Which is the best race to ride yourself into form for Milan San Remo? Is it Paris-Nice? Or is it Tirreno-Adriatico?
While the respective race organisers ASO and RCS try to tempt the major G.C. riders to their races, the classics stars are also faced with a choice of how best to prepare for the first monument classic of the season.
Take a look at the results of Milan San Remo for the last few years and it’s easy to jump to the conclusion that Paris-Nice provides the better preparation. Last year’s winner Alexander Kristoff was present at the French race as were the winners of the 2012 and 2011 editions, Simon Gerrans and Matt Goss.
But dig a bit deeper into the results lists and a different picture emerges. The following bar chart shows the breakdown of which race was preferred by the podium finishers in Milan San Remo for the past 10 years:
Even though three of the last four winners have ridden Paris-Nice, this chart shows that Tirreno-Adriatico has been the overwhelming choice of the top contenders in Milan San Remo for the last decade. The ‘one’ in the ‘Neither’ column was Ben Swift who finished third last year having taken the unorthodox decision to ride the single day Nokere Koerse in Belgium while all of his closest rivals were in France or Italy.
Let’s dig deeper still and extend the data to include the top 10 finishers for the last 10 years:
The four riders, along with Swift, who didn’t ride either during this period were Juan Jose Lobato (2104), Ian Stannard (2013), Bernard Eisel (2013) and Robbie Hunter (2007). In recent years the lean towards Tirreno Adriatico has actually been even heavier as no top 10 in Milan San Remo has had more than two riders from Paris-Nice since 2008.
So it’s good news for all the pre-race favourites this weekend who chose Tirreno-Adriatico thereby foregoing a couple of extra days rest.
But it’s bad news for Mark Cavendish, who abandoned Tirreno-Adriatico before its conclusion this week. No rider has abandoned this race (or indeed Paris-Nice) and gone on to win Milan San Remo in the past 10 years. Just one rider has abandoned Tirreno-Adriatico and finished on the podium (Thor Hushovd 2009) and just one abandoned Paris-Nice before finishing on the podium a week later (Tom Boonen 2007).
The following is a list of the top 20 bookies favourites and in which race they chose to hone their form before this weekend (interestingly, more chose to ride Paris-Nice):
Paris-Nice: Alexander Kristoff, John Degenkolb, Michael Matthews, Nacer Bouhanni, Philippe Gilbert, Michal Kwiatkowski, Andre Greipel, Ben Swift, Arnaud Demare, Heinrich Haussler
Tirreno-Adriatico: Peter Sagan, Mark Cavendish, Fabian Cancellara, Greg van Avermaet, Zdenek Stybar, Filippo Pozzato, Vincenzo Nibali, Sam Bennett
Neither: Juan Jose Lobato, Alejandro Valverde