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Rain and route disruptions put historical monument courses at risk

Key features of Milano-Sanremo, Paris-Roubaix, and Tour of Flanders all at risk due to landslides or red tape.

FLORENCE, Italy (VN) — Heavy Italian rain has flooded in Venice in recent days, and caused landslides up and down ‘the boot’ of Italy, causing alarm for the famous Poggio climb closing the Milano-Sanremo monument. The race organizer faces running its monument without the iconic climb, where Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quick Step) forged his winning move in 2019.

The Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix also face issues with climbs and cobbled sectors.

The 3.7km road to the Poggio village that comes after nearly 280km of racing in the Italian monument is currently closed. Local authorities say landslides are in progress and over €10 million ($11.1m) is needed to correct the situation. It appears to be a mission impossible with Milano-Sanremo three months away, March 21, in a cash-strapped country famous for slow works.

“During the week, further checks will be carried out, but we have already requested an urgent intervention by ANAS [Italian highway department] and the Liguria Region to protect the soil and prevent hydrogeological instability on the entire slope,” Mayor Alberto Biancheri told Riviera24.

“The problem has intensified due to the recent heavy rains and with a yellow alert, further rainfall will be expected.”

Organizer RCS Sport added the climb to Poggio in 1960, veering the riders off the main Aurelia seaside road, to toughen the race. Later in 1982, the longer Cipressa was added ahead of the Poggio.

The race passes six curves and four switchbacks going up, and numerous curves and seven switchbacks racing down with breathtaking views of the Mediterranean Sea. For many years, Giorgio Furlan held the record ascent of 5:46 from the 1994 edition. In 2019, though, Michal Kwiatkowski (Ineos) set the new mark at 5:41 minutes.

Without the Poggio climb, the race would swing in favor of the sprinters. Perhaps Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) would finally have his chance to win or an even purer sprinter like Caleb Ewan (Lotto-Soudal) could survive for victory.

The organizer could re-introduce La Mànie earlier on to harden the race or it could debut the Pompeiana climb, which it toyed with using in 2014.

The second monument of the year, the Tour of Flanders, could see a change to its route too. The organizer could lose Muur Van Geraardsbergen because the city is struggling to justify the money needed to feature in the famous Belgian race.

The organizer brought the climb – also known as the Kapelmuur or Muur-Kapelmuur – back in 2017 and it played a key role in the 2019 race, eventually won by Alberto Bettiol (EF Education First).

The change could come in 2021 because of the €50,000 ($55,350) fee the town must pay the organizer for the race to pass through Geraardsbergen and over its cobbled climb. Mayor Guido De Padt must decide whether this expense can be justified given he already needed to raise taxes recently and close the oldest outdoor swimming pool in Flanders.

Paris-Roubaix will already see changes in 2020. The penultimate 1.4km cobbled sector to Hem now has smooth strips of asphalt down both sides, which could potently change how the race is won.

The Willems to Hem sector already had some paving at the sides, but it was rough and irregular, so not offering much relief. In 2019, the organizer rated the sector three stars. For 2020, it may be rated less given the change.

Recognizing the significance of the change, Sep Vanmarcke (EF Education First) posted a photo with arrows pointing to the strips and wrote “Oh, no.”