The Milan-San Remo one-day classic will have to return to its former route with the Pompeiana climb ruled unsafe. The local government said today that the road above the Italy's Ligurian coast is closed and unable to support an international race on March 23. Its decision opens the door again to sprinters like 2009 winner Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) and defending champion Gerald Ciolek (MTN-Qhubeka).
"It's not possible [that the road can be repaired in time]. It's not my opinion but province's. This road isn't safe enough to allow an event of this level," Michele Russo, director of roads and transport for the Imperia province, told Cycling Weekly this morning.
"The province sent a letter to [race organiser] RCS Sport. We made a decision based on the road condition. The race is going to have to use the route it always has. We don't have a solution for them unfortunately."
Traditionally the race weaved westward along the coast towards San Remo with detours inland to climb the Cipressa and the Poggio. In September, RCS Sport said that for 2014 it would add the five-kilometre Pompeiana climb between the two to spice up the race. Doing so, it took out the La Mànie climb earlier in the race. The move effectively ruled out sprinters like Cavendish and Ciolek.
On Friday, Italian newspaper La Stampa reported problems with the SP50 road that climbs through the Pompeiana village and SP51 that descends past Castellero to rejoin the Via Aurelia on the seaside. Russo told Cycling Weekly that the Imperia provincial government met, decided the SP51 was unsafe and sent a letter to RCS Sport.
"We can't authorise the race to pass this road because it's truly... It was already a concern before but after a recent meeting it became certain [that it can't be used]," Russo said.
"There are not problems to climb up from Pompeiana. Instead, there are big problems when you go to descend past Castellero. Also, due to a quarry there, the road is really worn. The guard rails for protection are very low, and the quarry's trucks have damaged the guard rails. And there are a lot of potholes. Absolutely, a race caravan of that size can't pass."
Russo added that recent rain and landslides worsened the situation. The province closed the road to local traffic as it already had done in January. He said that the province could reopen it this weekend to alternating one-way traffic.
"It will probably be open again as soon as the mud dries and solidifies; right now it's liquid and almost impossible to haul away."
Race Technical Director Mauro Vegni was unavailable when Cycling Weekly tried to reach him for this article. Press Officer Stefano Diciatteo said that RCS Sport is monitoring the terrain and has time to verify if Milan-San Remo is able to use Pompeiana. The Imperia province, however, said "it's not possible."
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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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