The Milan-San Remo race organiser introduces the Pompeiana climb this year between the Cipressa and Poggio to make a much harder race. The decision rules out many sprinters, including Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-Quick Step). Filippo Pozzato (Lampre-Merida), the 2006 winner, said that the organiser went too far by adding Pompeiana.
"I liked the race how it was," Pozzato told Cycling Weekly. "You can't change every race to create something hard. It's only right that the sprinters have their races as well.
"We'll have to see how San Remo turns out before we judge it. Cavendish, though, can't do it and won't start. The race loses these guys, it was better to have them, all of the big riders."
Organiser RCS Sport announced in September that Milan-San Remo, this year scheduled for March 17, will climb Pompeiana. It said it is "making the Classicissima route more and more spectacular and unpredictable."
Instead of riding along the coast after the Cipressa, the riders turn inland and climb five kilometres. They descend, turn to the traditional finishing Poggio climb and race the final five kilometres into San Remo. To compensate, the organiser skips the Mànie climb earlier in the race.
Cavendish won in 2009 and raced every year since. He already said that the new climb forces him to skip the San Remo. Other sprinters, including André Greipel (Lotto-Belisol) said they will cut the race from their programme, as well.
Milan-San Remo celebrated both sprinters and attackers in recent years. Erik Zabel won four times, Mario Cipollini sprinted to victory, Sean Kelly, Fabian Cancellara and Pozzato attacked.
"How it was, the sprinters could try for the win. It was between them and attacking riders like me. Now, it's between two other groups," Pozzato said.
"The climb changes the whole race. The sprinters can't do well now. It's good for riders like Vincenzo Nibali, who go well on climbs and descents, and for riders like me. Now, it's between two other groups."
He listed Nibali (team Astana) and Peter Sagan (Cannondale) as favourites. Sagan finished second to sprinter Gerald Ciolek (MTN-Qhubeka) last year. Nibali attacked with eventual winner Simon Gerrans and Fabian Cancellara in 2012 and placed third.
Pozzato lives in Monaco and previewed the climb east of San Remo this winter. He said that Pompeiana, combined with the Cipressa beforehand and the Poggio afterwards makes for an intense 45-minute effort.
"All of it focused on those 45 minutes in the final, there's not a minute to take it easy," he explained. "When you are going downhill, it's all-out. Then you only have three kilometres on the flat and you don't have time to recover before the Poggio. We will all be strung out in single file. It's going to be hard to go all-out for 45 minutes without one minute to recover."
Milan-San Remo route change for 2014
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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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