For all the hoopla about Paris-Nice, you might not know that the weekend's best race will be Saturday, with the 92nd running of Milano-Torino (Milan-Turin). Star-studded prologues are nice and all, but M-T is a true classic, 199 kilometers in all, and a lengthy, colorful history.
Did you know...?
- That Milano-Torino, which dates back to 1876, is the oldest race in Italy, and possibly the oldest in the world? While Custer was walking his troops into a massive Sioux buzzsaw, Italians were racing bikes 200km between the North's biggest cities.
- That Marco Pantani's career almost ended prematurely here in 1995, in a collision with a car that shattered his leg.
- That historically this has been the Milan-San Remo tuneup, traditionally one week before MSR... except for 18 years (1987-2004) when it was run in October as the Trittico Autumno with the giri di Piemonte and Lombardia?
- That it is traditionally one of the fastest classics, with a record speed of over 45 kph?
Other than these Wikipedia morsels and a stale Bicirace writeup, there isn't a ton of information out there in English on this venerable Classic. Its an RCS/Gazzetta Dello Sport race, and the official website has the basic resources, but in Italian. So I guess as English media goes, until the big boys post their previews, we're it.
Despite the high speeds, it's not a sprinters' course per se. While flat from Milan to km 100, the course eventually starts rolling and culminates with the Colle di Superga, 300 vertical meters, 16 km from the finish. [After three decades of willful ignorance, cycling has converted me to the metric system.] The climb has in the past been an obvious place to launch attacks and preventing a bunch sprint. Thus, past winners are neither exclusively sprinters, nor Italian; the roll includes names like Saronni, Moser, Bartoli, Jalabert, de Vlaeminck, Kubler, Pelissier... Classics riders. More recently, Igor Astarloa won last year's edition, and Mirko Celestino is the only twice-winner who's expected to be on hand. Fabio Sacchi and Marcos Serrano round out the recent winners.
Sacchi and Celestino will rep Milram, and the logical choice is Paolo Bettini, someone who can get over the Superga with ease and crank up a sprint.The official program also pumps up guys like Danilo DiLuca, Fabien Cancellara, Rubens Bertogliati, etc., but I would love to see Alberto Loddo of Continental Tour squad Diquigiovanni, crank up a surprise win (after four sprint wins at Langkawi). Why should the rich guys have all the fun?
Media coverage: tbd... I'll look around for video.