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Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Nissan) wins the 2012 Strade Bianche
Wildcards Team Type 1-Sanofi, Project 1t4i and Colombia-Coldeportes ready for La Primavera
RadioShack-Nissan heads into Saturday's Milan-San Remo fresh off of a successful Tirreno-Adriatico where Fabian Cancellara and Daniele Bennati finished 1-2 in the final time trial, while the team logged plenty of kilometres at the head of the peloton in support of Chris Horner, who ultimately finished second overall.
Cancellara and Bennati will provide two strong options at Milan-San Remo for the Luxembourg-based ProTour squad, with the Swiss powerhouse already showing good form this season, highlighted by a solo victory at Strade Bianche two weeks in advance of Milan-San Remo.
Cancellara has one Milan-San Remo victory in his palmares, when he soloed away in the final kilometre to win in 2008. Last year the 31-year-old Swiss came tantalizingly close to adding another victory, with a second-place finish to Matt Goss in a sprint from an elite selection.
While the sprinters have enjoyed success in recent editions of Milan-San Remo, the race can prove to be rather unpredictable and if anyone can seize the initiative in a moment of indecision by his rivals it's Cancellara.
"I'll have a few days rest now and then Milan-San Remo on Saturday," said Cancellara. "I feel calm about the race. It's a race where no one can predict what's going to happen. I've won before in 2008 but I think that was a surprise and now everyone watches me so it isn't so easy."
Cancellara turns 32 one day after Milan-San Remo, and adding a second title to his palmares would be quite an early birthday gift.
Bennati, too, has shown good form of late as he provided the bait for Cancellara's rivals at Strade Bianche via a breakaway in the race's endgame, ultimately finishing 11th. Bennati has two top-10 Milan-San Remo finishes in his palmares and could play his cards in the finale if all eyes are on teammate Cancellara.
RadioShack-Nissan for Milan-San Remo: Daniele Bennati (Ita), Fabian Cancellara (Swi), Tony Gallopin (Fra), Markel Irizar (Spa), Yaroslav Popovych (Ukr), Gregory Rast (Swi), Hayden Roulston (NZl), Robert Wagner (Ger)
Lampre-ISD, one of two Italian ProTeams, will field a team rich in experience with 2005 Milan-San Remo champion Alessandro Petacchi as well as Damiano Cunego in its ranks. Petacchi withdrew from Tirreno-Adriatico due to illness, but looks to be recovered for Saturday's Milan-San Remo while Cunego has been steadily building form and has shown solid results at Paris-Nice and earlier this season at the GP di Lugano.
"The team should be competitive and ready for all the different race solutions," said Lampre-ISD manager Giuseppe Saronni. "We're all happy that Petacchi is working in an intense way after the troubles occurred during Tirreno-Adriatico. during the race, he'll need to use his experience more than in the past, but his presence will be important for all the team. Also Cunego's participation will be important, he'll really have the chance to perform a good race."
Another option for Lampre-ISD may be Slovenia's Grega Bole, who has a strong finishing kick and could win a sprint from a breakaway group from which the pure sprinters are absent.
Lampre-ISD for Milan-San Remo: Grega Bole (Slo), Matteo Bono (Ita), Davide Cimolai (Ita), Damiano Cunego (Ita), Danilo Hondo (Ger), Alessandro Petacchi (Ita), Diego Ulissi (Ita), Davide Viganò (Ita)
The French AG2R-La Mondiale team hasn't had a strong record at Milan-San Remo, but Rinaldo Nocentini has shown good form with a fourth place overall finish at Tirreno-Adriatoci and could put his fitness to good use on the capi along the Ligurian coast in a breakaway. Lloyd Mondory has been the team's top finisher at Milan-San Remo in recent additions and has a good turn of finishing speed.
AG2R La Mondiale for Milan-San Remo: Manuel Belletti (Ita), Maxime Bouet (Fra), Kristof Goddaert (Bel), Sébastien Hinault (Fra), Lloyd Mondory (Fra), Matteo Montaguti (Ita), Rinaldo Nocentini (Ita), Christophe Riblon (Fra)
Three of the seven wild card teams from the Professional Continental ranks have finalised their rosters and each team, Team Type 1-Sanofi, Project 1t41 and Colombia-Coldeportes, are making their Milan-San Remo debuts.
The US-based Team Type1-Sanofi squad is starting their first WorldTour race of the season and morale is high.
""We're excited and grateful to be racing in the first of many WorldTour events of this season, especially because we will be in Italy," said general manager Vassili Davidenko. "We ride Italian bicycles, we use Italian tires and we have an Italian service course, Italian staff and Italian riders, and so in a way it feels a bit like being at home.
"The Milano-San Remo squad is very, very strong. Colli was on the podium last weekend in Holland, and has a top-5 finish in him for Saturday, and the rest of the team has the experience and training to be active all seven hours of the race."
Team Type 1-Sanofi for Milan-San Remo: Daniele Colli (Ita), Remi Cusin (Fra), Julien El Fares (Fra), Jure Kocjan (Slo), Vegard Stake Laengen (Nor), Georg Preidler (Aut), Kiel Reijnen (USA), Martijn Verschoor (Ned)
The Netherlands-based Project 1t4i team will be led by Germans John Degenkolb and Simon Geschke. The 22-year-old Degenkolb won six races last season in his one year at HTC-Highroad and the young sprinter could be a factor in the Milan-San Remo endgame if he can go the distance. Cheng Ji will make history as the first Chinese rider to contest La Primavera.
Project 1t4i for Milan-San Remo: Roy Curvers (Ned), Koen de Kort (Ned), John Degenkolb (Ger), Johannes Fröhlinger (Ger), Simon Geschke (Ger), Cheng Ji (Chn), Roger Kluge (Ger), Tom Veelers (Ned)
The Colombia-Coldeportes team has been aggressive in its European campaign thus far in 2012 and look for team members to make the early break or make their presence felt on the climbs along the Ligurian coast finale.
Colombia-Coldeportes for Milan-San Remo: Darwin Atapuma (Col), Fabio Duarte (Col), Juan Pablo Forero (Col), Luis Felipe Laverde (Col), Frank Osorio (Col), Victor Hugo Peña (Col), Carlos Quintero (Col), Juan Pablo Suarez (Col)