95th Milan-Sanremo - The Contenders
What a difference a year makes. This time last year was
the headline "Hincapie to Miss Spring Season" - not so this year, with
US Postal's Hincapie
and Van Heeswijk and Eki, Pena, Noval, Joachim, Padrnos all on track with great riding already this season.
Armstrong was slated to ride, but seems to have a touch of bronchitis so he is
leaning toward not.
Museeuw - at this time last year he said: "Every year I try to win a Classic. I
am motivated for this season - I know the sponsors, know that I have a position
in cycling when I retire, but for the moment I am still a cyclist. The two races
I have never won but still dream about are Milan-San Remo and Lombardia. It
could be that I will retire after the Northern Classics - then again I love
Quickstep has announced that the Lion of Flanders will not ride La Primavera
this year, but his team's squad includes the very, er, able Paolo Bettini
(second in the current UCI rankings, last year's Sanremo winner and winner of
Tirreno-Adriatico this week), Tommy Boonen, Davide Bramati, Pedro Horrillo, Nick
Nuyens, Luca Paolini (third last year), Michael Rogers and Stefano Zanini.
Then there's Fassa Bortoli's Petacchi. Third in the UCI rankings at the beginning of this week
with two Lucca wins and three Tirreno wins, at this point cycling fans just can't
wait for any race he enters. By the way, you might want to visit Petacchi's new website,
Excitement is all the more if Cipollini is in the same race - cycling fans are
already keeping score between the two, even if the riders themselves are not. Cipo was
fourth in last year's edition, and this year the Domina Vacanze team is Mario Cipollini, Mario
Scirea, Giovanni Lombardi, Andrus Aug, Alessio Galletti, Martin Derganc,
Gabriele Colombo and Gian Matteo Fagnini. Cipollini has said that Sanremo is a
definite season objective and we can't wait.
Saeco - Danilo Di Luca, Mirko Celestino (second last year), Leonardo Bertagnolli,
Gabriele Balducci, Paolo Fornaciari, Evgueni Petrov, Dario Pieri (fifth
last year) and Alessandro Spezialetti are the Primavera team, and they were also
the World Cup team winner in 2003.
Says Saeco directeur sportif Giuseppe Martinelli, "We’ve planned a race tactic
very different to that of last year. We’ll ride more hidden in the bunch, ride
more tactically but without being afraid to play our cards with our leaders and
with outsider Bertagnolli. The favourites for the race are riders such as Freire and
especially Bettini, who seem to be strongest on paper, the race will be decided
by how they ride."
Says Celestino, "It’ll be hard to get the same result but we’re all determined
to do well and I’m sure we’ll be in the thick of the action. Perhaps we’ll play
our cards closer to our chest this year but we will leave our mark on the race.
I feel better after riding Tirreno-Adriatico instead of Paris-Nice and I’m convinced I'll play a big role in the
"After an unlucky 2003 I’m naturally determined to get revenge," Di Luca
says. I know this race suits me even if some of my rivals are going
better than I am. However it is widely known that whoever starts a race as the big favourite often takes too many risks and so I’m optimistic of my chances."
Di Luca and Celestino, the team leaders both know about the favorites: "Bettini and Freire
are the riders to beat. We’ll be riding close to them to try and surprise them.
We’ll need to be intelligent, brave and a little bit lucky."
Oscar Friere was seventh last year but has not yet added La Primavera to his palmares. His Rabobank
team, sitting at first in the team UCI rankings until this week when CSC took
over, sends team leaders Freire and Erik Dekker, Jan Boven, Marc Wauters, Mathew
Hayman, Bram de Groot and Robert Hunter. The six will work to deliver Freire and
Dekker to the line.
Rabo-boss Massen says the absolute favorite is Petacchi for this race, but adds
Cipollini, Zabel, Bartoli and Bettini to his list, and reminds people not to
forget Jaksche, Van Heewijk or Freire. He says the critical point will be the
Cipressa, where, he says, it is "always terribly tense, especially because
of falls." And he says, "Small details will determine profit and loss."
Bjarne Riis' CSC team brings Michele Bartoli is the team captain for this
year's Primavera; supporting him will be Michael Blaudzun, Fabrizio Guidi, Bobby
Julich, who competed very well in Paris-Nice, Frank Høj, who has been in the top
5 at Qatar and Driedaagse van West-Vlaanderen, Lars Michaelsen (replacing Jacob
Piil who has a knee injury), Maximilian Sciandri and the very strong Jens Voigt.
Cofidis has had strong showings already this year and brings its world
champions Igor Astarloa (4th overall at Tirreno-Adriatico) and David Millar,
Peter Farazijn, DP favorite Bingen Fernandez, Stuart O’Grady (5th overall at
Tirreno-Adriatico), Janek Tombak, Guido Trentin (10th last year) and Matthew
White to battle.
Which brings us to four-time Milan-Sanremo winner Erik Zabel of T-Mobile.
Zabel says he does not necessarily see himself on the favorites list, which he
says has broadened and includes Oscar Freire, Mario Cipollini, Alessandro
Petacchi and Paolo Bettini. He says Petacchi's wins "are no coincidence."
But, he says, his team will attack with two leaders, himself and Paris-Nice three stage winner Alexandre Vinokourov. Zabel says that sprint
abilities alone are insufficient at Sanremo - one must be very strong for the
distance and the climbs, and that victory requires keeping any breakaways in
T-Mobile brings Rolf Aldag, Sergej Iwanow, Matthias Kessler, Andreas Klier,
Daniele Nardello, Alexandre Vinokourov and Steffen Wesemann to Saturday's
2003 Milan-Sanremo Top Ten
1. Paolo Bettini (Ita - Quick Step Davitamon) 6:44:43 (44,030 km/h)
2. Mirko Celestino (Ita - Saeco) s.t.
3. Luca Paolini (Ita - Quick Step Davitamon) at 02"
4. Mario Cipollini (Ita - Domina Vacanze-Elitron) at 11"
5. Dario Pieri (Ita - Saeco) s.t..
6. Erik Zabel (Ger - Team Telekom) s.t..
7. Oscar Freire (Spa - Rabobank) s.t..
8. Jan Svorada (Cze - Lampre) s.t.
9. Serguei Ivanov (Rus - Fassa Bortolo) s.t..
10. Guido Trentin (Ita - Cofidis) s.t.
The Bookies' Odds
Bettini Paolo (Ita - Qsd) 5.00
Petacchi Alessandro (Ita - Fas) 5.50
Freire Oscar (Esp - Rab) 7.50
Zabel Erik (Ger - Mob) 9.00
Vinokourov Alexandre (Kaz - Mob) 10.00
Cipollini Mario (Ita - Dve) 12.00
Vandenbroucke Frank (Bel - Fas) 12.00
Boonen Tom (Bel - Qsd) 14.00
Pozzato Filippo (Ita - Fas) 14.00
Astarloa Igor (Spa - Cof) 16.00
Rebellin Davide (Ita - Gst) 16.00
Bartoli Michele (Ita - Csc) 17.00
Di Luca Danilo (Ita - Sae) 18.00
Van Heeswijk Max (Ned - Usp) 18.00
Van Petegem Peter (Bel - Lot) 18.00
Hincapie George (Usa - Usp) 20.00
Cooke Baden (Aus - Fdj) 25.00
Svorada Jan (Cze - Lam) 25.00
Mcewen Robbie (Aus - Lot) 28.00
Sanchez Samuel (Spa - Eus) 30.00
Brioches la Boulangere
Cofidis, Le Credit Par Telephone
Euskatel - Euskadi
Illes Balears - Banesto
Landbouwkrediet - Colnago
Lotto - Domo
Phonak - Hearing Systems
Saeco Macchine Per Caffe'
Saunier Duval - Prodir
US Postal Service - Berry Floor
Vini Caldirola - Nobili Rubinetterie