Milan-San Remo. Who wants to be the favorite?

The classic "San Remo" model bicycle.

Every rider wants to win Milan San Remo and nobody wants to be called the favorite. Here’s an overview of the main contenders lining up for La Primavera this Saturday.

Cervelo’s Thor Hushovd is uncertain of his form and says he’s looking at the race as “bingo” — anything can happen. Bingo also means that an 83 year old Italian grandma may win. The Norwegian was third last year and praying a forecast for rain comes true so his odds improve.

Tyler Farrar of Garmin-Transitions doesn’t see himself as a winner — he crashed out last year. He feels his form is coming around and had “good sensations” in Tirreno-Adriatico. It’s the 300k distance that worries him. According to the Battling Buddhist, he simply hasn’t proven himself at this distance.

World Time Trial Champion Fabian Cancellara rates his form as “not bad.” Most professional riders would kill to have Fabian’s “not bad” form. Having missed MSR last year due to illness, the Saxo Bank rider admits to feeling “quietly confident.” Again, most riders would kill to have that degree of confidence. If you’re gambling, Fabian is lucky sevens.

Another prime contender is Oscar Freire. Sneeze, bless you, here’s a snot rag. Oscar is recovering from a cold and stayed out from the sprint finishes in Tirreno-Adriatico. You never know with Freire, who has the ability to build form rapidly, but he’s looking questionable — especially if the weather turns cold and rainy.

Liquigas’ Daniele Bennati comes highly recommended as a possible winner. Tom Boonen rates him the biggest threat for the race. With several wins already this season and a strong team, Bennati will be well marked.

The Eddy Junior of the peloton, Edvald Boasson Hagen, is also tipped as a big favorite – especially after his win in the final stage of Tirreno-Adriatico. The Original Eddy won Milan San Remo seven times, while Junior has yet to take one. The shy and generally unquotable Norwegian will have the full support of Team Sky. Teammate Michael Barry claims Hagen is in great form.

Famous Italian metro-sexual, cycling diarist and tattoo backdrop, Filippo Pozzato “can’t wait for Saturday.” He’s confident he’s close to 100% strength and ready to roll. Pozzato has already won the Milan San Remo pre-lim: Robbie McEwen was dropped off the squad so Master P has Katusha all to himself.

Last year’s surprise winner Mark Cavendish of HTC-Columbia is still behind schedule thanks to his dental issues. It appears only a dentist is capable of making the Manxman look slow. Some say there’s bluffing about his form but Pozzato spotted him suffering in Tirreno. Twisted Spoke says count Mark out.

Swiss American team BMC is taking the three-headed monster to Milan San Remo. Alessandro Ballan, George Hincapie are Marcus Burghardt are all captains. But other than Ballan’s 8th place in 2006, there aren’t many bets on these riders. Still, you can find a journalist or two who claims Ballan is a solid possibility.

Which brings us to everybody’s clear favorite: Tornado Tom Boonen. Anyone who’s raced again Boonen this season knows he’s been red hot from day one. With a stage win out of the gate in the Tour of Oman to the recent Tirreno Adriatico win, Boonen is lean and mean and confident. It’s his race to lose.

Dark Horses: Juan Antonio Flecha, Michele Scarponi, Stefano Garzelli and that flashy Italian Alessandro Petacchi might have a shot.

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  • What about Greg Henderson?? Surely he’s a bit of a dark horse

    • Right you are, Scott. He is a dark horse and in good form. Thanks for the addition.