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Milan-San Remo preview: Mark Cavendish among favourites

Everything you need to know about the first one-day Monument classic of the season, including the route, contenders and teams

Mark Cavendish will be among the sprinters and one-day specialists vying for victory on Sunday at the season’s first Monument classic, Milan-San Remo.

The 293km marathon is the longest race of the year and while it usually finishes in a sprint, late climbs and frequent bad weather mean that is not always a certainty.

Sprinters are high up the list of favourites, but the immense distance can drain them of their top speed, which brings classics experts such as Fabian Cancellara into play.

As well as Cavendish, there is further British interest in the form of Team Sky's Ben Swift, who finished third last year.

Here's what you need to know about the race...


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Milan-San Remo is not a particularly technical or hilly race, but the challenge lies in its colossal distance. It takes in three regions of Italy - Lombardy, Piemonte and Liguria - as it moves from the edge of the Alps to the Mediterranean coast.


There are six climbs on the route, the first of which, the Passo del Turchino, is largely inconsequential given that it comes less than halfway into the race. Then come a quick-fire trio of climbs known as the Tre Capi - Mele, Cervo and Berta - but it is the final two that there the most demanding and influential on the outcome of the race.

When compared with Alpine climbs, the Cipressa and Poggio are not significant ascents, but with more than 260km in the legs and the race speeding up ahead of the finale, they take on added difficulty and importance.

On paper the Cipressa is the tougher of the two and should thin the peloton down, but the Poggio is the make-or-break climb because it is here that breakaways will form or the riders who haven't got the strength to contest the finish are dropped. The climb is particularly crucial for sprinters such as Cavendish, who will have to hang on desperately as punchy climbers try to distance them with attacks.


Once over the Poggio there is 5.5km to the finish. It could be that a group of four or five attackers break clear on the climb and they will frantically try to stay away on the descent down the other side, but the more likely outcome is the chasing pack will reel them back in ready for a reduced-bunch finish contested by sprinters and all-rounders.


Alexander Kristoff (Katusha)
Last year’s winner is back in search of a second successive victory and on what we have seen so far in 2015, he is the man to beat. The Norwegian has five wins to his name already this season so heads to Milan-San Remo in excellent form.

Mark Cavendish (Etixx – Quick-Step)
Cavendish has made Milan-San Remo his main target for the first part of the season and has trained all winter with this race specifically in mind. Those preparations have manifested themselves in some superb form so far this season – Cavendish is the most prolific sprinter in the peloton with six wins – but illness in recent weeks could hamper his chances.

Mark Cavendish finishes Stage 2 of the 2015 Tirreno-Adriatico after being held up by a crash
Image: Mark Cavendish is one of the pre-race favourites

Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo)
The prodigious Slovak has been misfiring so far in his first season with Tinkoff-Saxo but his immense talent means it is impossible to discount him from contention. He can get over the climbs, go on the attack and produce a fast sprint, so whether the bunch stays together or breaks apart, Sagan should be there regardless.

John Degenkolb (Giant-Alpecin)
Other than a fifth place in 2012, the big German has a poor record at Milan-San Remo but has started the season promisingly. He only has one win to his name, but his ability to get over hills and a fast finish ensure he should be in the final reckoning.

Juan Jose Lobato (Movistar)
The Spaniard finished fourth in last year’s race and is so far enjoying arguably the best season of his career, so he appears primed to challenge for the win this time around. The climbs aren’t a problem for him and he is getting faster by the race.


Fabian Cancellara (Trek Factory Racing)
The Swiss maestro has been the most consistent performer at Milan-San Remo in the past decade, winning the race in 2008 and finishing on the podium in each of the past four years. Although he doesn’t have the fastest sprint, he does have almost unparalleled endurance, which means he is usually one of the quickest finishers.

Ben Swift (Team Sky)
The Yorkshireman finished a surprise and impressive third place in last year’s edition and has made Milan-San Remo his main goal for the first part of 2015. He has proved he has the credentials to perform well, but his sprinting form is largely an unknown given that he has been playing supporting roles for much of the season so far.

Ben Swift, Team Sky, generic
Image: Ben Swift is the other big British hope after finishing fifth last year

Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEdge)
Matthews is one of the emerging stars of the sprinting world and goes into the race with good form, having won a stage and finished top of the points classification at Paris-Nice last week. He was well down in 78th in his Milan-San Remo debut last year, but expect him to fare far better this time around.

Gerald Ciolek (MTN-Qhubeka)
The German won the race in 2013 and finished ninth last year, so undoubtedly has pedigree and should be in the mix if it comes down to a sprint, but he is yet to show any sign of top form so far this season.

Sonny Colbrelli (Bardiani-CSF)
Not a household name, but the 24-year-old Italian finished sixth last year and 12th in 2013, so he is more than capable of getting to the final sprint and could be a handful.


Mark Cavendish (Etixx – Quick-Step).
Steve Cummings (MTN-Qhubeka).
Andrew Fenn (Team Sky).
Luke Rowe (Team Sky).
Ian Stannard (Team Sky).
Ben Swift (Team Sky).
Geraint Thomas (Team Sky).


Alexander Kristoff wins the 2014 Milan-San Remo
Image: Alexander Kristoff won last year's edition

2014: Alexander Kristoff (Nor).
2013: Gerald Ciolek (Ger).
2012: Simon Gerrans (Aus).
2011: Matthew Goss (Aus).
2010: Oscar Freire (Esp).
2009: Mark Cavendish (GB).
2008: Fabian Cancellara (Sui).
2007: Oscar Freire (Esp).
2006: Filippo Pozzato (Ita).
2005: Alessandro Petacchi (Ita).



Country: France. Status: WorldTour
Team: Rinaldo Nocentini (Ita), Jan Bakelants (Bel), Julien Berard (Fra), Samuel Dumoulin (Fra), Patrick Gretsch (Ger), Matteo Montaguti (Ita), Christophe Riblon (Fra), Johan Vansummeren (Bel).


Country: Italy. Status: Pro Continental
Team: Franco Pellizotti (Ita), Marco Bandeira (Ita), Tiziano Dall'Antonia (Ita), Marco Frapporti (Ita), Oscar Gatto (Ita), Simone Stortoni (Ita), Serghei Tvetcov (Rom), Fabio Taborre (Ita).


Country: Kazakhstan. Status: WorldTour
Team: Vincenzo Nibali (Ita), Lars Boom (Ned), Borut Bozic (Slo), Andriy Grivko (Ukr), Andrea Guardini (Ita), Alexey Lutsenko (Kaz), Michele Scarponi (Ita), Ruslan Tleubayev (Kaz).


Country: Italy. Status: Pro Continental
Team: Enrico Battaglin (Ita), Enrico Barbin (Ita), Nicola Boem (Ita), Sonny Colbrelli (Ita), Andrea Piechele (Ita), Stefano Pirazzi (Ita), Nicola Ruffoni (Ita), Edoardo Zardini (Ita).


Country: United States. Status: WorldTour
Team: Philippe Gilbert (Bel), Alessandro De Marchi (Ita), Silvan Dillier (Sui), Daniel Oss (Ita), Manuel Quinziato (Ita), Michael Schar (Sui), Greg van Avermaet (Bel), Peter Velits (Svk).


Country: Germany. Status: Pro Continental
Team: Jan Barta (Cze), Cesare Benedetti (Ita), Sam Bennett (Irl), Zakkari Dempster (Aus), Bartosz Huzarski (Pol), Cristian Salerno (Ita), Bjorn Thurau (Ger), Paul Voss (Ger).


Country: United States. Status: WorldTour
Team: Ramunas Navardauskas (Ltn), Jack Bauer (NZ), Nathan Haas (Aus), Lasse Norman Hansen (Den), Ben King (USA), Sebastian Langeveld (Ned), Moreno Moser (Ita), Davide Villella (Ita).

CCC Sprandi Polkowice

Country: Poland. Status: Pro Continental
Team: Grega Bole (Slo), Christian Delle Stelle (Ita), Adrian Kurek (Pol), Bartlomiej Matysiak (Pol), Nikolay Mihaylov (Bul), Maciej Paterski (Pol), Marek Rutkiewicz (Pol), Branislau Samoilau (Blr).


Country: France. Status: Pro Continental
Team: Nacer Bouhanni (Fra), Gert Joeaar (Est), Christophe Laporte (Fra), Cyril Lemoine (Fra), Adrien Petit (Fra), Dominique Rollin (Fra), Florian Senechal (Fra), Louis Verhelst (Bel).


Country: Colombia. Status: Pro Continental
Team: Edwin Avila (Col), Fabio Duarte (Col), Sebastian Molano (Col), Jonathan Paredes (Col), Carlos Quintero (Col), Brayan Ramirez (Col), Miguel Angel Rubiano (Col), Juan Pablo Valencia (Col).


Country: Belgium. Status: WorldTour
Team: Mark Cavendish (GB), Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol), Michal Golas (Pol), Mark Renshaw (Aus), Fabio Sabatini (Esp), Zdenek Stybar (Cze), Matteo Trentin (Ita), Stijn Vandenbergh (Bel).


Country: France. Status: WorldTour
Team: Arnaud Demare (Fra), William Bonnet (Fra), Sebastien Chavanel (Fra), Mikael Delage (Fra), Matthieu Ladagnous (Fra), Johan le Bon (Fra), Yoann Offredo (Fra), Murilo Fischer (Bra).


Country: Germany. Status: WorldTour
Team: John Degenkolb (Ger), Nikias Arndt (Ger), Roy Curvers (Ned), Koen de Kort (Ned), Tom Dumoulin (Ned), Chad Haga (USA), Albert Timmer (Ned), Zico Waeytans (Bel).


Country: Switzerland. Status: WorldTour
Team: Sylvain Chavanel (Fra), Heinrich Hassler (Aus), Reto Hollentstein (Sui), Matteo Pelucchi (Ita), Roger Kluge (Ger), Vicente Reynes (Esp), Aleksejs Saramotins (Lat), Jonas van Genechten (Bel).


Country: Russia. Status: WorldTour
Team: Alexander Kristoff (Nor), Jacopo Guarnieri (Ita), Marco Haller (Aut), Alexandr Kolobnev (Rus), Dmitriy Kozontchuk (Rus), Sergey Lagutin (Rus), Luca Paolini (Ita), Gatis Smukulis (Lat).


Country: Italy. Status: WorldTour
Team: Filippo Pozzato (Ita), Niccolo Bonifazio (Ita), Matteo Bono (Ita), Davide Cimolai (Ita), Rui Costa (Por), Sacha Modolo (Ita), Manuele Mori (Ita), Ariel Richeze (Arg).


Country: Netherlands. Status: WorldTour
Team: Maarten Tjallingii (Ned), Rick Flens (Ned), Moreno Hofland (Ned), Bert-Jan Lindeman (Ned), Paul Martens (Ger), Bram Tankink (Ned), Tom Leezer (Ned), Robert Wagner (Ger).


Country: Belgium. Status: WorldTour
Team: Andre Greipel (Ger), Kris Boeckmans (Bel), Tony Gallopin (Fra), Adam Hansen (Aus), Jurgen Roelandts (Bel), Marcel Sieberg (Ger), Jelle Vanendert (Bel), Tim Wellens (Bel).


Country: Spain. Status: WorldTour
Team: Alejandro Valverde (Esp), Alex Dowsett (GB), Ion Izagirre (Esp), Juan Jose Lobato (Esp), Adriano Malori (Ita), Jose Joaquin Rojas (Esp), Jasha Sutterlin (Ger), Giovanni Visconti (Ita).


Country: South Africa. Status: Pro Continental
Team: Gerald Ciolek (Ger), Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor), Steve Cummings (GB), Matthew Goss (Aus), Reinardt Janse van Rensburg (RSA), Serge Pauwels (Bel), Kristian Sbaragli (Ita), Jacobus Venter (RSA).


Country: United States. Status: Pro Continental
Team: Kevin de Mesmaeker (Bel), Joonas Henttala (Fin), Nicolas Lefrancois (Fra), David Lozano (Esp), Javier Megias (Esp), Andrea Peron (Ita), Charles Planet (Fra), Martijn Verschoor (Ned).


Country: Australia. Status: WorldTour
Team: Michael Matthews (Aus), Simon Clarke (Aus), Luke Durbridge (Aus), Mathew Hayman (Aus), Michael Hepburn (Aus), Daryl Impey (RSA), Jens Mouris (Ned), Simon Yates (GB).


Country: Great Britain. Status: WorldTour
Team: Ben Swift (GB), Bernhard Eisel (GB), Andrew Fenn (GB), Lars Petter Nordhaug (Nor), Salvatore Puccio (Ita), Luke Rowe (GB), Ian Stannard (GB), Geraint Thomas (GB).


Country: Russia. Status: WorldTour
Team: Peter Sagan (Svk), Daniele Bennati (Ita), Manuele Boaro (Ita), Maciej Bodnar (Pol), Matti Breschel (Den), Chrid Juul-Jensen (Den), Roman Kreuziger (Cze), Matteo Tossato (Ita).


Country: United States. Status: WorldTour
Team: Fabian Cancellara (Sui), Eugenio Alafaci (Ita), Fabio Felline (Ita), Giacomo Nizzolo (Ita), Yaroslav Popovych (Ukr), Gregory Rast (Sui), Hayden Roulston (NZ), Jesse Sergent (NZ).

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