Orica-Greenedge will stand on the start line in Milan for the first monument of the season with the two most recent Milan-San Remo winners amongst its ranks. Matt Goss (‘11) and Simon Gerrans (’12) offer their team two options for the Italian Classic on Sunday.
“The way I won last year is rare,” said Gerrans. “Milan-Sanremo isn’t often won by a breakaway that forms in the closing kilometres of the race. Obviously, it can happen – and if it does, we know that I can win in that type of situation. In that regard, we have a couple cards to play. Our main card, our ace, is that we’ve got Gossy in great shape.”
The eight rider squad will be devoted to Goss’ service during the longest race on the cycling calendar. In 2011, Goss won an eight-up sprint that came on the heels of an animated finale. He outsprinted the likes of Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Leopard-Trek), Philippe Gilbert (then Omega Pharma – Lotto, now BMC) and Alessandro Ballan (BMC) to give Australia its first win in Samremo in the 102nd running of the race.
“With Gossy’s Tirreno win late last week, he’s shown that he’s in fantastic shape at the moment,” said Gerrans. “If the race comes down to a bunch sprint, which is the most likely scenario, he’ll be our man. The team will line up with the plan to support Gossy. I’ll have a bit of free rein in the final. That was our approach last year, too.”
The bulk of the Milan-Sanremo squad played a part in Goss’ Tirreno-Adriatico stage win. Baden Cooke, Jens Keukeleire and Gerrans were the only three to race Paris-Nice. Daryl Impey, Jens Mouris, Matt Goss, Sebastian Langeveld, Stuart O’Grady and Svein Tuft chose Italy over France.
“If you’re counting, you’ll notice we listed nine riders,” said Sport Director Neil Stephens. “We can only start eight. We traveled from Tirreno yesterday to team training camp, and we have both Jens and Svein here. Svein fell ill with two stages left to race at Tirreno-Adriatico He’s a key rider for us at Milan-Sanremo, and we’re hoping he’ll make a full recovery. If not, Jens Mouris is ready to step up.”
Although the team won’t talk specific tactics until Saturday, Gerrans can project select roles for his teammates.
“We’ll use certain riders early in the race and save come guys for the likely sprint,” he said. “Daryl Impey, for example, has proven to be Gossy’s most reliable last lead out man, so I imagine we’ll save him for the final. When I speak about the guys that we’ll use early, these are riders that probably will not finish the race. Their job is done before we reach the closing kilometres.”
Typically, the race follows a predictable format. A frantic start gives way to an early breakaway. The move must contain a mix of big teams but not big names. When the right escape group gets up the road, the peloton settles in until the 185 kilometre mark. The pace typically heats up on the Turchino Pass. At the top of the long yet mild ascent, the peloton passes through a tunnel before descending to the coast, where it will stay nearly all the way to the finish.
The peloton leaves the coast only to tackle the climbs that pepper the route. The first major difficulty is Le Maine, which proved decisive in splitting the peloton during last year’s race. Although not every hill will shed riders, each serves to soften the legs ahead of the grand finale.
The Cipressa and the Poggio di Sanremo decide the race. The final two climbs and their ensuing descents make for spectacular racing.
“This race is unique in that it’s the longest race of the season, but it does not typically truly unfold until the final ten kilometres,” noted Gerrans. “It’s exciting for spectators because there’s no real sense of who is going to win until basically the end. The suspense lasts for seven hours.”
Orica-Greenedge for Milan-Sanremo: