German cyclist Erik Zabel hopes to win his fifth championship when the World Cup season gets underway Saturday with the Milan to San Remo race in Italy.
Zabel, a four-time winner of the race along the Italian Riviera, says he considers the race to be his, and is expecting a traditional ending with a pack of riders breaking away and sprinting for the finish.
Zabel will have to outrun Italy's top sprinter Mario Cipollini, who lost last year race by only a few centimeters. Three-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong of the USA also starts his season in the race along with world road champion Oscar Freire of Spain.
Also expected to challenge for the title are Danilo di Luca of Italy, the runner-up in this week's Tirreno-Adriatico race, and veteran riders Andre Tchmil of Belarus and Richard Virenque of France. One name missing from the field is former Tour de France winner Jan Ullrich of Germany, who is still recovering from knee trouble.