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Cancellara likes his odds in Sanremo lottery

SAN BENEDETTO DEL TRONTO, Italy (VN) — Fabian Cancellara is winning his way to Milano-Sanremo on Saturday. The Trek – Segafredo leader, racing in his final season, won Tirreno-Adriatico’s stage 7 time trial Tuesday afternoon and added to his 2016 haul: now four victories, including a record third win at Strade Bianche.

The time trial and classics specialist has won the San Benedetto stage four times. “I don’t know, four times now, maybe they should name a stretch of road after me here in San Benedetto or something,” Cancellara said with a laugh, referring to the honor he received for his third win at Strade in early March. “I’m not coming back, so it’s good to have my name in the record books.”

Besides being a four-time TT winner in San Benedetto, Cancellara won the overall Tirreno title in 2008. That year, he went on to win the Milano-Sanremo monument the following weekend. He placed on the podium four other times at “La Primavera” in subsequent years. With his season so far — victories in Spain, Portugal, and Italy — Cancellara is a favorite again to win on Sunday.

A win would go well with Cancellara’s 35th birthday Friday and would be fitting in his last season. He announced over the winter that, after 16 years, he would retire with the close of 2016.

“It will be emotional in Milan, of course,” continued Cancellara. “It’s the last time I start and roll out of Milan, but on the other hand, I know that I’ve won, and I’ve done well over the years in the race.”

Cancellara is on a list of favorites that includes Alexander Kristoff (Katusha), Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEdge), BMC’s Greg Van Avermaet, and Tinkoff’s world champion, Peter Sagan. They will race the traditional course along the Ligurian coast over the Cipressa and Poggio and without the Mànie climb.

“It’s the most unpredictable race in my opinion. A lottery. It’s my feeling,” Cancellara said. “With or without Mànie, the cold and rain, or without the cold and rain. Of course, you need to have the instinct and certain experience, which I have. For me, though, it still stays the biggest lottery of the year.”

Cancellara shows no sign of easing off in his final year. On Tuesday’s out-and-back course along Italy’s east coast, he clocked 11:08 minutes, compared to 11:23 in 2015. He said the win was “business as usual,” but 2016 seems to be a fine vintage for the Swiss.

In 2015, Cancellara crashed and broke vertebrae in the E3 Harelbeke and abandoned his classics campaign. He fought back to wear the yellow jersey in the Tour but crashed in a large pile-up while in the lead and had to quit. In the Vuelta a España, he fell ill and ended his season with disappointment.

“I would’ve had a problem stopping like that,” he said. “I don’t want to have regrets.”

Also on the menu, Cancellara has the major cobbled classics and the Giro d’Italia, where he wants to wear the pink jersey for his first time.