The new inland, hillier Milan-San Remo route and a late decision to reduce teams to just six riders is expected to make the Italian Classic a more selective and aggressive race, reducing the chances of the sprinters who so often dominate in the Via Roma finish.
Angered and embarrassed by the late route change, race director Mauro Vegni has hinted the La Classicissima may never return to the Ligurian coast.
Organiser RCS Sport has also added a further twist to the race, and angered the WorldTour teams, by securing permission from the UCI to reduce team sizes to just six riders in order to create space for late wild cards for Bardiani-CSF and Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec.
Vegni moved quickly to reveal the new 299km race route after 13 mayors from the coastal province of Savona refused to allow the race to pass along the Ligurian coast due to fears of traffic and crowd problems on one of the busiest weekends of the Italian summer. The area has also seen COVID-19 clusters and major traffic problems, and the mayors preferred to limit the risks rather than enjoy the global visibility the race offers.
"It's as if they banded together against Milan-San Remo ands that was sorry to see," Vegni said of the mayors who refused the race, to La Gazzetta dello Sport.
"If that's how they feel about the history and importance of Milan-San Remo, then there was no better solution but to find a different route. We were ready to accept more risks and allow parked cars on both sides of the road but some of the towns asked us to provide stewards every 50 metres. That was impossible."
The new route will cut west across northern Italy, via Piemonte and the Langhe vineyards before climbing into the valleys of the low Alps. The four-kilometre gradual Colle di Nava climb gives the first view of the Mediterranean coast with 65km left to race.
Cutting out the long section along the Ligurian coast means Milan-San Remo will not climb the Passo del Turchino near Genoa or the famous coastal Capi climbs. The race route returns to the coast with 36km to go, quickly hitting the Cipressa climb and then the Poggio before the descent to San Remo and the finish on the central Via Roma.
The new 299km race route (plus a section of neutralised riding from the centre of Milan) includes 2400 metres of climbing, some 500 metres more than in the past, with the Colle di Nava – which is similar to the Turchino in profile – offering a perfect launchpad for a series of attacks.
"The finale is perhaps harder now. The Turchino was 120km from the finish, while the Colle di Nava is only 65km away from San Remo. The descent to the coast is fast and safe. It'll create an interesting finale that could be more selective," Vegni said.
If the new route produces an exciting and still finely balanced race between the attackers and sprinters, it could be retained for the future, as revenge against the rebellious mayors of Savona.
"Nothing has been decided but if some of the mayors in Liguria have celebrated the decision to stop the race passing on their roads, we haven't been crying our eyes out. I'm not offended by the refusal in Liguria but we’ll see what happens," Vegni said defiantly.
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