As we get set to begin the Spring Classics with Saturday’s running of the 102nd Milan-San Remo, it’s the perfect time examine some of the important questions facing the major riders and teams during this year’s spring campaign. As each question is posted, feel free to share your opinions, insights, and predictions as comments—your commentary and spirited dialogue is always appreciated. In case you missed them, be sure to check out Questions 1, 2, and 3.
4. Will Italy’s former champions regain their classic swagger?
Between them, Filippo Pozzato, Alessandro Ballan, and Damiano Cunego have won Milan-San Remo, the Tour of Flanders, and the Amstel Gold Race. But the last of those came thanks to Cunego’s Amstel victory in 2008—so it’s been several years without an Italian on the cover of May’s Bicisport.
Luckily, Ballan and Cunego’s results at this point in the season indicate they are on track to contend in April. They finished second and third in l’Eroica and were both quite active during Tirreno-Adriatico—they were also two of the principal animators in Sardegna, with Cunego winning a stage and Ballan finishing highly.
As for Pozzato, no news is good news. He’s enjoyed a relatively anonymous, but trouble-free early season, eerily similar to what we were saying about Fabian Cancellara this time last year. Hopefully all of the criticism he received for his tactics last year has knocked some sense into him, and he’s focusing more on his racing than his image.
Of the three, Ballan has the toughest row to hoe in that his BMC team boasts several men (Hincapie, Van Avermaet, Burghardt, and even Karsten Kroon) capable of winning his targeted races. As for Pozzato and Cunego, they will likely be the undisputed captains of their squads (Katusha and Lampre), meaning they’ll have the unquestioned support of their teams—but also the undivided attention of their opponents.
In all three cases, consistency and form maintenance will be the keys to success—Pozzato and Cunego are notorious for peaking too soon and Ballan’s been racing at a high level for over three weeks now. Should they prove able to maintain—and hopefully improve—their fitness between now and April, it could be a very good month for the tifosi. If not, there’s always Di Luca. (More on him later.)
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