Fabian Cancellara (Saxo Bank) did not ride last year's Milan-San Remo due to illness and a difficult winter, but he will be at the start in Milan on Saturday and many expect him to try another late attack, just as he did when he won La Primavera in 2008.
The world time trial champion won the Tour of Oman in February but kept a low profile at Tirreno-Adriatico, finishing 43 minutes behind overall winner Stefano Garzelli. But he has been quietly building his form for the Spring Classics.
"Last year was a dark spring for me but now the sun has come out," he told Gazzetta dello Sport.
"I've learnt a lot from what happened last year, especially as a person. I've matured a lot and that's very important. A rider's career is short and afterwards you've got to face the rest of your life.
"My form's not bad. I didn’t go too deep at Tirreno-Adriatico and now I've also got the experience and the right mental strength. I'm confident of what I can do."
Cancellara knows that the possible bad weather could play a huge factor in Milan-San Remo. He's also been studying his rivals.
"If it rains, it'll make a really hard race because from the Turchino onwards, we'll be on the brakes and then constantly accelerating again," he said.
"I've noticed that Boonen and Pozzato seem to be a little bit better than everyone else. The Manie climb will be the crucial point for Tom. If he gets over it okay, then he can be really dangerous. Pippo won't have McEwen with him and so the Katusha team will ride an aggressive race, just as he likes it. Of course, there are a lot of riders going well and who could win San Remo: Flecha, Boasson Hagen, Bennati, and even Scarponi, Garzelli and Petacchi aren't going bad. Oscar Freire struggled at Tirreno but Saturday he could be up there too."
No rainbow, no Shiv
Missing out on the world road race title in Switzerland last year has made Cancellara hungry for victory this Spring. He also hasn't given up on targeting the hour record.
"I've thought about that day a lot. If I hadn't been so strong that day, I'm sure I would have won alone," Cancellara said of the road race in Mendrisio.
"Instead I over did it. During my last training ride I saw two rainbows and told myself it was a sign of destiny. I won the time trial. Then the Spaniards got in the way and rode to lose.
"I've got the determination to go for it (the hour record) but I won’t be trying this year. While we're talking about the track, I have to say that I don’t understand the decision to get rid of the individual pursuit from the Olympic programme. I'd planned to ride in London 2012."
Cancellara is also critical of the decision to make his Specialized Shiv time trial bike illegal this year.
"It's crazy. The rules in cycling aren't always clear and they often go against the future of the sport," he said.
"Do you remember the ONCE team? They had avant-garde bikes. When people look at the pro bikes, they should go crazy with the desire to have one the same. Anyway, I'd win, even if they give me a steel bike."
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