Classics Sprinters Power Rankings
When Milano-Sanremo comes down to a group sprint, there are 11 riders to watch out for. They are the classics sprinters, strong men with fast finishes. Their month is March, and here’s where they stand in the VeloNews power rankings. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com
Classics Sprinters Power Rankings: #11 Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek – Segafredo)
Nizzolo’s happy, positive character is an attribute that Trek hopes will propel him from his almost-there status and into the winner’s circle. The Italian has been close numerous times already this season: second and a pair of thirds at Dubai Tour, two third places at the Tour Down Under. However, he abandoned the sprinter-friendly Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne at the end of February. He’s always close, and he rarely has a real lead-out. Maybe when men like Gregory Rast and Edward Theuns line up in front of him, that will change. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com
Classics Sprinters Power Rankings: #10 Daniele Bennati (Tinkoff)
At 35 years old, Bennati is channeling his inner Petacchi this season, but age doesn’t seem to be slowing him down. After a long drought, he took a huge win at the end of a hard first stage of the Vuelta a Andalucia, reminding us that Bennati is still one of the best sprinters on the planet on a tricky finale. That bodes well for the always tricky classics. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com
Classics Sprinters Power Rankings: #9 Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis)
The pugilistic French sprinter proved he’s on form early in 2016 with a win at the Vuelta a Andalucia (aka Ruta del Sol) and followed that up with third-place at Kuurne and a stage win at Paris-Nice. He’s a scrapper — so much so that other sprinters openly voice their terror at his unpredictability — and that’s good for tight classics finishes. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com
Classics Sprinters Power Rankings: #8 Wouter Wippert (Cannondale)
Cannondale’s new Dutch signing is skipping Milano-Sanremo, but will hit Scheldeprijs and Gent Wevelgem. He pulled two top-fives, a fourth and a second place, in the Volta a Algarve, even without a true lead-out train. He’ll have classics riders Dylan Van Baarle, Sebastian Langeveld, and general moose Ramunas Navardauskas at his side in the classics this year. He could surprise. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com
Classics Sprinters Power Rankings: #7 Elia Viviani (Sky)
Viviani won the same stage of the Dubai Tour that he took last year. It’s a super-fast finish out on one of the weird fake islands the Gulf states love, and he was aided by a late crash. But it proved that his speed is there, helped along by plenty of track time over the winter.
Viviani didn't finish at Omloop and Kuurne, but he bounced back with a podium finish at stage 3 of Tirreno-Adriatico, indicating that he's on form for Milano-Sanremo. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com
Classics Sprinters Power Rankings: #5 Michael Matthews (Orica – GreenEdge)
The fact that we were even discussing Michael Matthews winning Paris-Nice last week is proof that he’s on flying form. He won the prologue in the “race to the sun,” and then took a sprint stage (after the relegation of Nacer Bouhani) two days later. Plus, he notched two fifth-place results and a third. Five out of seven days in the top-five — that's a busy week.
The fast-finishing Aussie will have the backing of his entire team for Milano-Sanremo, and goes in as one of the hot favorites. The Poggio won’t scare him. If it comes down to a small group, or a medium group, or even a big group, watch out. Last season, he was third in Milano-Sanremo. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com
Classics Sprinters Power Rankings: #5 Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data)
Cavendish was in a surprisingly good mood after losing to perennial rival Marcel Kittel in Dubai, chatting with reporters and thanking teammates for their efforts. It was very un-Cav. He seems to be in a different mental space this year — perhaps it’s the massive goals he has ahead of him: the triptych of Tour de France green, Olympic gold, and world championship rainbows.
Cav snagged a world title on the track with Bradley Wiggins and then rode anonymously at Tirreno, but he'll surely be ready to battle at Milano-Sanremo. His tip toward versatility could help the Manx Missile in the Italian race, which Kittel is sitting out due to the new, more difficult course. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com
Classics Sprinters Power Rankings: #4 Peter Sagan (Tinkoff)
Don’t be fooled by Sagan’s slow start to the season, with just a single race at the Tour de San Luis in Argentina and no wins thus far. “I prepared diligently, I spent a lot of time at the training camp in Sierra Nevada, and I know I’m doing well,” he said this week. Though he narrowly missed wins at Omloop and Tirreno stage 6, he looks to be on form for MSR. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com
Classics Sprinters Power Rankings: #3 Greg Van Avermaet (BMC)
Remember how we just said Sagan has been out-sprinted twice recently? Van Avermaet looks to be his kryptonite. The Belgian took a huge victory in Ombloop. For a few years, he's been the peloton's nearly man, but we’re choosing to believe that Van Avermaet’s Tour de France stage win last year has broken his bridesmaid’s curse, and a monument victory is in his future. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com
Classics Sprinters Power Rankings: #2 Edvald Boasson Hagen (Dimension Data)
Resurgence! Triumphant return! After a few years under a cloudy Sky, and then a transition year with MTN – Qhubeka last year, Boassen Hagen has found his footing and seems to have rekindled the fire he had as a young man on HTC – Columbia.
First, he won a 13-minute time trial in Qatar by 25 seconds. That’s a huge gap, and indicates a well-tuned engine. He followed that up with a win over Vincenzo Nibali and Greg Van Avermaet on a super-tough uphill kicker in Oman, and then a bunch sprint victory (from a reduced group, mind) in Oman’s stage 5. Recently, he was third in Tirreno's second stage. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com
Classics Sprinters Power Rankings: #1 Alexander Kristoff (Katusha)
The Norwegian winner of last year’s Ronde van Vlaanderen showed his early season form in Qatar and Oman, winning five stages between the two races. Qatar was particularly telling, as it was full of the same men he’ll take on in March. Kristoff beat pure sprinters and fast-finishing classics stars, taking down Mark Cavendish, Greg Van Avermaet, and Edvald Boassen Hagen on his way to second overall and the points jersey.
Oman and its tough finales proved his strength is there, and Qatar proved his sprint is still one of the fastest in the world. So far, his winning streak has been on a slight pause — he was second in Kuurne (behind Jasper Stuyven's improbable solo breakaway) and second again in Paris-Nice stage 5, again, behind an improbable solo attack. Don't expect a lone rider to escape the Norwegian when a monument is on the line. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com