Sagan bids to end Milan-San Remo curse as video assistant introduced


Milan (AFP)

Peter Sagan will bid to finally win the Milan-San Remo at the eighth attempt on Saturday as a video review system makes its debut following the row over his exclusion from last year's Tour de France.

The 28-year-old three-time world champion was controversially kicked off the Tour for elbowing Mark Cavendish and causing a crash.

As a result of the fall-out, governing body the UCI is introducing video technology for all major races.

An official will monitor television footage from different strategically-placed cameras -- fixed, on motorcycle and helicopter -- to view any infractions.

And it will be in place starting with Saturday's first of the five 'Monument' races of the season.

It will also be used at the subsequent classics -- the Tour of Flanders, Paris-Roubaix, Liege-Bastogne-Liege, and the Tour of Lombardy, along with the three Grand Tours.

The Milan-San Remo is the longest one-day race in the calendar covering 291km, and this year video could prove useful as dangers lurk for the 175 riders with weather conditions uncertain as rain is forecast.

"For Sagan every year can be the one," said Italy's Elia Viviani of Quick-Step, who is among the favourites after five wins this season.

The race starts in front of Milan's Sforza Castle and ends on the Via Roma in San Remo on the Italian Riviera around seven hours later.

Last year, Bora rider Sagan lost in dramatic fashion as his errors on the final Poggio climb allowed rival Michal Kwiatkowski of Team Sky to win.

Pole Kwiatkowski is also in form this year coming off his win in the Tirreno-Adriatico, where Slovakia's Sagan finished second on three stages.

"Who knows what will happen," said Sagan, who has finished in the top four in San Remo four times.

"I'm in good form. I finished well on the Tirreno, but there are so many rivals."

Kwiatkowski will be hoping to become the first rider since Erik Zabel in 2001 to successfully defend the title.

Norway's Alexander Kristoff, winner in 2014, is among the contenders, along with France's Arnaud Demare, who tasted success in 2016.

"I'd say it was one of my greatest moments," said Demare. "It was a real mental trigger for me.

"I'm here with great ambitions to win but also more pressure as there is a lot more focus on me."

Garmany's Marcel Kittel, four-time Grand Tour champion Vincenzo Nibali and France's Julian Alaphilippe are also among the challengers.

Australian Simon Gerrans, however, was forced to withdraw on the eve of the race because of illness.