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"I will head to Milano-Sanremo with the clear intention to win and I will do my best to achieve that victory. It's a classic race that I like, with a long history and tradition."

Photo: ANSI / PERI - ZENNARO

ADAM BLYTHE

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DANIELE BENNATI

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MACIEJ BODNAR

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MANUEL BOARO

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MATTEO TOSATTO

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MILANO - SANREMO

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OSCAR GATTO

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PETER SAGAN

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ROMAN KREUZIGER

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17.03.2016 @ 16:04 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Saturday sees the first of the five ‘Monuments’ take place in Italy – so-called because they are regarded as the oldest, hardest and most prestigious one-day races in cycling. Milano-Sanremo – ‘La Primavera’ – is known as the sprinters’ classic, but this doesn’t mean the racing will be easy – a 291km course culminating with the infamous Poggio less than 5km before the finish where only the strongest riders will be in a position to contest the finish.

Leading Tinkoff at the 107th edition of the race will be Peter Sagan. Fresh from a strong finish at the Tirreno-Adriatico stage race, where he won the Maglia Rossa points jersey, and only one second kept him from taking the GC title, as well as a fourth place finish at the Strade Bianche, Sagan is in excellent form. The World Champion is leading a team of eight riders, who have played a pivotal role in the season’s racing so far.

“Our clear goal at Milano-Sanremo is for Peter Sagan to win and we will do all it takes to achieve it,” explained Sport Director Bruno Cenghialta. “There are, undoubtedly, a number of very strong opponents but I think that we showed during the previous week that we also have a strong team. The ones that raced at Tirreno-Adriatico might not be at their peak form, but that is due to the fact that everyone has his own race program and different goals in the season. The foundation work and training camps that have been carried out at the start of the season are now bearing fruit and each rider's form has been steadily increasing. I can say that we have a robust group of riders to support Peter in his quest.

“There isn't anything new in the parcours, and like always it will be very fast, but with the difference that, in general, cycling has become faster, so it will be key to save as much energy as possible in order to be stronger in the finale. That will be a key element of our strategy, to save energy. The weather conditions, wind in particular, can make a difference, and although no rain is expected during the race right now, with a few days left until the start, the forecast could change.”

Peter Sagan is looking forward to the action, having placed in the top ten for the past four editions, he knows the race and the final kilometres well, and has a strong team to take him to the finish line in San Remo.

Showing his passion for Saturday’s race, Sagan said: "I will head to Milano-Sanremo with the clear intention to win and I will do my best to achieve that victory. It's a classic race that I like, with a long history and tradition, and although it seems easier than the Tour of Flanders or Paris-Roubaix, it is the toughest one to win. It is also very interesting and unpredictable because, even if the race course hasn't changed this year it is a difficult one to predict.

“Every year is different and has its own story. There might be a breakaway, a bunch sprint or a crash that changes everything, you never know. With the climb of Le Manie cut from the race, sprinters now have a better chance. If they also are at the front in Poggio, we can have a sprint finish. However, it is difficult to single out who my main adversaries could be. It will depend on how the race plays out and what takes place on the Poggio. I will tackle the race the way it comes and right now I concentrate on giving my best. This is what I do in every race."

Joining Sagan at the start in Milan will be Roman Kreuziger, Oscar Gatto, Daniele Bennati, Manuele Boaro, Maciej Bodnar, Adam Blythe and Matteo Tosatto – all of whom played a pivotal part in the recent Tirreno-Adriatico and Paris-Nice campaigns.

The race covers a fast and rolling parcours. While the hardest feature of the race is its sheer length, at 291km, it’s not without its challenges. At 142km the race will reach the summit of the Passo del Turchino after a long 25km climb, before a trio of climbs – the Capo Mele, Capo Cervo and Capo Berta – 90km later – that will further sap the energy reserves of the riders.

At the Cipressa, the riders will encounter the steepest gradient of the day, at 9%. It’s at this point – 21.5km from the finish – the excitement and anticipation in the peloton will be rising, and teams will likely either be chasing down a hopeful breakaway, or preparing to protect their leaders over the final climb of the day – the Poggio – before the finish. It’s at the final climb that the race has so often been won – and lost. Riders will be exhausted after almost 300km in the saddle, and at this stage of the race, even the relatively short 3.7km climb will be a difficult one. With no time to rest on the final descent, the sprinters will still have to muster the strength to contest a final bunch sprint. It's a race where anyone can win, and surprises often happen.

Talking of the parcours, Cenghialta added: “It is a very well-known parcours, without any new sections or climbs, so in that aspect we don't expect any surprises. However, that doesn't mean we will not be attentive and focused. Even if the race route is familiar, we will have to adapt our strategy to any developments during the race. We will always keep a close eye on what is going on but with ultimate goal to save as much energy as we can. As we saw lately, races can be won or lost for a few centimeters, so taking care of even the smallest details can make the difference. We will try to optimise our setup and the way we spend our energy. In a race of nearly 300 kilometers or seven hours, whatever you can save in the first six will then be used in the seventh hour. Even from a physiological point of view, riders are pushed to their limits, so it will be important to manage our resources and devise a strategy for that last hour of racing.

“Obviously, there could be unpredictable factors that might force you to abruptly change your strategy. A fall or crash, for example, could upend your tactical options but overall, this is quite a straightforward race, where everything will be played in the final 40-50 minutes. The fresher riders will have an advantage that could make the difference.”

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