March 17, 2004
Handicapping Milan-San Remo
Procycling.com points out Tirreno-Adriatico's stars, overall winner Paolo Bettini (defending Milan-San Remo champion) and 3-stage winner Alessandro Petacchi, as the two most likely to win at Milan-San Remo on Saturday, ahead of Erik Zabel, who has won three times at Milan-San Remo:
Zabel was second in his German champion’s jersey in San Benedetto yesterday but must surely realise that the odds are against him winning a fourth Milan-San Remo on Saturday. Petacchi’s sprinting in the first month of the 2004 season has been simply peerless. He is so far unbeaten in five bunch finishes since February.
"I hope that I don’t lose my first one on Saturday," the 30-year-old Fassa Bortolo speed king remarked wryly yesterday. "I’d just like to go a bit better uphill: that’s the goal I’ve worked towards and the reason I’ve finished the Tirreno, despite the pain in my legs. To compare with 2003 I’d say that I’m stronger this year. Last year I was ill when I came back from Paris-Nice."
For his part, Bettini will try to avoid a bunch sprint if possible:
"Everyone has seen how Petacchi is riding so I don’t have too many options: I either go clear with a group and back myself to beat them or, if it ends in a bunch sprint, I just try to earn as many World Cup points as possible."
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