In an attempt to demystify the 'favourite’ tag seemingly awarded to every man and his bike competing in this year’s Milan-San Remo, Anthony Tan narrows the form guide down to six he sees winning, and six he doesn’t
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7 Apr 2015 - 11:32 PM  UPDATED 13 Apr 2015 - 3:38 PM


Three favourites I can see winning
Mark Cavendish, Peter Sagan, Andre Greipel. For me, the aforementioned three stand out like the biggest neon signs at Times Square. All have enjoyed auspicious lead-ups but I would put Cav' slightly – as in one or two millimetres – ahead of Saggy and Gripes because he's won M-SR before and won most recently, snatching the sixth stage of Tirreno-Adriatico with such ease, he made the others look silly.



All things being equal and barring incident (read: accident), Sags, because of his strength, will arrive at the red kite freshest. But his versatility is both a blessing and curse, since he'll have a split second to decide whether to go with a late move on the Poggio or wait for a bunch kick. Indecision could cost him, as seems to happen from time to time – especially in the big one day races. Greipel, in spite of his build, always surprises with his ability to haul his butt over 3-4km climbs; the concern will be negotiating the descent of the Poggio and finding the front without expending too much energy. Cavendish just needs to make it to the finish – tenacity and his ridiculously strong Omega Pharma-Quick Step team will take care of the rest.

Three favourites I don't
Fabian Cancellara, Greg van Avermaet, Edvald Boasson Hagen. Yes, fortune has favoured Fabian before at M-SR but that trademark final kilometres flyer hasn't worked out for him for a few years now – it became so trademarked, the surprise came only if he didn't jump the peloton. Which is why he should try something like that again, though recent events suggest he doesn't quite have the form to do so, since to pull it off you need to be about 5-10 percent stronger than the rest. At the moment, he isn't that good.

Van Avermaet is one of three leaders at BMC Racing (along with Philippe Gilbert and Thor Hushovd) and in my books that's at least one too many. Too many chiefs and not enough Indians generally means you don't have complete faith in your chiefs, and in a race like San Remo, hedging your bets more than two ways invariably results in failure. In a similar boat is Team Sky – they don't have a bona fide contender at the moment because Eddy Bos isn't in top top shape and Geraint Thomas is still nursing wounds from a crash at Paris-Nice; to finish on the podium would be require a minor miracle.

Three outside favourites I can see winning
John Degenkolb, Michael Matthews, Arnaud D̩mare. It's only because he's on the same team as Marcel Kittel that Degenkolb is often and severely underrated; almost always he flies under the radar and at M-SR it will be no different. But make no mistake: he loves hard finales, and boasts oodles of talent and has speed to match Рjust look how easily he beat Matthew Goss to win the third stage at Paris-Nice.

Matthews is not dissimilar to J-Degs in his characteristics, albeit a little younger and less experienced, but Bling's coming along very nicely and Orica-GreenEDGE sport director Matt White wouldn't put a team around him instead of Goss if he didn't have more than a reasonable chance (besides, Cavendish won San Remo aged 23). Démare's another year younger than Bling but if you saw his troika of victories at last year's Four Days of Dunkirk you'd say, as I am now, this 22 year-old is the hottest sprint prospect en France since Laurent Jalabert, who won the '95 San Remo among a slew of other races. Bloody young, but bloody fast. Bloody oath.

Three outside favourites I don't
Vincenzo Nibali, Simon Clarke, Sylvain Chavanel. Not because these guys aren't super bike riders with runs on the board – of course they are! More because I don't see how, without the Pompeiana for the puncheurs or La Manie to soften the sprinteurs, there's a chance someone other than a sprinter can win. Yes, there's always a chance, but it's almost like saying there's a chance any of the Kardashians will become a Rhodes Scholar.



Milan-San Remo will be broadcast on SBS ONE and streamed online from 0030-0330 AEDT on Monday 24 March.