Could Peter Sagan be a surprise winner at MSR?
The traditional route to winning Milan-San Remo (MSR) is to first ride Tirreno-Adriatico (T-A), the week-long stage race that cuts across the centre of Italy from coast to coast. Ride in Italy now to win later in Italy, or so the thinking goes, particularly with T-A typically featuring long stages that are perfect preparation for the 298 kms of MSR.
The winners of MSR in 2010, 2009 and 2008 - Oscar Freire, Mark Cavendish and Fabian Cancellara - all rode T-A as their preparation. Matt Goss turned conventional wisdom on its head in 2011 by first riding Paris-Nice (P-N). Also a week-long stage race, P-N has typically been targeted as an early-season outing for the riders who will ride the grand tours later on, rather than the spring classics.
Heinrich Haussler almost beat Goss to up-ending tradition when he came within a tyre's width of winning MSR in 2009, only to lose to Cavendish. Haussler has stated how desperately he wants to win MSR. Will 2012 be his year? If it is, he might be really changing conventional thinking as he will have ridden P-N for four years in a row, including 2012 when he lines up with other fast men like Thor Hushovd, Tom Boonen, Mark Renshaw and Elia Viviani.
But what of the other favourites? Goss, Freire, Cavendish and Cancellara will all be lining up at T-A, which starts March 7. And so are other contenders like Philippe Gilbert, Tyler Farrar, Peter Sagan, Daniele Bennati and Andre Greipel - not to mention BC's own Svein Tuft. P-N starts March 4 and MSR is on March 17.