Change to course shifts balance to sprinters
Orica GreenEdge team boss Matt White is far from completing his line-up for Milan-San Remo but is keen to stress that the Australian WorldTour squad will have a number of options for the first Monument of the season.
Last week race organisers RCS Sport confirmed that the planned route had to be changed due to concerns over safety on the five-kilometre long Pompeiana. The pivotal climb was removed from the latter stages of the race, and by doing so sees a return to a race route that was almost entirely dominated by sprinters over a nearly 15-year stretch, with only the Poggio and Cipressa climbs remaining in the finale.
"The course really suited the likes of Simon Gerrans and was really more of Classics sort of course," White told Cyclingnews of the route with the Pompeiana.
"The course for this year had really no chance at all for the sprinters and now it makes it a sprinter's classics once again."
Gerrans will remain as the team leader for the race but White has yet to finalise the eight riders who will join the Tour Down Under winner in Milan later this month. Matthew Goss, who won the event a year prior to Gerrans, in 2011, has yet to hit top form but has shown signs of improvement after picking up his first win in almost a year at the Bay Crits in January. A win on the domestic circuit does not transform Goss into anything near a front runner for San Remo, but White will be carefully analysing Goss and the rest of his riders during Paris-Nice and Tirreno-Adriatico, with both races starting within the next few days.
"We've still not finalised our line-up for the race yet and we won't really do that until we've seen the form of the guys at Paris-Nice and Tirreno. Simon Gerrans will ride, that's for sure, but I want to see the form of the rest before we lock in the other eight guys."
Although White and his team have options for the race the Australian team boss admitted an element of sadness and frustration with how the race had been modified.
"I am a little bit disappointed with some of the changes though in the San Remo and the Giro time trial. Take Milan-San Remo, where Simon Gerrans had put a big effort in, but now it doesn't look like the same race. Then you have guys like Mark Cavendish and they didn't even have the race on their radar. From the sounds of it the race could have been fixed. It was just some road works that needed to be fixed. It comes down to money but it's a Monument. It's like taking the last 30 kilometres of cobbles out of Roubaix or the last three climbs out of Flanders."
With a change in the route, Goss' chances, should he be selected, have improved and White has been encouraged by the sprinter's start to the season.
"In Tour Down Under we gave our sprinters no opportunities because the race for us was all about the general classification. So Goss and Matthews were very much there for the team and they didn't even line up for any of the sprints."
"Goss hasn't raced for a month but I know that his preparations down in Monaco are going well and there are plenty of stages for him to show how he's going at Paris-Nice."
"Goss has never ridden Milan-San Remo on this route but looking through the team there aren't many guys who have ridden this version. Maybe Gerrans is the only one and maybe Hayman is the other."
"It opens it up to the likes of Greipel and Cavendish. Sagan can play whatever card he likes but for me Greipel is probably the favourite given the form he's had."
White been impressed with how his team have hit the ground running so far this season with nine wins already, they sit only behind Omega Pharma Quick Step in the win tally.
"We had a lot of pressure with being an Australian team at Down Under, Sun Tour and nationals. We had great wins but the season really kicks off now, being back in Europe. It's great having a WorldTour race in our own country but the guts of the season start now and we're looking for wins in Paris-Nice and Tirenno. It's been a pleasing start to the season though, that's for sure."
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