The 2018 edition of Milan-San Remo rolled out from the start in the shadows of the Castello Sforzesco under pouring rain, with the 174 riders wrapped up and hoping that the weather forecasts will prove accurate and that the sun will emerge before San Remo and the roads will be dry for the finale of the 294km race.
The only non-starter was Loic Chetout (Cofidis), leaving the French team with just six riders. With Nacer Bouhanni not selected due to bronchitis, Christophe Laporte is the Cofidis team leader.
Some riders signed on early and then quickly returned to the warmth of their team bus. Most emerged from their buses in the final minutes before the 9:50 rollout. That sparked chaos at the sign-on, with riders hiding under the television interview tent before climbing on stage.
Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data) was of few words as he prepared to ride with a cracked rib and little chance of victory, but ready to help his teammates.
For Marcel Kittel (Katusha-Alpecin) the Milan start was something new as he prepared for his debut at La Primavera.
"My first Milan-San Remo and in the rain, too. It's going to be a challenge for sure," Kittel said.
"The weather predictions say it will get better on the coast and so not stay like this all day. I'm looking forward to it. I'm relaxed. I've prepared as well as possible by speaking to lots of guys. Now I can only give my best and see what happens. It's a ride into the unknown for me. When we get to the Cipressa and the Poggio, you just need to have the legs, that's the most important thing in this race.”
Peter Sagan was one of the last riders to sign-on, with UCI President David Lappartient, vice president Renato di Rocco, and RCS Media Group owner Urbano Cairo stopping him for a photo opportunity. Sagan is the favourite and under pressure to win Milan-San Remo after finishing second to Michal Kwiatkowski in 2017.
Sagan was as enigmatic as ever when asked about his chances and tactics for the day.
"Let's hope the weather improves once we go over the Turchino and get to Genoa. I just hope to make it to the finish in one piece, so that we can enjoy a nice dinner tonight," he joked.
"We’ll see what happens. The race lasts seven hours and a lot can happen. It all depends if I’ve got the legs."
Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb) was back in central Milan for the first time since winning the Giro d’Italia. He will try to help Michael Matthews by using his power to control the attacks on the Cipressa as he did in 2017.
"It's cool to be back in Milan, it's just a pity about the weather, it's very different to last year's Giro," he said. "I’ve had some back luck in the last two weeks and so I’ll be supporting the team."
The riders gathered next to the fountain in front of the Castello. With a neutralised section of 7.6km and a race distance of 294km, they face 301.6km in the saddle before the finish in Via Roma.
Cyclingnews has has full live coverage of the race. Follow it here.
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