Traditionally, it is Milan-San Remo’s passage over the Turchino Pass that heralds the symbolic changing of the seasons. After pedalling through the frigid air of the northern Italian plain, the peloton descends into the warm embrace of the Riviera.
It felt as though spring had arrived early this time around, however, as pleasant sunshine poured down upon Milan’s Piazza Castello on Saturday morning. It certainly was a marked change from the dreary, drizzly conditions that greeted the peloton at the start in recent years, but while that lifted the spirits, the usual pre-race nervousness was undimmed.
No other Classic has quite the same depth of contenders, and while the finale over the Cipressa and Poggio has remained more or less unaltered for more than 30 years, negotiating that breathless final hour of racing remains one of the great conundrums in professional cycling.
Fresh from a fine Paris-Nice, Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEdge) is one of the men who has been mulling over whether to stay or go in the finale this afternoon. Despite his rapid finish, however, the Australian maintains that he cannot afford to sit back and wait: with so many attacking riders on show, he may be forced to follow the moves on the Poggio.
“I had some good results with two stages and the green jersey at Paris-Nice. I’m feeling a little bit of pressure but I think I have the form to deliver,” Matthews said, adding of his tactics: “I think you got to see how the race pans out. There are a lot of riders here who are going to be attacking. I have to follow them, I can’t just sit back and wait for the sprint.”
Another fast man with the ability to get over the climbs is Matthews’ sparring partner from Paris-Nice, Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis). The Frenchman finished a disappointed 6th on his debut a year ago, but the experience should stand to him in the finale this afternoon. “I got a good win at Paris-Nice and my form is good but there’ll be lots of contenders to win today,” Bouhanni said in Milan on Saturday morning.
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