Sprinters scramble for a shot at the traditional Milano-Sanremo route

With the Pompeiana washed out, the season's first monument will put the sprinters in the spotlight

Photo: Tim De Waele

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Race officials confirmed Friday that the Pompeiana climb will not feature in next month’s Milano-Sanremo after road damage and foul weather have conspired against them.

With heavy rains already washing out portions of the Pompeiana climb and descent, race and local officials made the inevitable decision that there was not enough time to conclude road repairs before the March 23 race date.

“In view of current weather conditions, and also considering the damage that the bad weather has caused in recent months, there was no way we could secure the roads in time for the race,” Mauro Vegni, head of RCS Sport Cycling, said in a press release Friday.

And without the Le Mànie climb, which presented a major hurdle once the peloton hit the Italian Riviera, “La Classicissima” suddenly reverts back to being a sprinter’s race. The decision to eliminate the steep climb will dramatically alter the race’s character, and will see riders scrambling to adjust their respective racing calendars.

Climbers including Chris Froome (Sky) have already said they would not race if Pompeiana was not on the parcours, while others, such as 2009 winner Mark Cavendish, who was looking at skipping the harder route, will likely be back in the race.

Without La Mànie or Pompeiana, Milano-Sanremo will return to its traditional 294-kilomter course last won by Oscar Freire in 2007. During an 11-year span from 1997 to 2007, the race finished in a bunch sprint eight out of 11 times.

Officials were looking to change that by including the Pompeiana climb, which was slotted into the course between the decisive late climbs of the Cipressa and the Poggio.

The decision to add the Pompeiana climb was controversial at best. Some suggested it changed the dynamic of the race too much, making it too hard for riders like Cavendish to even have a chance of victory.

Changes to the season’s first monument are nothing new, however. Race organizers have altered the Milano-Sanremo course over the years in efforts to spice up the finale. The Cipressa and Poggio climbs were added in the 1960s and 1970s to provide more challenge to the peloton, but often times, they proved little more than speed bumps. The Le Mànie climb was also added in 2008, but was removed for 2014 because it was deemed too difficult with the planned addition of the Pompeiana. With neither in this year’s race, Sanremo could see another big fight among the sprinters.

They had better take advantage of the opportunity. Organizers promised Friday Pompeiana would be back for 2015.

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