Twisted Spoke on Milan-San Remo contenders.

Milan San Remo is no easy chair.

Milan San Remo is this Saturday and the prognosticators are laying out the favorites. But who needs experts when you have Twisted Spoke? Here’s the way we see things and remember we’re well versed in Milan San Remo having raced it only 17 times less than Mario Cipollini.

Mark Cavendish.

Something seems amiss and out of sync with the Manxman and we can’t put our finger on what it is exactly. (Our first theory was the beard but he trimmed it back.) One lousy sprint win in Oman and squat after. He’s been crashing this season like he was Christian Vande Velde. He’s been dead last or nearly last in several races. In Tirreno-Adriatico he had trouble finding his lead-out man. HTC-Highroad management insists his form is right where it needs to be. Maybe — but we wonder if Cavendish is mentally ready. You can’t just suddenly turn on a switch and win La Classicissima. Some people list teammate Matt Goss as an outside threat but we think not.

The Garmin trio

Tyler Farrar has had some good results this season and Thor Hushovd gave him a winning leadout in Tirreno-Adriatico. We’d love to see the battling buddhist take a monster win in San Remo but we’re not feeling it. Our money would be on Hushovd who is strong enough after 300km to still hit top speed. Plus, Thor is tactically smart and mentally tough — he can handle whatever the race throws at him. For us, Heinrich Haussler is a mystery rider and we’ll admit to having no idea how he’ll fare. He’s a little guy and we see him getting knocked around and that will take a small but significant toll by the finish.

Oscar Friere

We’re in total agreement with Cipollini on Oscar the Cat. People tend to forget him and under-rate his chances but Oscar is experienced, clever and has made an entire career out of delivering the surprise win year after year. You simply don’t rule out a three time Milan San Remo and World Championship winner. Friere loves the off-the-radar, underdog role and no matter what you think of his results so far, he’s ready. An experienced and professional rider who knows exactly how to prepare for the biggest races. We like Oscar’s chances.

Philippe Gilbert.

It’s hard to argue against a rider of his caliber and confidence. The stumbling block is that he ain’t winning this race in a sprint. He’s got to do something on the Cipressa or the Poggio and everybody on two wheels knows that. Gilbert will be heavily marked and unless he convinces some big guns to join his attack, we don’t see him figuring at the finish.

Alessandro Petacchi

He’s certainly not in the favorite category but can you ever rule out the ageless Ale-jet? At 37 and suffering bronchial problems that have compromised his training, Big Ale still has a shot. We wouldn’t be surprised if all that respiratory problem talk wasn’t just sand-bagging on his part. Like Freire, every time you think Petacchi is past his prime, he wins another race. He won in 2005 and was 3rd last year. Don’t count him out.

Andre Greipel

Nothing would provide more drama than Mark Cavendish and Griepel in a death match in San Remo. Not going to happen. Freed some the shackles of HTC-Highroad, the Rostock Rocket needed to take it up a notch and prove he deserved top billing. That may yet happen but there’s been little proof so far. We don’t see the Gorilla in this Thrilla.

Tom Boonen

Like Petacchi, the Belgian star has been dealing with sickness. Boonen rode Tirreno-Adriatico with the flu, describing the experience as “riding with the brake on.” Well, that’s not ideal practice for Milan San Remo. His form has generally been good this year ever since Qatar but we’re crossing him off the list.

Daniele Bennati.

Our wild card for Milan San Remo is the talented Italian sprinter from Arezzo. He started the season in excellent form but just couldn’t make the top step of the podium, racking up a slew of second places. Still, he’s back from a disappointing last season. He’s Italian, he’s a sprinter and he’s handsome and highly motivated. Those four things put him on the list of dark horses.

That’s the story, morning glory. Thor Hushovd, the man in the rainbow jersey wins Milan San Remo.

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  • jonM

    Can't help but think that everyone is riding MSR for the sole purpose of providing Gibert cover until he unleashes a load of Lycra laden furry in the last KM.

    • http://www.atwistedspoke.com TwistedSpoke

      We will see. I don't see Gilbert taking this but my track record on predictions isn't anything worth bragging about. Matt. He will be marked insanely. Matt