Mark Cavendish confirms he'll ride Milan-San Remo
Revised route tempts British champion who won Italian Monument in 2009
Mark Cavendish, winner of Milan-San Remo in 2009, has confirmed that he will ride this year's race after rain and landslides forced organisers RCS Sport to scrap the planned new climb, the Pompeiana, and revert to a sprinter-friendly route that last featured in 2007 for the race on Sunday 23 March.
The British champion's Omega Pharma-Quick Step team put on stand-by to race the Italian Monument last month, when it first emerged the route might have to be changed.
"Uncertainty about the route of the Sanremo left Mark's programme open until just a few days ago," said OPQS sport and development manager, Rolf Aldag, quoted on the team's website.
"Therefore, after [this weekend's] Strade Bianche and Tirreno-Adriatico races, Mark will be in the starting lineup for the Milano-Sanremo. Without the Pompeiana, the route is back to being suitable to the skills of athletes like Mark.
"After Sanremo Mark will participate in Gent-Wevelgem. The Flemish classic also underwent a slight variation to the route that could favour the arrival in the final sprint. Mark's classics campaign will then pass through Driedaagse van De Panne and will finish with Scheldeprijs, a race which Mark already won three times."
"I'm very happy to be riding in Milano-Sanremo, on the same route where I watched my heroes race and win when I was a kid," said Cavendish.
Last year he told La Gazzetta dello Sport that the route changes, with the introduction of the tough Pompeiana climb between the Cipressa and the Poggio in the last 30km, meant he'd probably ridden it for he last time.
"In fact, the edition I won in 2009 featured the climb on Le Manie," he pointed out.
That ascent that would prove his undoing in subsequent editions of the race - he was on the wrong side of a split in the field caused by crashes in 2011, and in 2012 was dropped on the ascent, which now no longer features in the race.
"It will be fun and stimulating to ride on this route, which is making this race the only Classics monument for the sprinters," Cavendish went on.
That's perhaps true this year - but from 2015, RCS Sport hope to have the Pompeiana climb in, meaning this could well be Cavendish's last chance to win the race.
"I'm also very happy to race in Belgium," he added. "I've never won Gent-Wevelgem. The route for this race has gone back to how it used to be, too. Driedaagse van De Panne and Scheldeprijs will complete my 'Flemish' schedule, during which I can also count on a squad that's as strong on this type of route as Omega Pharma-Quick-Step."