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RCS Sport trying to save Pompeiana climb for Milano-Sanremo

MILAN (VN) — Milano-Sanremo organizer RCS Sport will meet with the local government next Wednesday in an attempt to solve its Pompeiana problem. Poor road conditions and a recent landslide may force the Giro d’Italia owner to cut the new climb scheduled to debut in the March 23 race.

“We are trying in every way possible to save Pompeiana,” Mauro Vegni, RCS Sport’s technical director for cycling, told VeloNews.

Vegni heard back from RCS Sport employees who traveled yesterday to Italy’s Ligurian coast, 25 miles east of the French border. They drove the SP50 and inspected the SP51, which descends from Pompeiana, past Castellero and to the seaside. A landslide blocks the SP51 near Castellero, potholes dot the road and guardrails bear damage, according to the local Imperia province.

The problems could potentially stop RCS Sport’s plan to spice up “La Classicissima,” which this year runs for the 105th time. In September, it added the five-kilometer climb to Pompeiana, slotted between the decisive Cipressa and Poggio climbs.

“There’s a problem, a landslide, but we have to talk with the province and ANAS [Italy’s roads corporation] to know what we can do to make the road in condition for cyclists to race,” said Vegni. “The province closed it, yes. They are trying to understand the road’s conditions. But we are inspecting it to understand the timeframe that the engineers say that they will need.”

The Imperia province closed the SP51 due to a landslide caused by recent heavy rainfall. It said that it hopes to open it this weekend when the mud dries, but that the road’s condition forced officials to say no to Milano-Sanremo.

Michele Russo, director of roads and transport, said that provincial officials met to discuss the issue. It decided against Sanremo’s passage and sent a letter to RCS Sport telling it so.

“Absolutely, a race caravan of that size can’t pass,” Russo told VeloNews. “We don’t have a solution for [the race organizer] unfortunately.”

Vegni, however, explained that RCS Sport remains hopeful. He added that a month’s time could be enough for cycling’s first monument of the season to pass its controversial new climb.

“Maybe we can have some minor work carried out that’s good enough for at least for the race to pass,” said Vegni. “They could stabilize it enough so that Milano-Sanremo could pass then carry out other work later. We have to understand just how serious the problem is; after that, we’ll know if it’s possible to do something or not.”

If the Pompieana is not passable, the race will travel its former route, the pre-2008 edition, without the La Mànie climb, which faced the peloton 100 kilometers from the finish for five years. The loss of two climbs along the 298-kilometer route would delight 2009 winner Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) and defending champion Gerald Ciolek (MTN-Qhubeka), both sprinters who saw their chances all but erased with the addition of the would-be new climb.

“We’d have no other option but to race the classic Sanremo, without La Mànie,” Vegni said. “I’d rather return to Milano-Sanremo of [seven] years ago.”