The sun was out and the first signs of spring were visible in northern Italy as teams travelled to Milan on Friday, but many riders and their directeurs sportifs were scrutinizing weather forecasts regularly, to understand if rain will play a factor in Saturday’s Milan-San Remo.
Memories of the terrible snow and cold of 2013 are still fresh in many people’s mind. Then snow fell on the Lombardy plains, with riders frozen to the bone before it was decided to neutralise the race, travel over the Turchino by bus and start a reduced race along the Ligurian coast to San Remo. Some riders never recovered feelings in their fingers and Vincenzo Nibali described it as “the day I suffered the most in my life” to Friday’s La Gazzetta dello Sport.
Northern Italy was hit by heavy rain on Thursday, with weather warnings issued by local authorities along the Ligurian coast. Fortunately it seems the rain came early, creating a window of better weather for Saturday afternoon.
Long-range forecasts had indicated rain all day for Saturday’s 291km race, with teams preparing bikes, clothing and feeding to help riders race in the rain for seven hours. However Milan-San Remo is not known as La Primavera just because it often falls near the spring equinox. The long ride from Milan to San Remo also reflects the switch from the winter weather of Lombardy to the warmer emerging spring on the Ligurian coast.
On Saturday rain is expected in Milan for the 9:45 start and is likely on the 150km ride to the Turchino and the descent towards Genoa. However the temperatures will be mild, even at the 532m high summit of the Turchino. Conditions are likely to improve as the kilometres tick by on the coast road. Rain showers could be a threat but spring is likely to have sprung by late afternoon when the riders hit the coastal capi climbs, the Cipressa, and the Poggio. There is a good chance of the sun breaking through the clouds and temperatures of 12 degrees Celsius for the finish on Via Roma.
The wind is often a subtle but important factor in shaping the race. However, south-westerly winds of just 15kph are forecast, perhaps helping the sprinters control the race even with teams of just seven riders this year.
A south westerly-wind will be a cross-headwind along the coast, making it harder for the early break and attack on the Cipressa to stay away on the exposed road after the key climb.
That same wind will also slow any attacks on the exposed early sections of the Poggio but will not affect the second part of the final climb, which is protected by the greenhouses and walls. Attacks in the final kilometre of the Poggio are still likely with the descent and final 2.5km to the finish protected from the wind.
Whoever emerges as the winner of the 109th edition of Milan-San Remo will have to be ready for both wet and dry conditions.
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