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Potential rain, flooding may cause last-minute change to Milano-Sanremo route

SAN BENEDETTO DEL TRONTO, Italy (VN) — The Milano-Sanremo route remains in doubt. “La Classicissima” will tilt in favor of the sprinters, but the direction it takes could change with rain expected for Sunday’s race. Tuesday at Tirreno-Adriatico, race organizer RCS Sport confirmed to Velonews it would have to wait until Thursday to determine if the Milano-Sanremo route has to detour inland.

Due to a recent landslide near Spotorno, which lies 95.2 kilometers before the finish line in Sanremo, RCS Sport may need to alter the route. The race can pass the town on the Via Aurelia now but with rain expected Saturday and Sunday, an alternative course is being looked at. The option is to leave Aurelia before Spotorno, climb above the town — a road with grades no higher than three percent — and return seaside near Noli.

The Cipressa and Poggio climbs 70km later will cause more headaches for the sprinters than the possible detour, but the uncertainty and last-minute changes create problems. RCS Sport already cut the 5km Pompeiana climb it tried to introduce for 2014. Had it been in the race, it would have ruled out the sprinters.

“You’ve got to know the course before you select [your teams],” Sky’s general manager David Brailsford said.”It’s one of the joys of this sport that every year the same race has a different [route], that’s a great side of it, but what would be nice is that the course details come out early enough to make strategies.”

Brailsford planned to field his Tour de France winner, Chris Froome, prior to the organizer nixing Pompeiana. Due to heavy rains and bad road conditions, the Imperia provincial government would not allow “La Classicissima” to pass. Froome races the Volta a Catalunya next and Sky will instead field a Sanremo team that includes Omloop Het Nieuwsblad winner Ian Stannard and Edvald Boasson Hagen.

“It’d be fair for teams to be given a lot more notice so we can sit down and prepare properly,” Brailsford added. “You can get the riders in the right shape for the race rather than to do what we all do, which is choose riders for the races and wait for the course to come out to see if we got it right or not. If we had it earlier then the riders could prepare better and the racing would be better. Everyone would win.”

The teams should be able to plan on Pompeiana next year. Race director Mauro Vegni said he wants to steer Milano-Sanremo over the climb between the Cipressa and Poggio, and essentially change the race from a sprinters’ classic to one for grand tour riders and attackers.

“We had Mànie before and now no Mànie. The Pompeiana climb in and out,” 2008 winner Fabian Cancellara (Trek Factory Racing) said. “I like tradition somehow, to stay on the baseline. At least now we know how it’s going to be next year.”

“They shouldn’t do it,” added Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-Quick Step), the 2009 winner. “It’s always going to seem biased coming from me because I can’t win it, but the new course is like paving over the cobbles of Paris-Roubaix. It’s not the same race anymore.”

Cavendish may keep the race in his plans for now. Even with the possible detour above Spotorno, Milano-Sanremo remains open to the sprinters — at least for one more year.