but it is a 300km race. Condition really does matter on a race like Milan-San Remo and Gossy is the first to admit that he's moving quite fast at the moment, but his climbing is not quite where it needs to be at this time of the year."
When Goss moved to Orica-GreenEdge in 2012 he came with a lot of potential, after securing 10 victories the previous season, including San Remo. Since becoming the team's lead sprinter he has struggled to match that and has taken only five victories in just over two seasons of racing. White says that Goss' omission from the team is not an indication that he is moving down the team's sprinting pecking order.
"Gossy has had a lot of close calls over the last few years and that’s frustrating for him. I don't know how many second places he's had, but it must be close to 20. You turn half of those into victories and it makes a big difference. He's going fast at the moment. Our sprinters are all quite different and they've all got their own opportunities throughout the season."
Last year's Milan-San Remo suffered from almost apocalyptic weather, with snow forcing the organisers to cut 46km from the route. The 2014 course has already taken a hammering due to landslides and may have to be altered again. There is some good news. Some rain is predicted at the start of the day, but the riders could have a dry finish on Sunday.
However, White says that this could still have an impact on the race. "It's not going to be as feral as it was last year, but a wet San Remo is a dangerous San Remo. It's a very nervous race," he explained. "The rain slows the race down and it becomes a lot more nervous and position becomes more important."
The Orica-GreenEdge team for Milan-San Remo: Daryl Impey, Jens Keukeleire, Luke Durbridge, Mathew Hayman, Michael Matthews, Simon Clarke, Simon Gerrans and Svein Tuft.