Big names in question for Milan-San Remo

Broken rib for Bettini

After trying to train, and still finding the pain from the injuries sustained in the crash in stage four of Tirreno-Adriatico to be bothersome, World Champion Paolo Bettini headed to a clinic where he underwent an ultrasound and x-rays. The tests revealed a fracture of his 4th left rib and a lesion of his left pectoral muscle, bad news for the Olympic champion.

However, Bettini reiterated that he still intends to start the race, and will take the day kilometre by kilometre and decide what his role will be on the road. "I am not 100 percent," Paolo Bettini told the Gazet van Antwerpen, "but my condition is good enough that I can still play a role" in Saturday's Milano-San Remo. "Things would have looked better without that fall in Tirreno. My head isn't quite straight yet. Once you've fallen several times in a row, you start to have doubts."

The death of his brother, Sauro, shortly after the world championships last year has helped him to see matters differently. "The pain of a fall is nothing compared to death", he said.

The Italian is also thinking of one of his predecessors, Giuseppe Saronni. "In 1982, Giuseppe Saronni won San Remo in the rainbow jersey... And in 1982, Italy was also world champion in football. If I win Saturday, then history repeats itself."

One of the big favourites for the win is his team-mate, Tom Boonen, but Bettini denies that there are any problems between the two. "No," he said. "Every top team has its attacker and its sprinter. And I glad that such a great rider as Boonen is on my team and I don't have to compete against him."

Milram not expecting win

Team Milram is sending its two superstar sprinters to Milan-San Remo, but isn't confident that either of them can take the win. Erik Zabel is getting over a cold, and Alessandro Petacchi has struggled to find his top speed this season, according to Team Manager Gerry van Gerwen.

"Erik told me in a text message two days ago that he has a cough and sore throat and therefore dropped out" from Tirreno-Adriatico, van Gerwen told the press agency dpa. "I don't really have any great expectations for him, but you always have hopes for a rider like him."

"Alessandro, who didn't show anything at Tirreno-Adriatico, isn't the big favourite like last year," van Gerwen continued. "But one thing is good. He is two kilos lighter than last year. That's a good sign."

Ballan to give all for team-mates

By Gregor Brown

Cycling fans might recall a blue bolt of lightning on the Poggio in the 2006 Milan-San Remo finale; it was the figure of Alessandro Ballan making the decisive attack over the top of the Poggio, which Filippo Pozzato followed and then continued on to victory. Ballan faded to 8th place, but the move was just one of the many brilliant moments of Ballan's stellar 2006 season which included a win in Trofeo Laigueglia and a third in Paris-Roubaix.

This year, however, the rider from Veneto had a bad start to the season when he was involved in a crash during the GP Chiasso. Back and leg pains forced him to miss the Milano-Torino, and hampered his racing in the Tirreno-Adriatico.

"I am better after the crash," he noted to Cyclingnews on Thursday afternoon, 36 hours before the start of La Classicissima. "But I am not how I want to be for San Remo. Unfortunately I had to stop, without riding, for five days after that crash and I lost a little bit of my condition. So with respect to the others I am not 100%.

"Now I am able to ride. Today I did four hours. Yesterday [Wednesday], I rode a little less because I was recovering from Tirreno. But in the climbs I am feeling tired with respect to the others, and due to the rhythm of the race. ... Tomorrow, the day before San Remo, I will go easy; I will likely ride two hours."

Like most wise professionals, Ballan took time to view the race's finale. After racing the parcours in the Tour Méditerranéen he revisited the defining climbs of San Remo one more time. "I saw the Cipressa and Poggio during the Tour Méditerranéen, on the last stage of the race that finished in San Remo. Also, on the Monday after the race, before Trofeo Laigueglia, I went to ride the climbs."

Ballan will likely tailor his attacks on the race's final Capi (small climbs) and work for his team-mates in the sprint. The team packs two serious sprinters, Danilo Napolitano and Daniele Bennati. "I have to talk to the team to find out more but I believe that it will give preference to Bennati because he is going so well. Also, Danilo, who was going really well in Tirreno. So, we have two cards to play if the race if arrives in a sprint."

He concluded by listing his favourites. "I think Pozzato is going really well. Then Tom Boonen and [Stuart] O'Grady. Oscar Freire? I saw him pedalling very smooth in Tirreno. [Alessandro] Petacchi? According to me this year he is going really well on the climbs and I think he will have no problems on the Poggio and Cipressa; he is spending less energy and he should be able to make a great sprint."

The Lampre-Fondital team for Milano-San Remo will consist of Alessandro Ballan (Ita), Daniele Bennati (Ita), Danilo Napolitano (Ita), Fabio Baldato (Ita), Claudio Corioni (Ita), Daniele Righi (Ita), Gorazd Stangelj (Slo) and Patxi Vila (Spa).

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