The 99th edition of Milan – SanRemo 2008 is the first of the five “monuments” of the professional year, and it’s true to say that the Italian race is one of the the highlights of every sprinter’s season. The race is one of the legends in cycling, not really because of it’s terrain, but rather for it’s incredible history, and for the fact that it is the longest classic on the modern day calendar.

VeloVeritas are there! We’ve managed to grab a place in the Saunier Duval team car – the team of Riccardo Ricco, who made a tremendous attack on the Poggio climb last year with around 6km to go – so here’s our Diary of the race – enjoy!

I missed the plane yesterday, but like the kids say; “let’s not go there!” Today, I was embedded at Turnhouse, once bitten…

Milan - SanRemo 2008
Milan Central Station saw Ed arrive – eventually!

Usually, on Good Friday evening I’d be getting organised for Girvan, but the way it has all worked out this year it was The Clyde or The Ligurian. If God spares me, I’ll be down in Ayrshire on Monday though.

The flight arrived on time, but we stood – waiting on the customs boys turning up – for 20 minutes; “welcome to Italia!”

Milan - SanRemo 2008
Castello Milano.

I’m on the airport bus just now, it’s around 50 minutes from Malpensa Airport to Central Station, where I’ll grab a cab to the Permanence to get my credentials for tomorrow. Usually you can do this in the morning, but with the Primavera roll out being at 09.15, there’s not a lot of time.

I spoke to Slipstream DS Matt White in the week and he reckons that only three guys can win – Oscar Freire, Pippo Pozatto or Ale Petacchi. Viktor and I have a notion of Thor Hushovd, but Matt reckons; “Maybe a podium.”

Cancellara seems in such towering form that anything is possible, but again Matt disagrees: “He can’t win, impossible!”

He has a point – there’s around another kilometre been added from the bottom of the legendary Poggio to the new finish closer to the sea.

Milan - SanRemo 2008
The view from the Poggio – it’s a fair height.

This added distance gives the sprinter’s “trains” more time to get the wagons coupled in the correct order and find launch velocity.

Milram, for Petacchi, QuickStep for Boonen (or maybe Steegmans), LPR for Pietropolli and Lampre for Napolitano (if he makes it over the Poggio) will all be there.

Milan - SanRemo 2008
Alessandro Pettachi wasn’t in great form last year – has anything changed this year?

Last year, the most disgusted man in San Remo must have been Erik Zabel, he lead “Ale Jet” out and still managed to finish ahead of him; nobody was going to beat Freire, but the German veteran must have been worth a podium place.

Milan - SanRemo 2008
“I mean it Rolf, if that so-called Jet doesn’t come past me this year….”
Milan - SanRemo 2008
“Teenager” Paolo Salvoldeli has switched to Team LPR Brakes with Di Luca this year.

The Via Roma is unavailable due to Easter celebrations and roadworks.

I was surprised last year, when I walked the hallowed tarmac – it’s by no means flat, it drags to the line, and it’s much narrower than it looks on TV.

I won’t get a chance to see the finish until it’s all over tomorrow. The game paln is to hook up with my chums at Saunier Duval and hitch a ride all the way to San Remo – 298 kilometres looking at the back of Pietro Algeri’s heid!

I’m looking forward to it, I’ve never been in a pro team car on a race before. I’ve been in one at British races and at continental training camps, but never in a race – never mind the most glamorous classic of them all.

My taxi found the press room no problem, at around 8.00 pm, despite the website saying it was open until 9.00 pm, it was shut.

Never mind, sort it in the morning – another taxi to the digs. The hotel wasn’t flash, but it was clean, however the room was five stories up, with no lift.

I soon found a good wee pizzeria place and as I was tucking in to my calzone when I received a text (SMS as the Euroguys say) telling me that there had been a mistake and my place in the team car was gone!

Sleep well, Ed.