With all eyes on Tirreno-Adriatico winner Michal Kwiatkowski (Team Sky) ahead of his Milan-San Remo defence, and on another top contender Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe), betting types could well be kicking themselves on Sunday if they hadn't put a wager on Alexander Kristoff.
The European champion made history in Milan-San Remo in 2014 as the first Norwegian winner. Kristoff also came a close second to John Degenkolb the following year after a somewhat premature lead-out. The 30-year-old has a passion for the race, and aiming to be a "major player" on Saturday.
"I've always really liked the Milano-Sanremo and this appeal only increased once I'd won it," Kristoff said in a team press release.
The UAE Team Emirates sprinter has showed himself to be back to his best during his trio of races in the Middle East, where he racked up two wins including one at the end of a tough stage of the Abu Dhabi Tour.
Although he was one of many riders hit by illness during Paris-Nice - his best finish was a fifth place on the stage to Sisteron won by Jerome Cousin - Kristoff says he's recovered.
"I've set up the first part of 2018 so that I can be in top form for the Classicissima and for the Belgian races; unfortunately, I've been set back by a few health issues. At the beginning of the Paris Nice I had some days where I didn't feel very well, but I think I'm better now and I've been working hard to concentrate on the Italian event.
"The objective is to figure as a major player. I have the right team to put me in the position to express myself to the fullest."
At his side will be Briton Ben Swift, himself a runner-up in Milan-San Remo in 2016 and a third place finisher in 2014, Kristoff's compatriot Sven Erik Bystrøm, experienced Classics man Marco Marcato and fellow Italians Diego Ulissi, Simone Consonni and Oliviero Troia.
UAE Team Emirates for Milan-San Remo: Alexander Kristoff, Ben Swift, Sven Erik Bystrøm, Marco Marcato, Diego Ulissi, Simone Consonni, Oliviero Troia.
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