Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) is the bookmakers’ favourite to win Milan-San Remo, and those in the know - the directeur sportifs who will be in the team cars on Saturday - agree that this year’s La Classicissima is Sagan’s to lose.
Cyclingnews spoke to six of the leading directeur sport ifs, and three predicted that Sagan would win. The other three picked their own team leader or another rider, but all struggled to see how Sagan can be beaten.
Sagan will have Patxi Vila in the Bora-Hansgrohe team car on Saturday, with the former Spanish rider also one of the German team’s coaches. He is confident that Sagan can live up to all the hype and expectation, but he's concerned about the strength of rivals' teams.
"If all the big names are together in a select group without any teammates, then I think Peter is the favourite," Vila told Cyclingnews.
"Our problem is if some teams make it a really hard race and then have several riders in the finale and over the Poggio; then they could try to work against us. Of course we’re ready for that, but it’s always harder to win when you’re out numbered."
Vila also warned of the big-name riders focusing on each other and someone escaping from their grasp in the finale.
"Kwiatkowski is a real danger if the sprinters let him go clear. He showed that at Strade Bianche," Vila suggested, picking the Pole as an outsider.
Quick-Step's Davide Bramati knows that his team will be the strongest in the Milan-San Remo peloton, with Tom Boonen, Matteo Trentin, Niki Terpstra, Julian Alaphilippe and Philippe Gilbert all their to help Fernando Gaviria if the race comes down to a sprint. Yet he still tipped Sagan to win, even if it was perhaps partially out of superstition.
"I hope Gaviria can win, but I have to say that Sagan is the favourite," Bramati conceded, confirming he will call the race tactics from the Quick-Step Floors team car, while Wilfried Peeters drives the car.
"The way Sagan rode and won at Tirreno-Adriatico showed he is on great form. He was incredible. We’ll try to take him on, but it’s going to be difficult."
Orica-Scott directeur sportif Matt White will support Caleb Ewan as the young Australian makes his debut at Milan-San Remo. Orica-Scott can also count on Magnus Cort Nielsen.
Ewan was forced to quit Tirreno-Adriatico during stage 2 after hurting his shoulder in a crash, and it was a serious blow to his chances at Milan-San Remo. The 22-year-old will now hope to use the race as experience for the future, with Cort likely given equal support and a shot at a place in the top 10.
"It’s pretty clear that Peter Sagan is going to hard to beat because he can win in so many ways. He can climb with the best, is one of world's best descenders and is super fast in a sprint," white told Cyclingnews.
"We beat him in a sprint at the Tour de France in Revel last year, but that as because we had three riders to gang up on him. I think Sagan will try to anticipate the moves, and I’m sure he’ll go with an attack on the Poggio. It should be a great race."
Piva picks Colbrelli, Sciandri van Avermaet, Scinto believes in Pozzato
BMC duo Valerio Piva and Max Sciandri opted to bet against Sagan. Sciandri picked his own rider, Greg van Avermaet, while Piva opted for Sonny Colbrelli.
"I’m going to say Sonny Colbrelli because was up there last year and he’s got the speed and the endurance to win Milan-San Remo,” Piva told Cyclingnews. "He’s perhaps not as well known as the big-name contenders, but he’s a tough nut. I’d put a five Euro on him."
Sciandri was more loyal to BMC’s hopes.
"I’m going to pick Greg van Avermaet," Sciandri said. "He’s not the fastest in a sprint, but I saw his form at Tirreno-Adriatico and he really wants to win. He could win from a small group after a hard race or even make a late solo attack in the final kilometre. Last year he tried a similar move but looked back when with Boasson Hagen instead of going for it."
Wilier Triestina directeur sportif Luca Scinto placed all his chips on his own rider. Picking Filippo Pozzato was a choice made from the heart rather than Pozzato’s true chances, but Scinto believes Pippo can repeat his win of 2006.
"I’m going to say Pozzato even though he’s my own rider. He said in an interview that he performs best when nobody hassles him. Well, I haven’t been on his back for the last two months, so he should be flying…," Scinto said with his typical Tuscan sarcasm.
"I know that Pippo isn’t the youngest rider in the peloton, and he also isn’t the fastest, but I think he can win if he gets away alone or goes away in a small group. He’s up for and believes in his chances, and so so do I."