• IAM Cycling's Leigh Howard st the Tirreno - Adriatico (Sirotti)Source: Sirotti
The team selection came as a surprise to Australia's Leigh Howard, who was unaware of a press release issued earlier this week that named him the No.1 asset for the 291km Milan-San Remo next to Aleksejs Saramotins.
Sophie Smith

Cycling Central
19 Mar 2016 - 3:43 PM 

The 26-year-old from Geelong is taking that selection all in stride despite training for a different role in the majority of races in his first season with IAM Cycling.

“It’s a race that definitely suits me but the down side is I’ve never done it before so it’s going to be hard,” Howard told Cycling Central from Italy.

“I don’t know the roads that well but I’ve got Heinrich [Haussler] there with me and he’s just as good an asset to try and do a good result as I am.”

LIVE: Milan-San Remo
The 291km Milan-San Remo will be broadcast on SBS/HD and streamed right here on Cycling Central, Sunday 20 March from 12:30am AEDT.

Compatriot Haussler has a history with the Monument, famously placing second to Mark Cavendish in a photo finish in 2009, but is set to play a support role to teammates as he has so far this season.

The classics specialist had an influence in seeing Howard transfer from ‘home’ outfit Orica-GreenEDGE to IAM at the end of the last season in what has proved a promising move.

Howard saw the transfer as a fresh start designed to rediscover his own sprinting legs while working in aid of Italian fast-man Matteo Pelucchi.

The duo haven’t paired as much as anticipated but Howard has capitalised on his own chances. He won the Clasica de Almeria last month and claimed the sprint for second at the undulating Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race, behind Peter Kennaugh (Sky), in January.

“I guess I’ve earned a little bit of leadership but I wouldn’t go as far to say I deserve full support, I haven’t proved that I’m at that level yet,” Howard said.

“I don’t feel like there’s a lot of pressure on my shoulders to win at all costs but at the same time I think as athletes we put enough pressure on ourselves to make up for that.

“For me, it’s a really good mix here of having my own opportunities as well as working for the team. I think this team has a lot more to give, we just need to find have a bit more faith in ourselves.”

Howard reconnoitred the final 60km of the Milan-San Remo course, including the key Cipressa and Poggio climbs, earlier this month but hasn’t otherwise specifically prepared for the baptism of fire.

“I did the recon but besides that I’ve been training in general to do well in lead-outs - that was my main goal when I came here,” he said.

Howard will enter Milan-San Remo on the back of Tirreno-Adriatico in which his best result was a top five finish in stage three that up-and-coming Colombian sprinter Fernando Gaviria (Etixx-QuickStep) won.

“For me, it’s trying to get over those last two climbs like a lot of the sprinters I guess. We just want to get to the finish and have a chance to sprint. It’s pretty simple like that,” he said.