Mark Cavendish and his HTC-Highroad team-mates finished their last training ride ahead of tomorrow’s Milan-San Remo. However, Cavendish and one of his main lead out men, Bernhard Eisel took time today in Lainate, west of Milan, to analyse the races past wins and winners.
The two have raced most of the editions or seen them on YouTube, plus, they rely on the experience of team advisor and four-time winner, Erik Zabel.
“I used to [review the races on YouTube], but not anymore really,” explained Cavendish. “I’ve watched what not to do when you cross the finish line! You don’t celebrate too early, unless you are Fabian.”
Cavendish looked to Zabel and smiled. Zabel lost the 2004 edition to Spaniard Oscar Freire when he raised his hands too early in celebration.
German Erik Zabel: 1997, 1998, 2000, 2001
“He’s just solid. His wins made what San Remo is, just always right in the last second,” said Cavendish. “After 300K, it always came down to a half a bike. It was pretty exiting to see his consistency. If there’s one thing that goes wrong over 300 kilometres, it’s going to take its toll later on. So, everything has to go right.”
Italian Mario Cipollini: 2002
“At the time, I didn’t realise that he tried so long and didn’t win it. Erik [Zabel] was already winning it, I knew that. It was usually always a sprint when I was watching it on television. Like Cipo, all the riders who have won it have a certain character, in my eyes.”
Italian Paolo Bettini: 2003
“Luca Paolini and Mirco Celestino came to the line with him,” added Eisel. “I remember Paolini’s work, what he did that day was phenomenal. The Quick Step team rode perfectly.
“The race is unpredictable, that’s what’s exciting. Le Mànie made the race harder when they added it a couple of years ago, but the sprinters still have their chances.”
Italian Filippo Pozzato: 2006
“Pozzato holding off the peloton,” continued Cavendish. “It was pretty cool because it looked as if the bunch was coming in fast on him. The bunch was closer to him than it was for to [Heinrich] Haussler and me. That’s what makes San Remo so exciting, it’s that fact that it always comes down to that last minute. The whole race builds up, builds up. It makes it so spectacular and exciting to race.
Swiss Fabian Cancellara: 2008
“Only three attacking rider in 10 years: Bettini, Pozzato and Cancellara. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy. The sprinters actually have to change their body shapes for the race, they have to train a certain way.
“His attack at 2K out… I can’t worry about an attack like that. If someone does an attack like that, he [Matt Goss] can go with him, I can’t.”
Brit Mark Cavendish: 2009
“In 2009, when I won, we used our team of eight riders the whole race. I didn’t have one puncture or anything that went wrong.
“Every single thing went right that day: I had a lead out to Le Mànie, lead out by two guys to Cipressa. George [Hincapie] looked after me until the Poggio, then he sat up and waited on the Poggio to lead me down. When Haussler attacked, everyone else started racing for second, but I went, and it paid off.”
Spaniard Oscar Freire: 2004, 2007, 2010
“Why doesn’t he ever get the s**t like I do? ‘Oh, Oscar! We haven’t seen Oscar. He’s going to be bad in San Remo!’ Never, he’s done it like that for 10 years now but he doesn’t get the shit I do.
“As dangerous as always? Yeah, are you kidding? He’s a silent assassin!”