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Heinrich Haussler, Mark Cavendish and Thor Hushovd on the 2009 Milan-San Remo podium
Uncertain form, calls for rain make Saturday a gamble
Thor Hushovd is hoping for rain to compensate his uncertain state of form, and is eyeing Milan-San Remo with a mix of doubts and ambitions after failing to win the last stage of Tirreno-Adriatico on Tuesday.
"It was hard the first few days," the Norwegian told Cyclingnews about the ‘race of the two seas'. "But I was going better by the end. I'm feeling much better than in the past few weeks, but I'm still not sure how my form is really."
It was a very different start of the season for the Cervélo rider who stormed to victory at the Tour of California and the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad in February last year.
This time around, he was not able to take part in the Etoile de Bessèges and he was forced to pull out of the Volta ao Algarve during stage 4 of the Portuguese event. "Because of a stomach upset in January, I was sick for five days, then I had a very bad flu at the end of January and I was off for nine days," Hushovd recalled. "I lost two important weeks of training."
However, he blamed his tactics and not his condition for the missed opportunity in the final stage of Tirreno-Adriatico when his Cervélo team led him out without success. "They did a very good job, but I went too early," he said.
Without a solid results so far this season, the man who came third in San Remo last year doesn't appear anywhere in the Italian forecasts for Milan-San Remo on Saturday. According to the bookmakers (SNAI), Tom Boonen is the hot favourite quoted at 9 while Fabian Cancellara, Oscar Freire, Alessandro Petacchi, Edvald Boasson Hagen, Daniele Bennati, Filippo Pozzato and defending champion Mark Cavendish are at 12.
In Thursday's pagelle (predictions) of La Gazzetta dello Sport, Boonen is noted 9 (out of 10), Boasson Hagen 8.5, Petacchi, Pozzato and Bennati 8, Freire 7.5, Philippe Gilbert and Cancellara 7, Stefano Garzelli 6.5 and Cavendish 5, but Hushovd isn't even mentioned.
"At San Remo, I can be really good or really bad," Hushovd warned. He'll be the sole leader of Cervélo as Heinrich Haussler who accompanied him on the podium last year in second is sidelined with a knee injury.
"We have to accept that we have a weaker team this year," commented the green jersey winner of the 2009 Tour de France. "Hopefully everything will be OK for the Belgian classics. Paris-Roubaix remains my biggest goal of the Spring season. Milan-San Remo will just be a 'bingo'. Freire is the favourite I think. The weather conditions will play a major role as well. I heard it's going to rain."
Italian weather forecast calls for clouds over the region of Liguria on Saturday afternoon with a high possibility of showers. This could turn into the advantage of Hushovd who has always performed better in these conditions.