Last year’s Milan-San Remo was memorable for two things; first, Gerald Ciolek of the not-so-fancied MTN-Qhubeka team took a rather unexpected victory while secondly, many of the riders simply turned into ice blocks. So much so that the race was forced to be stopped to allow riders to bypass impassable roads and thaw out on the team buses mid-race.
The 2014 edition looks to be having no such drama with the weather but the pre-race talk has been all about changes to the route. In came some new hills, out went some familiar sprinters. Out went these new hills (due to a landslide) and back came some familiar sprinters.
The odds have settled a little over the past few days with Cannondale’s Peter Sagan topping the list and 2009 winner Mark Cavendish the clear favourites amongst the bookmakers. The big sprinters from Germany, Greipel and Degonkolb are also fancied but last year’s winner Ciolek would seemingly have no chance this year if the bookmakers are to be believed.
So what’s going to happen? The most likely scenario to play out is that Cannondale et al will try to burn Cavendish out of the peloton on the Cipressa and Poggio to avoid him being in the mix come the final sprint. Ditto Greipel and Degonkolb.
We’d expect the more punchy riders like Cancellara, Sagan and Gerrans to be coming off the Poggio in the lead group so it very much depends on which of the pure sprinters can hack the ascent in the main group.
Greipel came out of Tirrenno-Adriatico licking his wounds while Cavendish looks to be in decent form when taking the final road stage win in Italy. Giant-Shimano have put their faith in Degonkolb while Kittel sits at home touching up the paint on the bike he so gracefully slammed to the floor.
There are so many options and scenarios that it’s a difficult one to call. But call it we will.