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95th Milan Sanremo Preview - The Contenders
By Staff
Date: 3/19/2004
95th Milan Sanremo Preview - The Contenders

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 cycling"

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, "Weve planned a race tactic very different to that of last year. Well 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, "Itll be hard to get the same result but were all determined to do well and Im sure well be in the thick of the action. Perhaps well 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 Im convinced I'll play a big role in the race."

"After an unlucky 2003 Im 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 Im optimistic of my chances."

Di Luca and Celestino, the team leaders both know about the favorites: "Bettini and Freire are the riders to beat. Well be riding close to them to try and surprise them. Well 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 Hj, 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 OGrady (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 control.

T-Mobile brings Rolf Aldag, Sergej Iwanow, Matthias Kessler, Andreas Klier, Daniele Nardello, Alexandre Vinokourov and Steffen Wesemann to Saturday's contest.

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

The Teams

Brioches la Boulangere
Ceramiche Panaria-Margres
Cofidis, Le Credit Par Telephone
De Nardi
Domina Vacanze
Euskatel - Euskadi
Fassa Bortolo
Illes Balears - Banesto
Landbouwkrediet - Colnago
Liberty Seguros
Lotto - Domo
Phonak - Hearing Systems
Saeco Macchine Per Caffe'
Saunier Duval - Prodir
Team CSC
T-Mobile Team
US Postal Service - Berry Floor
Vini Caldirola - Nobili Rubinetterie

Related Articles
Cipollini and Petacchi: A Curious Comparison
The Poggio: Springboard to Victory
95th Milan-Sanremo Preview - The Parcours

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