By David Hunter
Who can forget 2014 and the sight of Patrik Sinkewitz making rude gestures after being beaten by Jose Serpa? Most amusing!
After changes to the route in 2014, we return to a more demanding finale, with the climb of Colla Micheri.The route is challenging even without this climb but it certainly makes the route a tough one. It should also mean we get a very small bunch of riders together in the closing kilometres.
Pippo Pozzato is a big fan of the race, having won it on 3 separate occasions: 2003, 2004 and 2014. Sadly, Pozzato won’t be here this year as he’s in Oman. Defending champion, Jose Serpa, isn’t here either.
Usually the Italian races is a battle between the domestic teams but this race has been upgraded to 1.HC and with it World Tour teams come. We have BMC, Katusha, AG2R, Cannondale – Garmin and Lampre. Then we have the normal, quality Italian squads: Southeast, Androni and Bardiani. Also competing are Europcar, Colombia, Bretagne – Seche, Nippo – Vini and Cult Energy. This is a very appealing group of teams.
I was excited to see Philippe Gilbert start the race, but he has pulled out due to illness. Anyway, my favourite rider is here….Mauro Finetto. Super Mauro leads the Southeast team and they look strong: Finetto, Belletti, Favilli, Gavazzi, Monsalve, Petacchi, Wackermann and Busato. Their signing policy has been great and they have a great mix of talented riders. With the challenging route, it seems perfect for Finetto, Monsalve and Wackermann. In fact, both Finetto and Wackermann finished just behind the leaders, last year. Both have a wonderful chance this year.
Lampre arrive with a mixed team, but lack some depth. Their climbers are Durasek and Niemiec, with Conti, if we get a reduced bunch sprint. Bonifazio is also here, he will have to be on top form to survive all the climbs. Niemiec won’t have any problems and he looks their best bet. He has already competed in San Luis and GP Etruschi, so has good legs. Not known for his sprinting, he’ll look to attack near the end. Durasek is a very promising rider, but he’s had a slow start to the year.
Without Gilbert, BMC are weakened. They still have Atapuma but he hasn’t raced this year. They also hand debuts to Manuel Senni and Joey Rosskopf. I’m a big fan of both these riders, particularly Senni. I can’t see BMC winning the race.
Cannondale – Garmin arrive with Mohoric, Dan Martin and the reborn Moreno Moser. I have a feeling someone gave Moser a massive kick up the bum. He needed it! Such a talented rider but in danger of wasting his talents, he’s started the year with a bang: 8th on Willunga Hill and 7th in the Cadel Evans race. Moser is here to win and is one of the favourites. Dan Martin has been ill. If he races, he’ll support Moser.
Katusha have a strong looking squad with Spilak, Tsatevich, Vicioso and Zakarin. If we get a small sprint, Tsatevich is a massive threat. He finished 12th in the Cadel Evans race. Spilak has only raced in Dubai, so might be missing a little. If on form, he’s one of the strongest riders here. Katusha will have a large say in the outcome of the race.
The main man for AG2R is Rinaldo Nocentini. The Italian is now 37 years old but can still deliver, he was 2nd in Milano-Torino last year. His focus is now 1 day races, but he hasn’t competed since San Luis. I’m not sure if those old legs will have enough racing in them yet!
After a little trip to Australia, to race in the Sun Tour, Franco Pellizotti is back on familiar territory. With that racing behind him, Franco is a big threat. The climbs are easy for him and I expect him to attack. Androni also have Sella and Gatto as other potential cards to play. Gatto is going well for his new team. He was 6th in Etruschi and 9th in Almeria.
Bardiani look weak, with their main riders in Oman. Their best hope is Stefano Pirazzi but he’s not hitting form yet. I can’t see Bardiani being successful here.
Jonathan Hivert seems to be the hope for Bretagne – Seche. Just signed from Belkin, he’s started the season well. He was 5th in GP Marseillaise and 11th in Besseges. Hivert is capable of getting over climbs, but he needs to hope for other teams to hold the race together, as he’ll not have many teammates left.
Tommy Voeckler is here! He’s already raced in San Luis and Besseges, so Tommy should be ready to hit some form. Get ready for some face pulling and attacking, he has to! The problem for Voeckler is that everyone wants to cover his attacks. He needs to be more creative and try to surprise the bunch, maybe on a descent. It’s a good looking profile for Voeckler and I would expect to see him challenging for the title.
Southeast dominated GP Etruschi and their team looks good enough to do the same here. They will want Wackermann to make the climbs difficult and try to eliminate as many sprinters as possible. Arrive with a group of 20 riders and Finetto should take the win. Without his usual foe, Sonny Colbrelli, there really is no challenge to Finetto, if we get a sprint. The challenge for Moser, Voeckler, Spilak and Pellizotti is to try and make the race even more selective. For me, it’s between Moser and Finetto. I’m sure you know who I’m going to say……….Finetto!
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