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Milano-Sanremo brings back Via Roma finish, favoring attackers

Race director Vegni is happy to return to the classic, city-center finish for "La Primavera," which may encourage bold, late-race attacks

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MILAN (VN) — Milano-Sanremo will return to its roots and open itself to attackers on March 22, 2015, when it concludes between the beige- and grey-colored buildings of Via Roma in Sanremo, Italy.

“The Milano-Sanremo race in its 105 years had only two classic finishes: Corso Cavallotti and Via Roma,” RCS Sport cycling director Mauro Vegni told VeloNews.

“Via Roma is a part of cycling’s story with wins like Eddy Merckx’s. It gives a different style and charm to the race than the seaside finish.”

Organizer RCS Sport, which runs the Giro d’Italia, presented its Tirreno-Adriatico race route Thursday in Tuscany. On the drive back to Milan, Vegni heard about Italian cyclist Mauro Santambrogio’s positive test for testosterone. However, he was not concerned with the Tirreno route or the testosterone test, but with the 106th Milano-Sanremo.

He presented the “new” Milano-Sanremo route three weeks ago, November 28. After being pushed a few blocks south, closer to the Italian Riviera for the last seven years, he announced that the 293-kilometer race would end on familiar ground: Via Roma.

From 1907, through World War I and II, Milano-Sanremo finished on Corso Cavallotti on the edge of the seaside town. In 1949, when Italian great Fausto Coppi won, it began reaching the heart of Sanremo on Via Roma. It stayed there, welcomed Eddy Merckx’s wins — a record of seven — and moved only in 2008 when road work forced it seaside on Italo Calvino.

“RCS never wanted to leave Via Roma. We were forced to move to the seaside,” Vegni added.

“Now they are doing other work, where we normally pass through the S-bend at 400 to 500 meters to go, so it’s no longer possible to finish on the seaside. The city proposed that we return to the city center on Via Roma, and I’m more than happy to do so. It’s the classic finish and more prestigious than the seaside one.”

The change means that from the descent of the Poggio climb, the cyclists will have one kilometer less to race to the finish line. The move could open the door for attackers.

“The finish changes the shape of the race and opens it up to many more cyclists than it did before. Instead of three, now they only have two kilometers to race — that one kilometer makes a difference in a 300-kilometer race,” Vegni explained.

“The last five to six years, we always saw a group come together in the last 500 meters and sprint. The change could allow Peter Sagan to stay free. Or, if Vincenzo Nibali gets enough time on the Poggio, seven to eight seconds, he could win.”

Vegni recognized the problem with tweaking his monument to anything other than its traditional route. The Tour of Flanders and Giro di Lombardia — two of cycling’s other five monuments — change nearly every year, but if Vegni even adds a new right- or left-hand turn, eyebrows raise.

For 2014, he tried to take the race up the five-kilometer Pompeiana climb between the Cipressa and Poggio climbs, and the cycling world began to spin out of control. Last-minute road problems stopped him from taking the race over the Pompeiana.

“Sanremo is one of the classics that that is open to the sprinters, which is fine because they also have a right to have a classic. Sanremo has its charm and has to stay as it is. It would no longer be Sanremo if you finished in another town or begin in another city besides Milan,” Vegni said.

“We changed small things, the addition the Cipressa and the Poggio, but they are insignificant and don’t change the classic route. Returning to the Via Roma made me rethink the Pompeiana climb. Now we have the classic Sanremo, and we can see how it opens the door to the attackers.”