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Freeman Cebu Sports

Can a “Classic” be boring?

ALLEZ - Jose Vicente 'JV' Araneta - The Freeman

When you’re job is to race your bicycle in the freezing rain for 7 hours, with tires about an inch wide, shoulder to shoulder with 200 other cyclists, would you be offended if somebody tells you that you are doing a boring job?

Well, that’s what I thought happened to the 105th edition of the Milan-San Remo. The race, at 290km, is the longest race in the UCI calendar. On paper, the MSR course is not really difficult, with only a two climbs near the end of the race that can actually make a difference. The distance, and the weather, of course, makes this event exciting.             Besides, it’s an Italian race, and we all know how everything is beautiful in Italy.

The race usually starts with the no-name riders breaking away hoping to make it to the point when TV coverage starts and gain enough advertising mileage for their sponsors. For the peloton containing the favorites, its just about bidding time, making themselves comfortable and expending as little energy as possible. Team domestiques usually set the pace and its on the final hour or so that the speed starts to ramp up.

In the MSR, its usually the climb to the Poggio that determines the final riders to contest the finish. It is 3.7km long with the same distance going down the other side. In the past few years, the Poggio is always the place where the decisive move is made. Fabian Cancellara, Simon Gerrans, Matthew Goss and last years winner, Gerard Ciolek, made or joined the winning moves in the Poggio. The downhill is not for the weak of heart, and the twisting corners can either make you or brake you. In 1992, Sean Kelly caught a surprised Moreno Argentin in the last few hundred meters with a daredevil dive down the Poggio.

This year though, only fours riders attacked, all domestiques. In fairness, 2012 World Champion Philippe Gilbert followed the attackers but was swallowed by the chase. Now, I was expecting a counter attack by either Pater Sagan or Fabian Cancellara and I was now at the edge of my seat but horrors of horrors, nothing. As they went over the climb, the race became a sprinters race, not the strongman anymore. While the downhill looked very dangerous especially with the high speeds and wet roads, no one crashed.

As the road leveled off, there were just about 3000 meters of racing left. At this point, Mark Cavendish, the 2009 champion, looked like he had MSR sewn in the bag. His main rival, Andre Greipel, was dropped earlier. But then again the sheer distance, the cold, took its toll. It was the Russian team, Katusha, who took control with 1k to go. I was hoping Cavendish would take it but he started his sprint too early and he was passed by 4 riders with Norwegian AlexandreKristoff winning his first monument. Cancellara would take second place while Sagan would finish at 10th.

Post –mortem, it perplexed me why there was such tepid racing this year. Yes, the weather was bad but last year, it was worse. However the racing was exciting. Hopefully, the Tour of Flanders (last night) and Paris-Roubaix (this Sunday) will be more spectator friendly.

***

Finally, congratulations to Team Skylogistics-Davis Paints for finishing the 3 stage Tour of Pines (VueltaDagupan), a race that tackles the summer resort of Baguio from three points. I will have more complete report in my next column…

ANDRE GREIPEL

FABIAN CANCELLARA

FABIAN CANCELLARA AND I

GERARD CIOLEK

MARK CAVENDISH

MATTHEW GOSS

MILAN-SAN REMO

MORENO ARGENTIN

POGGIO

RACE

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