Filippo Pozzato (Lampre-Merida) has said that rivals Peter Sagan (Cannondale) and Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack Leopard) are the favourites for Sunday's Milan-San Remo, but believes that Mark Cavendish will come out on top should the 300km epic be decided by a bunch sprint.
"It's so difficult to forecast the protagonists of this race, the group of the possible winners is very large," the 2006 winner said. "I could say that Sagan and Cancellara are the favourites, but pay attention to Cavendish: if there will be a sprint in San Remo, he'll be the number one."
Pozzato heads into La Primavera off the back of his runner-up placing at Roma Maxima, and a win earlier in the year at Trofeo Laigueglia. Most recently, the 31-year-old was forced to abandon Tirreno-Adriatico on the problematic sixth stage, as a precaution given he had gone into the event with a cold and the weather had been inclement.
"My fitness is good," Pozzato explained. "In this early part of the season I could train well, but only on Sunday evening I'll be able to tell if I did everything in the proper way in order to get to the target. If I compare the situation to 12 months ago, when I underwent surgery for a broken collarbone, the approach to Milano-San Remo of this year is much better."
As for Sunday's other contenders, Pozzato does not believe that the race is really one for compatriot Moreno Moser (Cannondale) but says an attack from Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) "could change the course of the race." He also suggests that the biggest hurdle for pre-race favourite Sagan, is the distance.
"Sagan is very fast, but despite this he'll try to eliminate pure sprinters such Cavendish," Pozzato said. "The hope is that after the limit of 300 km he could be less competitive: last year he suffered with the very long distances, but I'm aware he's a champion and he had improved for sure his endurance qualities."
With wet weather forecast for Sunday, Pozzato explained that this 104th edition of the race could take on a new dimension.
"It could change so much. First of all, the Cipressa downhill will become slippery and, as consequence, selective. Then, all the race will be more demanding. It would be also important to pay attention to the wind: on the Cipressa, if there will be strong wind, few riders will try to attack."
Pozzato said it would be very special to take a second victory.
"It's something special, it's my childhood dream that I could make true. My feeling with the race is very intense, and I have never happened to pedal so many times on Classicissima course as this year. Milano-Sanremo is for me the same the ‘Holy Week' is for the Belgians."