Milan-San Remo: Armstrong out, Cavendish less than confident

If Mark Cavendish is to be believed, he's not among the favorites to win this year's la classica di Primavera

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Riders have a long haul before reaching the Cipressa and Poggio. | AFP photo

HTC-Columbia sprinter Mark Cavendish says he doubts he’s capable of pulling off a rare double by winning the grueling Milan-San Remo when it opens the one-day classics season on Saturday.

Citing an apparent lack of form, Cavendish will nonetheless be lining up for the 298-kilometer classic known as La Primavera. While he has publicly discounted his chances, his rivals will still be looking for the kind of move that handed Cavendish a surprising, but deserved, victory last year. (Full Start List)

Armstrong out
Meanwhile, Lance Armstrong has withdrawn from the race, suffering from gastroenteritis, his RadioShack team said Friday.

The 38-year-old American will be replaced by teammate Fumiyuki Beppu. While not listed as a favorite, the seven-time Tour de France winner can rarely be ruled out as a contender when he toes the line in any race.

“It would have been good to have Lance in the line-up for the start but we prefer not to take any risk,” team director Johan Bruyneel said. “It would not be very intelligent to let him start in a race of almost 300 kilometers while not being healthy.”

While largely composed of long flat roads, the race is really decided near the finish as already exhausted riders face two final obstacles – the Cipressa and Poggio climbs – before battling the sprint on wide straight tarmac in San Remo. While usually contested by sprinters, the Cipressa and Poggio have provided last-minute escapees the opportunity to steal the honors. (Follow Milan San-Remo Live on

Former winners and other favorites
In 2009 Cavendish started La Primavera as an outsider after what some now believe might have been a deliberately mediocre performance on the hills of the Tirreno-Adriatico stage race the week before.

But after sailing over the Cipressa and Poggio, Cavendish chased down Cervélo’s Heinrich Haussler after the German launched a late bid for the win to claim his first major classics crown, and become the first Briton to win the race since Tom Simpson in 1964.

This year the podium in San Remo will most certainly look different. Haussler, for one, won’t be lining up in Milan on Saturday and is currently undergoing treatment for knee problems caused by a crash in the Volta ao Algarve. Haussler has competed since the crash, but another tumble and cold weather in Paris-Nice caused him to pull out of that race and reconsider his plans for the early season..

“Heinrich is currently receiving intensive medical treatment from our medical team so he will recover as soon as possible to be ready for the upcoming Belgian classics,” said Cervélo director Jean-Paul van Poppel.

Instead, the team will stake its hopes in the talents of Tour de France points winner Thor Hushovd, who finished third in last year’s race.

“Thor, who proved at Tirreno-Adriatico that he is in good form now after a difficult season start, will be our team leader in Milan-San Remo,” said Van Poppel.

Cavendish will be there, but he’s said his chances are limited, largely because of a delay in the start of his season caused by dental problems.

“I can’t suffer like I used to,” Cavendish told Britain’s Independent. “It’s just on that red line of suffering for six kilometers up the Cipressa. That’s that, I can’t do it, I haven’t got the form.”

While some, including 2006 winner Filippo Pozzato (Katusha), agree with Cavendish’s self-assessment, Quick Step’s Tom Boonen won’t count the Manxman out.

“I’d also have Cavendish in the reckoning although he still must improve a bit,” said the Belgian, whose personal favorite is on-form Italian sprinter Daniele Bennati of Liquigas.

Cavendish nips Haussler at the line in 2009. Haussler won't be there this year and Cavendish says he's not a favorite to repeat. | Graham Watson photo

Boonen, the 2005 world champion whose best finish in Milan-San Remo was a third place in 2007, says he loves the race and finds those two final climbs perfectly placed to put the peloton’s strongest sprinters in position for the win.

“San Remo is a sprint classic, as simple as that,” said Boonen. “It is an extremely difficult sprint; it’s hard, very hard.”

However a few non-sprint specialists will be hoping for a different ending.

Indeed, Pozzato’s Katusha squad is putting its hopes in the Italian, going so far as to leave sprint specialist Robbie McEwen off the roster. Saxo Bank’s Fabian Cancellara, who won in 2008, and emerging Norwegian Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky) will spearhead teams hoping to upset the sprinters’ plans. Meanwhile, Pozzato has tipped Boonen, Bennati and Cancellara to be in the running and has practically ruled out Cavendish’s chances.

Pozzato said he was especially impressed with the way Boonen and Bennati were climbing and sprinting at last week’s Tirreno-Adriatico stage race, adding that he believes this year Cavendish was truly suffering at Tirreno.

Cancellara returns to the race for the first time since he powered away from a small group in the final two kilometers in 2008 to become only the second Swiss winner of the race and the first since Erich Maechler won in 1987.

Sky’s Boasson Hagen won the last stage at Tirreno and despite San Remo being considerably longer his teammate Michael Barry is confident.

“It’s a race we can win and we are going there with a plan to do just that,” said Barry. “Edvald is in great form and we will ride for him.”

Also in the peloton will be 2005 winner Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre), who can’t be counted out if the race comes down to a sprint, especially if Cavendish misses the cut on the final climbs.

Nonetheless, HTC-Columbia director Brian Holm said he’s convinced Cavendish remains the man to beat.

“I think his chances are more or less the same as last year,” he said. “He surprised everyone last year and in some ways it looked too easy. We know it’s going to be difficult, but we’ll give it a try.

“I do truly believe he can do it again.”

1. Mark Cavendish (GB)
2. Michael Albasini (Swi)
3. Bernhard Eisel (A)
4. Matthew Goss (Aus)
5. Maxime Monfort (B)
6. Michael Rogers (Aus)
7. Hayden Roulston (NZ)
8. Peter Velits (Svk)

Acqua & Sapone
11. Stefano Garzelli (I)
12. Luca Paolini (I)
13. Francesco Failli (I)
14. Dario Andriotto (I)
15. Ruggero Marzoli (I)
16. Andrea Masciarelli (I)
17. Giuseppe Palumbo (I)
18. Massimo Codol (I)

Ag2r-La Mondiale
21. Sébastien Hinault (F)
22. Maxime Bouet (F)
23. Alexander Efimkin (Rus)
24. Vladimir Efimkin (Rus)
25. René Mandri (Est)
26. Lloyd Mondory (F)
27. Blel Kadri (F)
28. Dimitri Champion (F)

Androni Giocattoli
31. Michele Scarponi (I)
32. Leonardo Bertagnolli (I)
33. Francesco Ginanni (I)
34. Alberto Loddo (I)
35. Jose Rodolfo Serpa Perez (Col)
36. Alessandro Bertolini (I)
37. Fabrice Piemontesi (I)
38. Jackson Jesus Rodriguez Ortiz (Vz)

41. Allan Davis (Aus)
42. Enrico Gasparotto (I)
43. Assan Bazayev (Kz)
44. Valeriy Dmitriyev (Kz)
45. Andriy Grivko (Ukr)
46. Maxim Iglinskiy (Kz)
47. Sergey Renev (Kz)
48. Mirko Selvaggi (I)

Bbox-Bouygues Telecom
51. Yukiya Arashiro (Jp)
52. William Bonnet (F)
53. Steve Chainel (F)
54. Mathieu Claude (F)
55. Saïd Haddou (F)
56. Alexandre Pichot (F)
57. Sébastien Turgot (F)
58. Thomas Voeckler (F)

61. George Hincapie (USA)
62. Alessandro Ballan (I)
63. Marcus Burghardt (G)
64. Karsten Kroon (Nl)
65. Michael SchÄr (Swi)
66. Danilo Wyss (Swi)
67. Jeff Louder (USA)
68. Brent Bookwalter (USA)

Caisse d’Epargne
71. Marzio Bruseghin (I)
72. Andrey Amador Bikkazakova (CRC)
73. Vasil Kiryienka (Blr)
74. Pablo Lastras Garcia (Sp)
75. Jose Joaquin Rojas Gil (Sp)
76. Imanol Erviti Ollo (Sp)
77. Rigoberto Uran Uran (Col)
78. Xabier Zandio Echaide (Sp)

81. Francisco Jose Ventoso Alberdi (Sp)
82. Emanuele Sella (I)
83. Daniele Ratto (I)
84. Eric Berthou (F)
85. Jure Kocjan (SLO)
86. Laurent Beuret (Swi)
87. Aristide Ratti (I)
88. Raffaele Ferrara (I)

Cervélo TestTeam
91. Xavier Florencio Cabre (Sp)
92. Roger Hammond (GB)
93. Jeremy Hunt (GB)
94. Thor Hushovd (N)
95. Andreas Klier (G)
96. Brett Lancaster (Aus)
97. Gabriel Rasch (N)
98. Dominique Rollin (Can)

Colnago-CSF Inox
101. Mattia Gavazzi (I)
102. Manuel Belletti (I)
103. Federico Canuti (I)
104. Sacha Modolo (I)
105. Alan Marangoni (I)
106. Marco Frapporti (I)
107. Domenico Pozzovivo (I)
108. Simone Stortoni (I)

111. Pablo Urtasun Perez (Sp)
112. Iñaki Isasi Flores (Sp)
113. Koldo Fernandez De Larrea (Sp)
114. Amets Txurruka Ansola (Sp)
115. Ruben Perez Moreno (Sp)
116. Alan Perez Lezaun (Sp)
117. Juan Jose Oroz Ugalde (Sp)
118. Jorge Azanza Soto (Sp)

Française des Jeux
121. Olivier Bonnaire (F)
122. Wesley Sulzberger (Aus)
123. Frédéric Guesdon (F)
124. Anthony Geslin (F)
125. Yauheni Hutarovich (Blr)
126. Yoann Offredo (F)
127. Anthony Roux (F)
128. Benoît Vaugrenard (F)

131. Tyler Farrar (USA)
132. Julian Dean (NZ)
133. Antonio Fischer Murilo (Brz)
134. Robert Hunter (RSA)
135. Martijn Maaskant (Nl)
136. David Millar (GB)
137. Johan Vansummeren (B)
138. Matthew Wilson (Aus)

141. Giovanni Visconti (I)
142. Carlo Scognamiglio (I)
143. Leonardo Scarselli (I)
144. Paolo Longo Borghini (I)
145. Diego Caccia (I)
146. Simon Clarke (Aus)
147. Emanuele Vona (I)
148. Oscar Gatto (I)

Lampre-Farnese Vini
151. Alessandro Petacchi (I)
152. Damiano Cunego (I)
153. Lorenzo Bernucci (I)
154. Mauro Da Dalto (I)
155. Francesco Gavazzi (I)
156. Danilo Hondo (G)
157. Mirco Lorenzetto (I)
158. Manuele Mori (I)

161. Daniele Bennati (I)
162. Vincenzo Nibali (I)
163. Roman Kreuziger (Cz)
164. Daniel Oss (I)
165. Franco Pellizotti (I)
166. Manuel Quinziato (I)
167. Fabio Sabatini (I)
168. Valerio Agnoli (I)

171. Philippe Gilbert (B)
172. Michiel Elijzen (Nl)
173. Olivier Kaisen (B)
173. Mickael Delage (F)
175. Sebastian Lang (G)
176. Staf Scheirlinckx (B)
177. Jürgen Roelandts (B)
178. Greg Van Avermaet (B)

Quick Step
181. Tom Boonen (B)
182. Sylvain Chavanel (F)
183. Carlos Barredo Llamazales (Sp)
184. Dries Devenyns (B)
185. Jérôme Pineau (F)
186. Maarten Wynants (B)
187. Matteo Tosatto (I)
188. Marco Velo (I)

191. Óscar Freire Gomez (Sp)
192. Lars Boom (Nl)
193. Tom Leezer (Nl)
194. Sebastian Langeveld (Nl)
195. Nick Nuyens (B)
196. Paul Martens (G)
197. Bram Tankink (Nl)
198. Maarten Tjallingii (Nl)

201. Edvald Boasson Hagen (N)
202. Michael Barry (Can)
203. Juan Antonio Flecha Giannoni (Sp)
204. Mathew Hayman (Aus)
205. Thomas Löfkvist (Swe)
206. Ian Stannard (GB)
207. Christopher Sutton (Aus)
208. Gregory Henderson (NZ)

211. Filippo Pozzato (I)
212. Marco Bandiera (I)
213. Mikhail Ignatiev (Rus)
214. Serguei Ivanov (Rus)
215. Kim Kirchen (Lux)
216. Luca Mazzanti (I)
217. Nikolai Trussov (Rus)
218. Pavel Brutt (Rus)

221. Linus Gerdemann (G)
222. Markus Fothen (G)
223. Johannes Fröhlinger (G)
224. Christian Knees (G)
225. Luke Roberts (Aus)
226. Roy Sentjens (Nl)
227. Niki Terpstra (Nl)
228. Paul Voss (G)

231. Fumiyuki Beppu (Jp)
232. Daryl Impey (RSA)
233. Markel Irizar Aranburu (Sp)
234. Geoffroy Lequatre (F)
235. Dmitriy Muravyev (Kz)
236. Grégory Rast (Swi)
237. Sébastien Rosseler (B)
238. Tomas Vaitkus (Lit)

Saxo Bank
241. Fabian Cancellara (Swi)
242. Andy Schleck (Lux)
243. Baden Cooke (Aus)
244. Anders Lund (Dk)
245. Frank Hoj (Dk)
246. Erik Larsson Gustav (Swe)
247. Matti Breschel (Dk)
248. Stuart O’Grady (Aus)