Etixx-Quick Step will line up for Milan-San Remo on Sunday behind sprinter Mark Cavendish in a bid to add a second Monument to his palmares as the race returns to the Via Roma for the first time since 2007. Cavendish will be supported by Strade Bianche winner Zdenek Stybar and world champion Michal Kwiatkowski in the 293km race, and although manager Rolf Aldag admits his team are not the favorites for the win, they have the depth to respond to several different scenarios.
"As every year Milano-Sanremo is the first great one day race of the season," said Aldag. "It’s a race with a great history, one of the five Monuments in cycling. A team who values tradition like we do, it’s always motivating for a race like this even if this time we are not the biggest favorite."
Cavendish dropped out of the penultimate stage of Tirreno-Adriatico after being unable to hold the pace of rival Tinkoff-Saxo on the only climb of the stage. The team said he had been suffering from a stomach bug but should be recovered by this weekend.
"Our strength is that we have so many riders at a high level. We cannot hide that we have talent on our team and that we can be protagonists in each race situation, from 'I Capi' until the finish in Via Roma. We have guys like Stybar that can fire up the race, Kwiatkowski, who showed all his talent at Paris Nice, and Mark Cavendish, that from our group is the only one who has already won 'La Primavera'. But Milano-Sanremo is an unpredictable race. That’s what makes it special. At the start at least 100 riders dream about a victory in Via Roma."
Like most of the teams, Etixx-Quick Step are keeping an eye on the weather, which forecasters predict will be rainy but without the snow that plagued riders in 2013. Any amount of precipitation will make the descent from the Poggio, which comes in the final 6km of the race, unpredictable.
"The weather conditions can drastically change the race," Aldag said. "The objective in these days before the race is to recover as much as we can from the hard race we had in Paris-Nice and from a few days of bad weather at Tirreno-Adriatico. Especially Mark Cavendish, who was not 100 percent going into Tirreno because of a stomach virus. He will benefit from these days for a good recovery. The team is ready, and we look forward to next Sunday."
Etixx - Quick-Step for Milan-San Remo: Mark Cavendish, Zdenek Stybar, Michal Kwiatkowski, Michal Golas, Mark Renshaw, Fabio Sabatini, Stijn Vandenbergh, Julien Vermote.