Cyclingnews will have live coverage of Milan-San Remo from 8am GMT on Saturday, March 19.
Leigh Howard will lead the IAM Cycling team on his Milan-San Remo debut this Saturday. The 26-year-old spent four seasons with Orica-GreenEdge, moving across to the Swiss WorldTour team winning the Clasica de Almeria and posting six top-ten results in 17 race days.
The Australian recently reconned the final 60km of the 291km race, taking in the decisive Cipressa and Poggio climbs earlier this month and along with his teammates and sports director Mario Chiesa, will conduct a second reconnaissance on Thursday.
"The difficulty of the race lies as much in its length as anything, and in the nervousness of the peloton as we approach the last major difficulty of the day," said Martin Elmiger who will be team's road captan in his 11th start at La Primavera. "Positioning is essential, but everyone knows that, and wants to place his leader perfectly. Personally, I am feeling good, and I hope to be worthy of the event."
Supporting Howard will be 2009 runner-up Heinrich Haussler while Latvian road race champion Aleksejs Saramotins is the 'joker' in the pack for the team. The team's best result at the first monument of the season was 13th in 2013 with Haussler while Sylvan Chavanel was top-25 in 2014 and 2015.
IAM Cycling for Milan-San Remo: Martin Elmiger, Heinrich Haussler, Reto Hollenstein, Leigh Howard, Roger Kluge, Jarlinson Pantano, Vicente Reynes and Aleksejs Saramotins.
Leigh Howard will lead the IAM Cycling team this weekend at Milan-San Remo
FDJ impress in final day Tirreno-Adriatico time trial
French WorldTour team FDJ recorded another good team performance against the clock at Tirreno-Adriatico as it won the team prize in the final day time trial with Johan Le Bon finishing second, Alexandre Geniez sixth and Sébastien Reichenbach and Thibaut Pinot on the same time at 18th and 19th. Le Bon had occupied the hot seat for the better part of 90 minutes before Fabian Cancellara blasted the 10.1km course in a time that was 13 seconds quicker.
While the team missed the stage victory, FDJ celebrated its first stage team win in an individual time trial and large haul of WorldTour points with Reichenbach and Pinot finishing fourth and fifth on GC respectively. The result was the best yet in the career of Reichenbach at WorldTour level with the 26-year-old who has top-15 results at Paris - Nice, Tour de Pologne, Tour de Suisse and GC Critérium du Dauphiné on his palmares.
"We did a big time trial," said sports director Yvon Madiot. "Johan Le Bon is in his place. For me he should always be in the top 5 in time trials and it is especially interesting that he took pleasure all week working for Thibaut. Every day he was the first who took on the task, he sat in the wind and was praised daily by his leader. He finished the race in great shape. He understood that such work does not prevent you from having results."
Le Bon claimed a maiden WorldTour victory last year at the Eneco Tour having earlier in the season won the Boucles de la Mayenne prologue. A two-time U23 French national time trial champion, the Tirreno test against the clock was his second of the season having finished 15th at the Volta ao Algarve. Geniez, better known for his climbing capabilities, recorded his a personal best in an ITT was one rider Madiot mentioned in describing his joy of watching his riders improvement in the discipline.
"Alexandre finished 5 seconds behind Jojo [Le Bon], Sebastien and Thibaut are 14 seconds behind," says Madiot. "It validates our progress. Now all riders are confident in their material, in the work that their coaches ask them to do. They are happy and it pays off. When we made our quick tour to the rooms this morning, there was no ambiguity. Everyone was ready and happy to go to work.
"I note that only Nibali was a second faster today than our two leaders who were separated by tenths of a second but in the overall standings they are the two best of the bunch after remaining in contact with the classics rider throughout the week and in racing scenarios that were not favorable to them. In the category of feather weight, they won! What would have been the result if the mountain stage had not been canceled?".
FDJ will look to replicate its success at the next WorldTour stage race on the calendar, the Volta Ciclista a Catalunya.
Sébastien Reichenbach (FDJ) (Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
Vanmarcke the chosen man for LottoNL-Jumbo at Milan-San Remo
Belgian rider Sep Vanmarcke has been handed leadership duties for LottoNL-Jumbo for Saturday's Milan-San Remo. The 27-year-old has finished on the podium at the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix but will make his debut at the Italian monument in 2016.
"Sep is our front man. We think that Milano- Sanremo suits him and that's why he is participating in this race. He already proved to be in good shape in the last weeks. He showed that he's quite fast after such a long race as well," sports director Jan Boven said, adding that the team will have several options for the finale. "Sep Vanmarcke, Paul Martens and Enrico Battaglin should be able to play a role in the final of the race and it should be great if Moreno Hofland can do that, as well."
For Boven, the last climb of the race, the Poggio, will be vital to the team's aspirations and believes an experienced squad can look after Vanmarcke and ensure he is in the right position at the right time.
"Paul is in good shape and Enrico has been riding some finals already," Boven explained. "They can play a role on the Poggio. Even they are racing to make a good result. Besides that, Maarten Tjallingii is in the team. He did a fantastic job in the last two editions of Milano-Sanremo. With Tom Leezer and Jos van Emden, we have two more experienced riders who know the race and are able to support the front men until the final kilometres."
With no previous racing experience of Milan-San Remo, Vanmarcke explained that he has looked over the course and is confident of a top result.
"I did a recon, this week to see how the climbs and downhills are," he said. "I know what I can expect, now. I've had an intensive week in Paris-Nice as well, so I'm going to Italy in good shape. I except to be amongst the best riders at the Poggio. I want to have a good position there to go for a nice result."
LottoNL-Jumbo for Milan-San Remo: Tom Van Asbroeck, Enrico Battaglin, Jos van Emden, Moreno Hofland, Tom Leezer, Paul Martens, Maarten Tjallingii and Sep Vanmarcke.
Van Avermaet victory sees BMC move to top of WorldTour standings
With a first, second and third overall at the first three WorldTour races of the season, BMC have bumped Team Sky from the top of the team standings on the WorldTour rankings with Richie Porte remaining the top rider. Australia's position as top nation is unchanged following the conclusion of Tirreno-Adriatico.
Van Avermaet's overall victory at Tirreno-Adriatico saw the Belgian enter the individual charts in fourth place, much to the please of team general manager Jim Ochowicz.
"The UCI WorldTour rankings are important to us as they measure our performance against the other teams and riders in the WorldTour competition," Ochowicz said. "When you look at the first three UCI WorldTour races of the season; the Santos Tour Down Under, Paris-Nice and Tirreno-Adriatico, we've been on the podium at all three and have won multiple stages. It's a good signal to the team that we are on the right track for the 2016 season."
WorldTour standings, March 15
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team|
|1||Richie Porte (Aus) BMC Racing Team||159||pts|
|2||Sergio Henao (Col) Team Sky||115|
|3||Simon Gerrans (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge||112|
|4||Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing Team||106|
|5||Geraint Thomas (GBr) Team Sky||104|
|6||Peter Sagan (Svk) Tinkoff Team||89|
|7||Alberto Contador (Spa) Tinkoff Team||86|
|8||Bob Jungels (Lux) Etixx - Quick-Step||70|
|9||Jay McCarthy (Aus) Tinkoff Team||68|
|10||Ilnur Zakarin (Rus) Team Katusha||66|
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team|
|1||BMC Racing Team||272||pts|
|6||Etixx - Quick Step||116|
|9||Cannondale Pro Cycling||63|
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team|