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Hard to believe but it's 10 years ago that we popped over to Italy to cover Milan - Sanremo. The day before the race we visited Ciclismo Masi in his workshop under the famous Vorelli Velodrome banking, we spoke to Lance Armstrong at his press conference, ate amazing pizza. Then on race day-morning we watched with interest as Dave Brailsford met Ernesto Colnago for a coffee and a chat about supplying equipment to his fledgling new team, Sky Pro Cycling and chatted to riders including eventual winner Mark Cavendish at the buses...
If you’re a VeloVeritas regular then you’ll have seen our interview with Flavio Zappi, the man who transforms promising U23 riders into World Tour performers. Will Scot, Callum Johnston be pulling on a QuickStep jersey in a year or three?
‘You need to talk that Flavio Zappi boy, his lads are racing all over Europe and getting good results!’ As often happens with VeloVeritas it’s our spiritual guide and fiercest critic, Viktor who gives us inspiration on who we should be speaking to. But there’s also the aspect that QuickStep new recruit James Knox, who we interviewed earlier in the year was a ‘Zappi Man’ so yes, times we had a word with Sen. Zappi.
Italy’s Bassano-Monte Grappa U23 Classic has been around since 1930 and lists Italian Legend, Gino Bartali as a winner in 1934; with Leonardo Piepoli, Giro winners Ivan Gotti, Gilberto Simoni and Damiano Cunego, not to mention Fabio Aru all on the more recent role of honour. It’s a beast of race, flat then rearing up the feared Monte Grappa climb – of Giro fame - to finish at over 1700 metres.
A hard race ? When the World and Olympic road race champion is blown out the back, his eyes wide, shoulders rocking, sweat dripping from him, stuggling up a climb on the inside ring, when only minutes ago he was blasting it on the 53 - that's a hard race. Milan - San Remo has to be seen to be believed: seven hours, with all the major obstacles in the second half. The new climb at La Manie is brutal and might just have contributed to the "pure" sprinters failure in San Remo.
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.