Mark Renshaw and Bernard Eisel try to bring Mark Cavendish back to the front after the climb.
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Cavendish chasing second win of the season
HTC-Highroad will head to Milan-San Remo with two options for the win – 2009 winner Mark Cavendish and in-form Australian Matt Goss.
Cavendish's sole win of the 2011 season was on stage 6 of the Tour of Oman but HTC-Highroad sports director Valerio Piva says he feels confident in the Manxman's steady build-up of form.
"Mark has already won this race and he'll be our leader," he said. "He's motivated, physically he's in pretty much the same condition as when he won it in 2009 and we're sure he'll give it 100 per cent."
When Cavendish won the race in 2009, it was at his first attempt. The 2011 edition of the Milan-San Remo will be another opportunity for the speedster to face off against former teammate and arch-rival Andre Greipel (Omega Pharma-Lotto) who was overlooked for the race in the past in favour of Cavendish.
Goss meanwhile has been hard to stop so far this year, with wins coming at the Jayco Bay Criterium series, the Cancer Council Classic and stage 1 of the Santos Tour Down Under in Australia, as well as stage 2 at the Tour of Oman before last week's victory at the third stage of the Paris-Nice.
"Of course if it comes down to a bunch sprint in San Remo and Mark is there, then we'll be working all out for him," Piva qualified.
"The important thing is to finish Tirreno-Adriatico and Paris-Nice in top condition and that's definitely the case for both Mark and Matt," Piva explained. "When we get to the start-line of Milan-San Remo, we're in a completely different race. Mark is confident and he knows what he wants."
HTC-Highroad has done two reconnaissance rides over the Milan-San Remo course and is ready for what Piva calls one of "the most difficult races of the season."
"The terrain is easy and you can be the most in-form rider in the bunch, but it's still a very stressful race. Crashes and other problems can happen at any point. It's very fast and everybody wants to be on the front all the time."
"So luck plays a big part, and without a strong team to support you at the crucial moments, it's impossible to win."
The HTC-Highroad line-up for Milan-San Remo: Michael Albasini; Lars Bak; Mark Cavendish; Bernhard Eisel; Matt Goss; Bert Grabsch; Mark Renshaw; and Peter Velits.