Team RadioShack have confirmed that Lance Armstrong, missing from the past week’s two major European races, Paris-Nice and the Tirreno-Adriatico due to his participation in last weekend’s Cape Argus ride in South Africa, will race in Saturday’s Milan-San Remo.
Joining him in the team’s squad for the 185-mile Primavera, which Armstrong raced for the seventh time last year, finishing 8 minutes 17 seconds behind winner Mark Cavendish, will be Daryl Impey, Markel Irizar, Geoffroy Lequatre, Dmitriy Muravyev, Gregory Rast, Sébastien Rosseler and Tomas Vaitkus.
With the Tour of California, in which Armstrong will compete, switched to May this year, in direct opposition to the Giro d’Italia, the Texan cyclist has included a number of the European classics on his early season schedule, including next month’s Ronde van Vlaanderen, the Amstel Gold Race, and Liège-Bastogne-Liège.
Armstrong’s principal target this season is of course an eighth Tour de France victory, and participating in the Belgian and Dutch classics will also give him a refresher course of riding over cobblestones, with Stage 3 of this year’s race from Wanze to Arenberg Porte du Hainaut including a total of 13.2 kilometres over the pavé.
Cavendish, meanwhile, who won last year’s race by a hair’s breadth from Cervélo TestTeam’s Heinrich Haussler, will be bidding to become the first British rider to win back-to-back classics despite the opening to his 2010 campaign being disrupted by his recovery from a dental abscess.
Last week, the HTC-Columbia star, who told a press conference that he had been surprised by the form he showed following his full return to training, joined a number of team mates in reconnoitring the closing stages of Milan-San Remo, with the run-in altered by race organisers this year.
The Manx Missile has been using the Tirreno-Adriatico as an opportunity to get in some extra training miles rather than go for stage wins, although today’s final stage, the second half of which takes place on a pancake flat circuit in the coastal town of San Benedetto del Tronto, would see a fully fit Cavendish installed as red-hot favourite for the win.
While Eurosport has been billing Milan-San Remo as a resumption of hostilities between Cavendish and Tour de France green jersey winner Thor Hushovd, the latter’s team mate Haussler may feel that he has unfinished business from last year’s race.
Meanwhile, Team Sky has a couple of options in the shape of Norway’s Edvald Boasson Hagen, who helped then team mate Cavendish to his win last year, and Kiwi Greg Henderson, who has shown some outstanding early season form, and like HTC-Columbia, Team Sky undertook a recce of the route last week.
As ever, the home challenge can never be discounted, with Filippo Pozatto and Alessandro Petacchi both figuring in the list of recent Milan-San Remo winners, and Italian riders will have an extra incentive to win the race this year as a tribute to national coach Franco Ballerini, who was killed in a rally accident last month.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.