This is the traditional season opener in Italy. It's gone through changing fortunes in later years like many of the earlier season races in Europe but this year it has had it's UCI status raised to 1HC and RAI are also going to broadcast the race live so things are looking on the up at the moment.
Geographically we find the race just up the road from Sanremo and the terrain is recognizable as the peloton goes along the same coastline as the Milano-Sanremo and then heads inland to find hillier terrain just like MSR. The Capo Mele is a recognizable spot from MSR even if the Capi aren't too significant there anymore and here it barely registers as a blip on the profile.
Laigueglia is a fairly young race by Italian standards, only dating back to 1964. It's had an impressive string of winners though, most of them of the classics-stud mold. Basically if you're the type of rider who will factor in races like the Tour of Flanders, Amstel or Milano-Sanremo, you can be a factor in Laigueglia too. Merckx, Maertens, Saronni, Armstrong, Museeuw, Bartoli and Pozzato are winner-names that give you an idea of what kind of race it is we're talking of. The more memorable of the recent winners is perhaps Moreno Moser who won the race in 2012, his first big start as a real professional. He won it in a strong solo attack in the finale. Last year saw José Serpa outsmart his not-so-happy breakaway companion Sinkewitz for the win.
With three little stageraces under way, Laigueglia in Italy and Haut Var in France this weekend the season is slowly winding up in intensity. So far the weather has been pretty cooperative too with the exception of storm-plagued Besseges which is a blessing for the parts of the peloton that aren't lucky enough to start their seasons off in the Middle East. Slowly but surely we are getting a picture of who have come to play in the early races this year. Of the six World Tour teams in the race this year Cannondale look to be the strongest on paper with Moser and Martin while Lampre who usually do well here are hoping to keep it together for a sprint for Niccolo Bonifazio. BMC were suppsed to send Gilbert but he is out with illness so the will probably be looking to Atapuma and interesting new signing Jempy Drucker.
Among the ProContis we'll see an interesting premiere in the big times by Danish Cult Energy who actually have some decent names for a race like this. Gerdemann and Wegmann used to be good at these at least even if it has been a while. Rasmus Guldhammer, once upon a time the golden boy of the neo-pro crop when he signed for HTC is also back in the big races. His stint with Tinkoff last fall was anonymous but he will be interesting to follow in his second attempt at pro life. Cult are not alone in fielding some ageing riders though, it seems to be a bit of a theme with the Italian ProContis this year with the exception of Bardiani. Pellizotti, Cunego and Petacchi seem to be the ones who are going to bring home the pancetta for their teams and that's not exactly a band of spring-chickens.
If we're lucky the RAI feed will magically become available at 14:40 CET tomorrow and otherwise highlights should pop up somewhere soon after.