La Primavera: Five firm favourites

Preview by Anthony Tan in Milan, Italy Traditionally the season-opener of the now-defunct World Cup...

Preview by Anthony Tan in Milan, Italy

Traditionally the season-opener of the now-defunct World Cup (for the men, at least), the 96th edition of Milan - San Remo still holds its place as the first of the five monuments in world cycling, but is now the third event on this year's ProTour calendar after Paris-Nice and Tirreno-Adriatico.

Also known as 'La Primavera' or 'La Classicissima', the race is held close to the hearts of the Italian people - because it marks the first weekend in Spring; because of its almost 100 year history; because over half the winners have been Italians (48 out of 95); and, of course, because the race is in Italy! However, the award for the winningest rider goes to none other than 'the Cannibal' - a.k.a. Eddy Merckx - the Belgian triumphing on the Via Roma no less than seven times (1966, '67, '69, '71-'72, '75-'76). Local rider Costante Girardengo came close with six wins, also done in the space of 10 years (1918-28), but like so many of Merckx's records, this one looks like staying for a while yet, regardless of what happens in 2005.

Milan-San Remo is also the longest of the modern-day Classics at almost 300 kilometres long; this year is no different, the 294 kilometre-long parcours following a very typical route. And unlike the two ProTour races that have preceded M-SR, adverse weather conditions are unlikely to affect La Classicissima, with a bella giornata on the cards: a minimum of 11°C and a max of 17°C, relative humidity of 58 percent, and a gentle breeze from the west.

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