Team Barloworld will be showing full sprinting power at the 99th Milano-Sanremo this Saturday, the first big one-day classic of the 2008 season. Saturday's team includes Robert Hunter, Enrico Gasparotto and Baden Cooke, who will be using their good form to counter the moves of the climbers before the race finish in Sanremo close to the French border.
"Milano-Sanremo is a fascinating race and can be very unpredictable, especially with the new finish on the Italo Calvino which adds an extra 500 meters and two corners. That extra distance and corners could end up deciding the race. We have got three sprinters who all have the potential to win and so we have structured our race tactics around giving each of them the opportunity to do so," said team manager Claudio Corti.
Robert Hunter will be going into this race just after his second Cape Argus Pick ‘n Pay Cycle Tour record victory. "I am looking forward to our first one-day classic of the season. I am determined to do well again this year," said the South African, who placed tenth on the Via Roma last season.
Enrico Gasparotto and Baden Cooke come to Milano after the recent Volta ao Santarem in Portugal and at the Tirreno-Adriatico in Italy. The team has studied every detail of the new Milano-Sanremo finish. "Gasparotto saw a video of the new finish of the race and we'll also make sure Hunter sees the video," Corti said on Thursday. "Cooke even went to see the finish in person a few days before Tirreno-Adriatico."
Gasparotto, who finished second overall in Tirreno, is especially motivated to do well in the race as La Classicissima happens to take place on his 26th birthday. "I have worked hard over the past few weeks and I am really motivated and ready for the big day," he said.
"Sanremo is decided in a flash, nobody can guess what move will decide the race and even the weather can play a decisive role. We've got three leaders who are all potential winners and so we've already decided our race tactics so that each one gets a chance," commented directeur sportif Alberto Volpi.
"The finale of Milano-Sanremo always includes three clear phases. The first is the section between the Cipressa and the Poggio, the climb of the Poggio is the second and the finish is the third."
Volpi continued by explaining Barloworld's tactics in detail. "We've given carte blanche to Baden Cooke for the Cipressa. He's experienced and fast but also climbs well, so is ideal for an attack on the Cipressa. If the race is not decided on the climb, Gasparotto will get his chance on the Poggio. He showed his ability at Tirreno-Adriatico and could do it again on Saturday. If the attacks on the Poggio are caught it will be Hunter's turn. He is the fastest sprinter at Team Barloworld, as he proved by winning a stage in last year's Tour de France," he said.
The teams #1 climber, Columbian Mauricio Soler will also ride Milano-Sanremo. Soler is still recovering after his knee injury at the start of the season and wants to do well, even if the event does not really suit his style of racing.
"Soler hasn't got the fitness to be a contender at Milano-Sanremo, but he's not afraid of the distance and if possible he'll try and show his climbing skills on the Poggio. Of course, his biggest objective will be to do as well as possible without taking any risks," Volpi added.
The Colombian will leave Italy straight after the finish to head to Spain, where he will lead the squad in the Vuelta Castilla y Léon.