March 14, 2006
Classics kick off Saturday with Milan-San Remo
With Paris-Nice and Tirreno-Adriatico out of the way, we can look forward to La Primavera, Milan-San Remo, the first classic of the year, running this Saturday in Italy.
It's the longest of the classics, at more than 180 miles and about 7 hours in the saddle. Last year, Alessandro Petacchi finally took his first win in San Remo, ahead of Danilo Hondo (and whatever became of him?) and Thor Hushovd.
In 2004, Erik Zabel timed his sprint perfectly, and looked to have his 5th Milan-San Remo locked up, only to sit up early and lose to Rabobank's Oscar Freire.
Over at the International Herald Tribune, Samuel Abt handicaps the 2006 edition of the race. The obvious favorites are Petacchi and Tom Boonen, both of whom are winning sprints seemingly at will this year. Both of them have some extra baggage, their teammates Zabel (with Petacchi at Milram) and Paolo Bettini (with Boonen at Quick Step), who won the race in 2003.
Bettini is banged up from a crash at Tirreno-Adriatico, but told Eurosport he'll definitely be racing on Saturday:
"I'm going to start the race on Saturday and then worry about getting to San Remo," he added on Tuesday ... "My back and my knee still hurts when I stand on the pedals but I'm optimistic things will improve," he said ... "Unfortunately, Milan-San Remo is the longest race of the season. I just hope my back and knee don't hold me back during the final part of the race."
Boonen toured the race finish Monday. If he could win here, he would be just the 5th man to win the race while world champion. Even so, he's my pick.
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