Mark Cavendish is training in Salsomaggiore, Italy, today in preparation for the Milan-San Remo classic on Saturday. The British sprinter joins most of the HTC-Highroad team from Tirreno-Adriatico and two others, Matt Goss and Lars Back, from Paris-Nice.
The goal is simple, train to be ready to help Cavendish repeat his 2009 win. Sports director Valerio Piva explained HTC's programme from the final stage of Tirreno on Tuesday to the start of Milan-San Remo on Saturday at 9:45.
"It's tradition, as it was in 2009, we did a recon of the Milan-San Remo parcours after Strade Bianche," said Piva.
Piva and technical adviser, Erik Zabel, took the team to train on the parcours Sunday and Monday, March 6 and 7, before Tirreno. After the stage race finished on Tuesday with a 9.3-kilometre time trial, the team left for Salsomaggiore, 100 kilometres southeast of Milan.
"We stopped in restaurant in Imola, Molino Rosso, it's a tradition. Good food, good pasta and a piece of meat. Then, continue to Salsomaggiore, it's a key area for training.
"We are recovering from Tirreno and paying attention to the food. You know, if you are busy in a stage race, with lots of kilometres every day, you need fuel, food. If you stop, without four to five hours of racing, you have to pay attention not to put on one or two kilos. Otherwise, you will feel like you have balloon legs on the morning of Milan-San Remo."
"It's important to have a good breakfast, a salad and a small amount of pasta for lunch and in the evening, a normal dinner," Piva said of the three days between Tirreno and San Remo.
"Cavendish? He eats pasta like every rider, pasta bianca or with tomato sauce."
"Tirreno-Adriatico usually ends with a normal road stage, but this year it ended with a short TT. So, Cavendish and the team rode one or two hours this morning before the TT. Wednesday [yesterday], a normal rest day - two hours easy, then three hours on Thursday and Friday, easy."
Piva said that the team will have lunch after its training ride today and then leave for Milan.
"Will leave in the afternoon for the same hotel as always in Milan." Tomorrow, "an easy build up."
"We have the team meeting the night before, this is normal. The morning before the big classics, there is not time, it's an early start and there's lots of stress."
The race officially starts at 9:45, which means HTC's eight cyclists have to be out of bed by 6:00 for breakfast.
"Eating," said Piva. "It's pasta because there are 300 kilometres race. If you are a rider, you have to eat pasta in the morning, even at six o'clock."
Once at Milan's Piazza Casetello, Cavendish will sign the race's start sheet and begin. The riders will parade through the fashion city, 7.5 kilometres, before reaching Via della Chiesa Rossa and the official start.
In other words, it's a day of 305.5 kilometres, a pasta breakfast is required.
"For normal people it is strange, but not for us."
Team HTC for Milan-San Remo: Cavendish, Bernhard Eisel, Bert Grabsch, Michael Albasini, Peter Velits, Lars Bak and Matt Goss.
Milan-San Remo 2011: The Big Preview
Cavendish counts down to Milan-San Remo
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Gregor Brown is an experienced cycling journalist, based in Florence, Italy. He has covered races all over the world for over a decade - following the Giro, Tour de France, and every major race since 2006. His love of cycling began with freestyle and BMX, before the 1998 Tour de France led him to a deep appreciation of the road racing season.
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