The late removal of the much-discussed Pompeiana climb from the first Monument of the season Milano-San Remo by race organizer RCS forces many teams to reshuffle their team selections for the Primavera.
The steep Pompeiana climb was planned to be included a first time late in the Italian race, featuring in between the Cipressa and the Poggio. But just three weeks ahead of the race, RCS decided to take out the climb due to the damage on the road surface caused by poor weather conditions this winter.
The removal of the Pompeiana climb turns the Primavera into a completely different race, and returns to being a race that suits the sprinters rather than the climbers. RCS added the loop to Pompeiana at only 21 kilometres from the finish to the route and took out the much longer Le Manie climb, wanting to keep the race length under 300 kilometres. Neither of those climbs will now feature in the 2014 edition of Milano-San Remo, making the course almost identical to that of 2007, when Oscar Freire won the sprint.
Back in 2012, the top favourite Mark Cavendish got dropped on the nearly five kilometres long Le Manie climb, and the Manxman never managed to come back to the unleashed peloton. Teammate Matteo Trentin had a great debut in the Primavera that year but he crashed in the final corner while leading the chase group just behind the winning break.
At the start of the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad on Saturday, Trentin explained that many riders were not well prepared for Milano-San Remo and said it was not a given that Cavendish will line up on March 23.
"For me it's better. The race completely changed and it's now back like in 2008. The climbers thought they had a chance but now it's for the sprinters, not for the climbers,” Trentin said. “Cavendish? I don't know if he'll start. You need a lot of kilometres. I did the Poggio without the 300 kilometres and it's nothing. It's the race distance that makes it a hard climb."
Hushovd reconsiders participation
One of the first riders to announce his participation to Milano - San Remo because of the route changes was German sprinter André Greipel from the Lotto-Belisol team. Thor Hushovd (BMC) wasn't planning to take part in La Primavera, but the 36-year-old will now reconsider his participation.
"My plan was not to do Milan-San Remo with the Pompeiana climb,” he said. Now I'll have to sit down and see what the team is going to look like. Obviously, with the changes, it's different for me. The race will be completely different without the climb. A lot of teams are going to change their riders for that race."
Hushovd regretted that many races are trying to make their race harder, seemingly trying to avoid bunch sprints. "It looks like all the race organisers just want more and more climbs in and make it harder and harder, and steeper and steeper, and then more and more it's the same riders who win the same races. So I think it's good that this race is like it was back in the day."
His teammate Greg Van Avermaet was less pleased about the removal of the Pompeiana. "For me it's not so good, but I did this course as a neo-professional in 2007 and I was in the first group. With 300 kilometres, it's still the strong riders who will be left in front at the end, but a little bit more climbing would have been better for me," he said.
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