Lampre Fondital, Daniele Bennati and friends; Acqua & Sapone, Garzelli ready to roar; Milram a tale of two sprinters Alessandro Petacchi , Erik Zabel interviews, T Mobile, Kim Kirchen leads the Magenta charge; Astana, Matthias Kessler and Sergueï Ivanov……
U2 can win, Bono wins stage 6 of the 2 seas Photo c. Fotoreporter Sirotti
Fabio Baldato, Alessandro Ballan, Daniele Bennati, Claudio Corioni, Danilo Napolitano, Daniele Righi, Gorazd Stangelj and Patxi Vila: these are the 8 cyclists that will take part in Milano-Sanremo for Lampre-Fondital. The blue-fucsia team will be directed by Guido Bontempi, the doctor will be Carlo Guardascione, the mechanics will be Biron, Pengo and Valli, the masseurs will be Borgognoni, Della Torre e Napolitano.
Guido Bontempi’s ideas about the Spring Classic: “Milano-Sanremo is a race full of suprises: everybody wants to win and do the best to reach this goal. We too start in order to do good things. We have an athlete such as Bennati that gives us guarantee to obtain a good result: Daniele showed great things in this first part of the season. Another rider that can do a good performance is Napolitano, 5th in 2006: if the pace won’t be very high, Danilo could be protagonist in the final. Ballan is recovering fitness after accident in Gp Chasso, now he’s not at 100% but we will see during the race what Alessandro could offer. I’m sure that the whole team will work in the best way”.
Arekeev cleans up for soap and water Photo c. Fotoreporter Sirotti
Acqua & Sapone Caffè Mokambo
Following a good showing bt the team in Tirreno Adriatico, with Arekeev winning the stage in Marsciano, and Balducci also doing well the team managed by Ricordate Masciarelli, the former gregario of Francesco Moser, is ready for the 98th Milano Sanremo.
The Acqua riders will start the race wearing the following numbers:(11) Dario Andriotto, (12) Gabriele Balducci, (13) Massimo Codol, (14) Alessandro Donati, (15) Stefano Garzelli, (16) Andrei Kunitski, (17) Simone Masciarelli and (18) Giuseppe Palumbo; the DS will be Franco Gini.
Stefano Garzelli is happy with his preparations for the Giro d'Italia and is looking for a good result in Milano Sanremo, provided the race doesn’t end in a mass sprint " I am in good shape, we will have to see if we can shake up the race in order to void a mass sprint, but when there is no clear favourite maybe the race will end in a mass sprint”
Fast milkmen Photo c. Fotoreporter Sirotti
Team Milram interview their two mighty sprinters, Erik Zabel and Alessandro Petacchi
Erik Zabel : Mailano– San Remo is the most beautiful race for me
After Erik Zabel withdrew from Tirreno – Adriatico as a precaution due to a sore throat, he is now preparing for Milan – Sanremo next Saturday with Christian Knees in Piacenza. For him, it is the most beautiful race in the world. Ten years ago he won the „classicissima“ for the first time, and he has had won the race four times. Shortly before his departure to Milan on Friday, Erik Zabel once again talks about his favourite race, his hopes and expectations for Saturday and his plans for the rest of the season.
What are your first memories of Milan – Sanremo?
I can’t remember to have watched the race on TV before my first start in 1993. In East Germany the Italian races weren’t broadcasted on TV.
How do you regard your chances for Milan – Sanremo? Your personal condition has probably never been as problematic as it is now?
Actually my condition is quite good. My sore throat is better and will have gone by Saturday I hope. After the sixdays I slowed down a little and didn’t ride in Australia or Qatar but started with the Majorca Challenge. Last year my performance was more constant in the second half of the season and I’m preparing accordingly this year. The real top form will probably be there a little later then. I will especially concentrate on the Tour de France and the World Championships then. Anyway, the spring classics are as always very important to me and I want to do as well as possible there. Especially at Milan – Sanremo I want to be one of the riders with Celestino, Astarloa and Alessandro who hopefully provide good headlines. At the moment I’m with Chrisian Knees in Piacenza. We’re exercising here before we go to Milan and start at the big race.
How many times have you started Milan – Sanremo ?
It’s my 15th time on Saturady.
Zabel wins in 2001 Photo c. Fotoreporter Sirotti
What is special about Milan – Sanremo even after four wins?
The finale on the Via Roma is one of my favourite sprints. I have been there so often that I meanwhile know the course like the back of my hand. I know which is the best side, which the best position. It’s just a sprint about which I say I know my way around. And this gives me a good feeling. Furthermore it is a very fair race which principally everybody can win – a climber, a tour specialist a sprinter. What you need is condition, the ability to assert yourself, tactics and a bit of luck. The finale is extremely demanding, hectical and fast. You always have to be aware and keep calm at the same time in order not to waist too much power.
Are team orders like last year, that Alessandro is the first aspirant in your team if everything goes according to plan?
We will see. It will be like last year that we’re going to do the final consultations during the race. Finally everything depends on the course of the race. We sprint for the one who has the better legs. Alessandro and me talk during the race and then we’ll find out about that soon. The team is prepared for both possibilities and can react quickly. Of course we try to supplement our strengths so that we have the best possible outcome for the team.
How do you estimate your competitors – who are the candidates?
The competition gets harder, the competitors are getting stronger all the time. There are may riders who will go for the win in a sprint. The candidates I will keep an eye on are last year’s winner Pozzato, Boonen, Freire, Bennati, Hushovd, McEwen and Bettini. I’m anxious to see if there will be surprises like last year. In this race you have to count on everything. Generally every rider has chances in Sanremo, no matter if climber, tour rider or sprinter.
Alessandro Petacchi on his condition:
I trained well this winter, although I had a lot of problems with my leg. To be honest, I didn’t think that I’d return that quickly. I already won six races, athough I also lost many sprints. But I had a serious problem, and in this regard I am satisfied with my start into the season. In order to be 110 % fit, especially in the sprint, I need to exercise specifically. This needs more time. However, my condition is good, and I think this is especially important for such a long race like Milan – Sanremo.
I’ll say it again. I was first or second in several sprints this season. This means that I’m not so far away from the top. Sometimes I still have problems with the leg, but I work continuously to get over this. However, I feel competitive. I only hope to have a good day without obstacles. And I need a lot of good luck.
Alessandro Petacchi on his adversaries:
The adversaries will always be the same, even if the race will be open to so many riders. So much can happen in 290 kilometers, for example a puncture in a crucial moment. Pozzato and Bettini will try to break away in the Cipressa climb and the Poggio climb. And if we will finish the race with the sprint, McEwen, Bennati, Boonen, Hushovd and Freire will be the usual adversaries.
Milan – Sanremo is for me...
A unique competition which we unfortunately can ride only once a year. It is carried out in my home region and at a very high speed, this is what I love. I need to win it again, above all after the accident I have suffered.
Alessandro Petacchi’s ritual:
On Thursday I’m going to look at the finish again. Departing from Andorra I go up to San Remo twice. After this I stay at home with my wife in order to find concentration.
Alessandro Petacchi’s programme for the season:
I want to do all the big tours, even if I’m not going to finish all of them. However, I’d like to finish the Tour de France and to do well in Hamburg, because this race is in Germany. Then, I’d prefer riding the Vuelta rather than all the one-day races in Italy. Besides, I can prepare well for Paris – Tours in Spain, and this is a classic that interests me as well. In April, I will only ride Gent – Wevelgem.
Andreas Kloden and Kim Kirchen Photo c. Fotoreporter Sirotti
Luxembourg Champion Kim Kirchen spearheads the T-Mobile charge at Saturday’s Milan-Sanremo, aka "la Primavera" - the longest one-day race on the season calendar and the race that opens the spring cycling season in earnest.
Kirchen arrives in Milan fresh off a strong ride and an excellent second place overall at traditional Milan-Sanremo warm-up race Tirreno-Adriatico. "Kim is very much in form at the moment," says sporting director Valerio Piva, who is banking on a "a big all-round team performance" from his charges on Saturday.
Indeed, the seven-hour slog over the gruelling 294km course is very much a team effort, and Kirchen will be supported by a platoon of proven classics specialists in the shape of Lorenzo Bernucci, Andreas Klier, Jakob Piil, Roger Hammond and Bert Grabsch.
Tactically, the race is often decided on the crunch Cipressa (km 272) and Poggio (km 288) climbs. Piva is upbeat about the options at his disposal: "These climbs are where the race can be won or lost - we want to have a rider up at the front challenging.”
Rounding out the eight-man magenta roster are sprinters Bernhard Eisel and Gerald Ciolek. Though 'Pippo' Pozzato foiled the sprinters to win solo in last year's race, most recent editions have seen a bunch sprint decider on the Via Roma in Sanremo. In the event of a repeat, Piva will be hoping that Eisel can provide the firepower.
For the 20-year-old Ciolek, who is making his Milan-Sanremo debut Saturday, the prestigious race will be part of the learning process. Piva: "For Gerald, this race will be first and foremost about gaining experience."
Milan-Sanremo is one of the 'five monuments' of cycling and attracts the big names in cycling: Alessandro Petacchi and Erik Zabel lead a powerful Milram, Oscar Freire (Rabobank), Thor Hushovd (Credit Agricole) Tom Boonen (Quick Step) lead their respective team’s challenge, while defending champion Pozzato returns with his new Liquigas outfit. This year’s race is as eagerly anticipated as ever, and sparks are sure to fly in Sanremo. (gl)
The T-Mobile Team : Lorenzo Bernucci (27/Italy), Gerald Ciolek (20), Bernhard Eisel (26/Austria), Bert Grabsch (31), Roger Hammond (33/Great Britain), Kim Kirchen (28/Luxembourg), Andreas Klier (31), Jakob Piil (34/Denmark).
Sporting director: Valerio Piva (48/Italy)
Italian race action Photo c. Fotoreporter Sirotti
THE FIRST BIG CLASSIC OF THE YEAR
With a selection of cyclists preferring one-day races at the start, Astana has all advantages in its favour for this first classic of the UCI Pro Tour. Hence, Matthias Kessler (GER) and Sergueï Ivanov (RUS), who both admit that they appreciate the difficult classics with a certain speed, should be able to fulfil their ambitions.
The victory record proves it. At Milan – San Remo it is regularly the sprinters who put themselves in the spotlight. Yet, this should not displease René Haselbacher (AUT), who seems to be particularly in shape these weeks, especially after his performance at the recent Tirreno-Adriatico.
Rider line-up for "Milan – San Remo":
Koen De Kort (NED), René Haselbacher (AUT), Sergueï Ivanov (RUS), Aaron Kemps (AUS), Matthias Kessler (GER), Gennady Mikhailov (RUS), Dimitri Muravyev (KAZ) and Gregory Rast (SUI).