The favourites for Milan-San Remo (Saturday, March 17) come in two flavours: sprinters and attackers.
To get an idea of who is and who isn’t in form it is enough just to look at the Tirreno-Adriatico results. Mark Cavendish, Edvald Boasson Hagen, Peter Sagan, Vincenzo Nibali, Joaquin Rodriguez and Fabian Cancellara all won stages.
Defending champion Matt Goss’s GreenEdge team won the time trial and he kept the leader’s jersey for a few days. Rarely, San Remo winners come from Paris-Nice, Goss and Andrei Tchmil in 1999 being exceptions.
If you did look north, though, Tom Boonen, Thor Hushovd and Heinrich Haussler would stand out. Of the past winners, only Alessandro Petacchi and Filippo Pozzato look unlikely to win, but Goss, Cavendish, Cancellara and Oscar Freire are going have all flexed their muscles.
Here we rate the chances of the favourites. Our full preview of 2012 Milan-San Remo features a guide to the route, teams, TV coverage, previous winners and much more.
Mark Cavendish (Sky)
The outright favourite. Cavendish and his team proved worthy in Qatar, Belgium and recently in Italy. If he gets over the Poggio with or near the main group, he will be nearly impossible to beat.
Matthew Goss (GreenEdge)
He is more robust, can stand more punches than Cavendish can, but has a slower sprint. We tip our hats to GreenEdge and its intensive preparations for the Tirreno TTT. If they have planned just as well, Goss may stand a chance to become the first repeat winner since Erik Zabel in 2001.
Oscar Freire (Katusha)
The Spaniard is like a Ninja, you never see him until you are taken out by his nunchucks. After Zabel retired, Freire became the San Remo king, counting three victories in his palmares. He finished second to Cavendish in Tirreno, is motivated by new team Katusha and the desire to win once more before he retires.
Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-QuickStep)
Tommeke lives! He found his feet again after a few dark years with wins in Argentina, Qatar and Paris-Nice. He will hit top speed in the first week of April, but never count him out for San Remo.
André Greipel (Lotto-Belisol)
Mister nice guy got his first smell of San Remo’s salt air last year. He had just returned from a crash, but helped Gilbert over the final climbs. Afterwards, he nearly cried when he realised the missed opportunities racing in Cavendish’s HTC team. A few stage wins so far this year and second to Boasson Hagen in Tirreno makes him a favourite.
Thor Hushovd (BMC Racing)
With Gilbert and Greg Van Avermaet looking out of form, Hushovd carries BMC’s flag. He placed third twice, but has not shown much of himself so far this season. Update: Will not race due to illness
Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Barracuda)
Farrar has come up short a few times this year, namely third behind Cavendish and Freire in Tirreno stage two. He said then, “We are still getting our lead-out dialled in.”
Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale)
Do you call him an attacker or a sprinter? That is what has his rivals worried, they don’t know how to deal with him. If he finishes in a small group, he can sprint. He can also explode the race with an attack over the Poggio. For evidence, just review his Tirreno stage win in Chieti.
Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Nissan)
His win in Strade Bianche showed he is still capable of a deadly, solo attack. “My rivals now know not to let me even have one metre.” His Tirreno TT win showed his power is still there.
Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky)
Without Cavendish, he will have the freedom to win. A likely scenario is for him to sprint from a small group, as he did in Tirreno.
Philippe Gilbert (BMC Racing)
Out of form, but still dangerous given how he crushed his rivals in every race last year.
Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre-ISD)
Heinrich Haussler (Garmin-Barracuda)
Daniele Bennati (RadioShack-Nissan)
Daniel Oss (Liquigas-Cannondale)
Elia Viviani (Liquigas-Cannondale)
Alessandro Ballan (BMC Racing)
Milan-San Remo 2012: Related links
Milan-San Remo 2012: The Big Preview
Boonen leads Omega Pharma at San Remo
Cancellara plans to upset San Remo sprint
Sagan shows form ahead of Milan-San Remo
Cavendish set for Milan-San Remo with Tirreno win
Goss gets it together for Milan-San Remo
Spring Classics 2012: Coverage index
Milan-San Remo 2011: Goss seizes opportunity to win