Milan-San Remo 2014 guide
Preview of the 294km Italian one-day Classic
Last Updated: 21/03/14 6:10pm
One of the most prestigious events in cycling and the first of the season's five Monuments, the 294km marathon is also the longest race on the professional calendar.
It annually pits together pure sprinters, rouleurs and punchy climbers in a battle of endurance, tactics and will to win, and is always difficult to call.
In the build-up to this year's instalment, much discussion focused on the potential inclusion of the Pompeiana climb, an added test that had looked set to swing the balance in favour of the climbers. However, after landslides rendered the road too dangerous, the ascent was scratched from the race and the advantage has consequently returned to the sprinters.
Germany's Gerald Ciolek will look to defend the title after his sprint triumph last year, but there is an almost endless queue of riders vying to succeed him as winner.
The sheer distance of the race cannot be overstated. Tackled individually at face value, the route's famous climbs are not stern tests. However, after 270km of action, the back-to-back ascents of the Cipressa and the Poggio will almost certainly decide the race.
Heading out of Milan, the day begins with a flat opening salvo, dropping south in search of the coast for the opening 120km, before the first real obstacle is reached.
A break will have gone clear ahead of the Passo del Turchino. The climb comes too early in the race to make a decisive impact, but emerging out of the famous tunnel, the contenders will need to be on the front foot. Crashes and foul weather conditions often characterise the race as it reaches the greasy coastal roads.
The biggest change in the route for 2014 is the removal of Le Manie, a climb which typically weakened the legs of the sprinters in recent years ahead of the final 100km. Instead a pan-flat run into Ceriale acts as a lead-in to the "tre capi" of the Mele, Cervo and Berta - three small climbs that mark the beginning of the end.
The famous Cipressa is crested with 22km to go and is often the scene of long-range attacks and a certain upping of the pace. The peloton will be lined out as it hits the famous Poggio. Measuring 3.7km at an average of 3.7 per cent, the final climb is a drag race, with positioning vital over the top and the famous left turn on to the descent.
Big risks will be taken on the switchbacks with just 6.1km left to race. A reduced group is often seen charging on to the finishing straight, but the race's unpredictability is what makes it so eagerly anticipated.
Last year's runner-up is the bookmakers' favourite this year and whichever way the race pans out, it is difficult to envisage Sagan not being in the thick of the action heading into the final 1km. His best opportunity will be to join a small breakaway group over the top of the Poggio and then out-sprint his fellow escapees. His chances will be reduced should the race end in a bunch finish.
If the Manxman can get over the Poggio in or within catching distance of the front group, the Manxman should be the man to beat in a sprint finish. It's just a question of whether or not his Omega Pharma - Quick-Step team can keep him in contention.
The German looks a decent bet. He's in good form, doesn't mind a climb, can sprint with the best and has the backing of a strong Giant-Shimano team. If it finishes in a bunch sprint, he should be in the mix. If a breakaway escapes over the Poggio, he will need to be well-placed on the climb to ensure he is part of it.
Like Cavendish, the "Gorilla" will be hoping to get over the Poggio in the front group and fight out a sprint finish. The German has already won six sprints this season and will be Cavendish's biggest rival should there be a bunch finale.
Last year's winner showed that not only can he get over the Poggio, but he can also get the better of Sagan in a sprint. However, the German was nowhere to be seen in the sprints at the recent Tirreno-Adriatico, so could find it tough to put himself in contention going into the final 1km.
"Spartacus" has finished on the podium in the past three editions of Milan-San Remo and claimed victory in 2008, so his pedigree in the race is without question. Like Sagan, he is almost guaranteed to be in contention if there is a breakaway on the Poggio, but a bunch finish is likely to see his chances snuffed out.
The 22-year-old Frenchman is an emerging force in the sprint world and can also get himself over climbs, so he could figure in the finale irrespective of how the race pans out. He also takes decent form into the race.
The Australian is a past winner of Milan-San Remo and, like Cancellara, will be a threat if he can infiltrate a breakaway. He has also outsprinted Greipel this year, so he cannot be overlooked even in a bunch finish. However, he was forced to quit Paris-Nice through allergies earlier this month, so it remains to be seen whether he still has the form that saw him win the Santos Tour Down Under in January.
2013: Gerald Ciolek (Ger)
2012: Simon Gerrans (Aus)
2011: Matthew Goss (Aus)
2010: Oscar Freire (Spa)
2009: Mark Cavendish (GB)
2008: Fabian Cancellara (Swi)
2007: Oscar Freire (Spa)
2006: Filippo Pozzato (Ita)
2005: Alessandro Petacchi (Ita)
2004: Oscar Freire (Spa)
Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma - Quick-Step)
David Millar (Garmin-Sharp)
Ben Swift (Team Sky)
Geraint Thomas (Team Sky)
Teams and riders
Ag2r-La Mondiale: Davide Appollonio (Ita), Guillaume Bonnafond (Fra), Steve Chainel (Fra), Patrick Gretsch (Ger), Hugo Houle (Can), Lloyd Modory (Fra), Matteo Montaguti (Ita), Rinaldo Nocentini (Ita).
Astana: Borut Bozic (Slo), Enrico Gasparotto (Ita), Francesco Gavazzi (Ita), Andriy Grivko (Ukr), Andrea Guardini (Ita), Maxim Iglinskiy (Kaz), Aleksey Lutsenko (Kaz), Vincenzo Nibali (Ita).
Belkin: Rick Flens (Ned), Jonathan Hivert (Fra), Tom Leezer (Ned), Bauke Mollema (Ned), Lars Petter Nordhaug (Nor), Maarten Tjallingii (Ned), Robert Wagner (Ger), Jos van Emden (Ned).
BMC: Philippe Gilbert (Bel), Thor Hushovd (Nor), Klaas Lodewyck (Bel), Manuel Quinziato (Ita), Michael Schar (Swi), Greg van Avermaet (Bel), Peter Velits (Svk), Danilo Wyss (Swi).
Cannondale: Maciej Bodnar (Pol), Damiano Caruso (Ita), Alessandro de Marchi (Ita), Oscar Gatto (Ita), Marco Marcato (Ita), Alan Marangoni (Ita), Moreno Moser (Ita), Peter Sagan (Svk).
Europcar: Yukiya Arashiro (Jap), Bryan Coquard (Fra), Jerome Cousin (Fra), Tony Hurel (Fra), Vincent Jerome (Fra), Bryan Nauleau (Fra), Alexandre Pichot (Fra), Bjorn Thurau (Ger).
FDJ: William Bonnet (Fra), David Boucher (Bel), Arnaud Demare (Fra), Mickael Delage (Fra), Matthieu Ladagnous (Fra), Johan le Bon (Fra), Yoann Offredo , Arthur Vichot (Fra).
Garmin-Sharp: Jack Bauer (NZ), Nathan Haas (Aus), Sebastian Langeveld (Ned), David Millar (GB), Ramunas Navardauskas (Lit), Tom-Jelte Slagter (Ned), Johan Vansummeren (Bel), Fabian Wegmann (Ger).
Giant-Shimano: Roy Curvers (Ned), John Degenkolb (Ger), Koen de Kort (Ned), Dries Devenyns (Bel), Simon Geschke (Ger), Renihardt Janse van Rensburg (RSA), Tom Stamsnijder (Ned), Albert Timmer (Ned).
Katusha: Pavel Brutt (Rus), Vladimir Gusev (Rus), Alexandr Kolobnev (Rus), Alexander Kristoff (Nor), Aliaksandr Kuchynski (Blr), Luca Paolini (Ita), Gatis Smukulis (Lat), Angel Vicioso (Spa).
Lampre-Merida: Matteo Bono (Ita), Davide Cimolai (Ita), Sacha Modolo (Ita), Manuele Mori (Ita), Filippo Pozzato (Ita), Ariel Richeze (Arg), Diego Ulissi (Ita), Luca Wackermann (Ita).
Lotto-Belisol: Lars Ytting Bak (Den), Tony Gallopin (Fra), Andre Greipel (Ger), Adam Hansen (Aus), Pim Ligthart (Ned), Jurgen Roelandts (Bel), Marcel Sieberg (Ger), Jelle Vanendert (Bel).
Movistar: Andrey Amador (Cos), Juan Jose Lobato (Spa), Adriano Malori (Ita), Nairo Quintana (Col), Jose Joaquin Rojas (Spa), Enrique Sanz (Spa), Jasha Sutterlin (Ger), Fran Ventoso (Spa).
Omega Pharma - Quick-Step: Jan Bakelants (Bel), Mark Cavendish (GB), Iljo Keisse (Bel), Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol), Alessandro Petacchi (Ita), Mark Renshaw (Aus), Zdenek Stybar (Cze), Matteo Trentin (Ita).
Orica-GreenEdge: Simon Clarke (Aus), Luke Durbridge (Aus), Simon Gerrans (Aus), Mathew Hayman (Aus), Daryl Impey (RSA), Jens Keukeleire (Bel), Michael Matthews (Aus), Svein Tuft (Can).
Team Sky: Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor), Dario Cataldo (Ita), Bernhard Eisel (Aut), Christian Knees (Ger), Salvatore Puccio (Ita), Gabriel Rasch (Nor), Ben Swift (GB), Geraint Thomas (GB).
Tinkoff-Saxo: Daniele Bennati (Ita), Christopher Juul-Jensen (Den), Roman Kreuziger (Cze), Karsten Kroon (Ned), Michael Morkov (Den), Nicolas Roche (Ire), Nicki Sorensen (Den), Matteo Tosatto (Ita).
Trek: Eugenio Alafaci (Ita), Fabian Cancellara (Swi), Laurent Didier (Lux), Fabio Felline (Ita), Bob Jungels (Lux), Yaroslav Popovych (Ukr), Gregory Rast (Swi), Hayden Roulston (NZ).
Bardiani-CSF: Enrico Battglin (Ita), Nicola Boem (Ita), Marco Canola (Ita), Sonny Colbrelli (Ita), Marco Coledan (Ita), Filippo Fortin (Ita), Stefano Pirazzi (Ita), Nicola Ruffoni (Ita).
MTN-Qhubeka:Gerald Ciolek (Ger), Ignatas Konovalovas (Lit), Merhawi Kudus (Eri), Louis Meintjes (RSA), Kristian Sbaragli (Ita), Jay Robert Thomson (RSA), Daniel Teklehaimanot (Eri), Jaco Venter (RSA).
NetApp-Endura: Jan Barta (Cze), Cesare Benedetti (Ita), Iker Camano (Spa), David de la Cruz (Spa), Zakkari Dempster (Aus), Bartosz Huzarski (Pol), Erick Rowsell (GB), Paul Voss (Ger).
Neri Sottoli: Rafael Andriato (Bra), Francesco Chicchi (Ita), Daniele Colli (Ita), Francesco Failli (Ita), Mauro Finetto (Ita), Simone Ponzi (Ita), Matteo Rabottini (Ita), Fabio Taborre (Ita).
UnitedHealthcare: Alessandro Bazzana (Ita), marc de Maar (Cur), Lucas Euser (USA), Robert Forster (Ger), Davide Frattini (Ita), Chris Jones (USA), Martijn Maaskant (Ned), Kiel Reijnen (USA).