Milan-San Remo - World Cup Round 1

Italy, March 22, 1997

88th Milano-San Remo Race Report


On Friday, 1993 Milano--San Remo winner Maurizio Fondriest took a last training ride to decide whether or not he should take the start of the race. Already assured that the back pain that began in Tirreno-Adriatico was not a recurrence of the discal hernia he suffered in 1994 Fondriest nevertheless decided it best not to risk his career in such a long fast race. It looks likely he will also scratch from the Ronde van Vlaanderen, a race he always tries hard in, and resume racing more quietly in Brittany in the Route Adelie (April 4) and GP de Rennes (April 6).

Fondriest lost to the race, it was graced by the unexpected presence of 1996 Tour de France winner Bjarne Riis. The Team Deutsche Telekom rider, ostensibly on his way to discuss designs for his bikes with the Pinarello firm, stepped in to replace Franck Corvers, avowedly to ride for Erik Zabel.

For his part, Erik Zabel was modest before the start about press sugggestions that he was a favourite (L'Equipe ranked him, together with Gabriele Colombo and Dimitri Konychev, after Johan Museeuw and Michele Bartoli's four stars and Laurent Jalabert's five stars). "Let's say I.m starting as a second-ranked favourite," Zabel said. "To be favourite for Milan--San Remo you need to be called Jalabert."

Johan Museeuw was equally downbeat about his prospects. "My form isn't quite what it was last year. I was a little better last year. I lack a little depth because in January I had to stop for 10 days" [for a minor knee operation after a mountain-bike crash].

Race day started even earlier than usual for some teams. At 6am Telekom directeur sportif Walter Godefroot heard a knock on his hotel door. "Excuse me, but we'd like to do a blood test on four of your riders." Bjarne Riis, Jan Ullrich, Giovanni Lombardi and Erik Zabel were chosen. The other teams tested were Festina, Refin, US Postal and Polti. No riders recorded haemocrit levels above 50% =20


Milano-San Remo set off at 8.50am, to enjoy fine weather from start to finish. The first attack was at km34 when 27 riders, including six from the Batik-Del Monte team took off. Their lead, however, never got above 27 seconds and they were reeled in after being away for 18km. The next attack, at km98, was to last much longer -- 146km. Four Italians were involved: Eros Poli (GAN), Maurizio Molinari (Asics), Denis Zanette (Aki-Safi) and Dario Pieri (Scrigno-Gaerne). The four built a solid lead -- 4.26 the maximum at km136 -- and cleared the summit of the Turchino pass, roughly half-distance, with a lead of 3.05.

On the descent of the Turchino, 14 counter-attackers broke clear in pursuit of the four Italians, including four Mapei (Andrea Tafi, Franco Ballerini, Carlo Bomans and Zbigniew Spruch), Laurent Jalabert (ONCE), Michele Bartoli (Maglificio MG-Technogym), Francesco Casagrande (Saeco), Andrei Tchmil (Lotto), Richard Virenque (Festina), Claudio Chiappucci (Asics) and Laurent Desbiens (Cofidiis). The peloton immediately reacted sharply and the chasing group hit its maximum lead over the peloton at km165 -- 26 seconds -- as the race reached the coast.

On the way into Laigueglia, the four-strong lead group was swept up -- after being away for about half the race's total distance -- and after a few abortive break attempts the peloton was all together, packed shoulder to shoulder up the narrow Cipressa climb, with 27km to go.

Axel Merckx (Polti) was the first in action on the Cipressa with Rolf Jaermann (Casino) and Mikel Zarrabeitia (ONCE) but the trio was unable to build any substantial gap. Stefano Della Santa (Mercatone Uno) then took his chance, crossing the summit 15 seconds ahead of a lead group of about 40 -- the decisive split -- that contained all the principal favourites. Further back, Alex Zulle (ONCE), Tony Rominger (Cofidis), Bjarne Riis (Telekom) and Mario Cipollini (Saeco) were in difficulties. Worse, a crash in the crowded climb destroyed any chance of Gabriele Colombo (Batik) repeating his 1996 victory. Kevin Livingston (Cofidis) got the worst of the pile-up, breaking a collarbone...

In the descent of the Cipressa four riders -- Rolf Sorensen (Rabobank), Franco Ballerini (Mapei), Zarrabeitia again and Peter Van Petegem (TVM) -- hurtled off the front of the 40-something group, bridging up to Della Santa, but all five were brought back a little later.

At the foot of the Poggio two other hopefuls -- Marc Wauters (Lotto) and Mirco Gualdi (Polti) -- broke clear and held out for the first kilometre of the 3.74km climb, getting a maximum 5 second lead. A series of vain attacks followed -- Andrea Ferrigato (Roslotto), then Michele Bartoli (MG) countered by Roberto Petito (Saeco), then Van Petegem. On the traditionally strategic part of the climb halfway up, Bartoli went again, breasting the summit 4 seconds clear of the stretched-out lead peloton pulled over by Ferrigato and Johan Museeuw (Mapei), Laurent Jalabert (ONCE) being a little further back. (For the record, the peloton took 6 mins 3 secs for the climb, the attacks and counter-attacks making it slower than Fondriest and Jalabert's breakaway 5.46 in 1995.)

On the descent into San Remo the lead group gradually came together, and 42 riders swept onto the Via Roma -- they would be 1.21 clear of the next riders at the line -- with Ballerini and Stephane Heulot (La Francaise des Jeux) a slender 50 metres ahead as they passed the kilometre to go banner.

The sprint took off early on the slight rise to the line. Ultimate second-placed Alberto Elli (Casino) seems to have gone first. "I took off at 400m to anticipate the pure sprinters," he said, "and up to 50m to go I thought I'd won. Nobody passed me. I said to myself: 'It's not possible, you're dreaming.' Then Zabel went past me but at least I got a place; second in a sprint, it was unexpected."

Erik Zabel accelerated slightly later than Elli. He'd already concluded that he'd only win in a mass sprint -- an elusive phenomenon in Milano--San Remo: the last had been in 1980 when Pierino Gavazzi outsprinted Giuseppe "Beppe" Saronni. "Up there [on the Poggio] I worked out that a sprint was becoming more and more probable," Zabel said, "even if the whole day I'd sought to unburden my mind of this eventuality. I'd persuaded myself that I wouldn't have enough power in my legs to go to the end. But when I saw the last bends before the finish, just after the flamme rouge, my confidence came back. I took the wheels of Museeuw and Jalabert, since they're the best riders in the world, and at 350m to the line I found a space to place myself."

Third-placed Biagio Conte (Scrigno) made an error -- but rationalized it. "Just before the sprint was launched I left Zabel's wheel to latch onto Sorensen's. If I'd stayed behind Zabel I would have certainly have got a place. But then again, maybe there are fewer regrets in coming third than second."

Behind the leading trio there were few illusions about the possibility of winning. Michele Bartoli (5th), with Mirko Celestino (6th) the last across the line on the left of the road before a pile-up involving Jalabert, Museeuw, Max Sciandri (La Francaise des Jeux) and Michael Andersson (TVM), reckons his goose was cooked when the attack he was involved in on the Poggio came to naught. "[The others] were there [physically] but I don't know if they were there in their heads. One of them who got up to me was sucking my wheel [off-mike Bartoli identified him as Sorensen] . It was necessary to eliminate the sprinters on the Poggio and I'd done it. It was folly to lead Zabel to the last 500m."

The crash behind seems to have started with Jalabert, in what was a clean sprint. Jalabert slipped sideways -- one theory has it that adhesive tape marking on the road was the cause. "There was no pushing and shoving," said Museeuw, "the sprint seemed to me to be 'regular'. But at one moment we touched each other, I think it was with Jalabert."

Maybe it was the tape, but Jalabert also recalls his back wheel being touched. "The sprint started on the right [Elli?] and immediately Zabel went on the left with another guy on his wheel [Celestino?]. As for me, I was in the middle of the road -- it must have been in fourth or fifth position. But I saw nothing of [of the causes] of the crash. I believe someone struck me from behind. As for Zabel, he'd already won. After that I knew nothing more."

Jalabert was stunned and lay on the ground for several minutes but had slid across the finishing line still in contact with his bike, as had Sciandri, and so were placed 16th and 15th respectively. Museeuw stayed where he fell and so, in line with the rule about riders crashing in the first group inside the last kilometre, was given last place (39th) in the first group. (I don't know why the other rider involved in the crash -- Andersson -- was placed 52nd at 3.07.)


Only the second German to win Milano--San Remo, after the great Rudi Altig in 1968, Zabel remained modest in victory. "I'm above all a sprinter," he said. "And in this domain there's already quite enough competition to make it unrealistic [for me] to think of becoming a classics specialist. Museeuw and Jalabert are both the new Sean Kelly of the 1990s but I'm still a long, long way from being the new Museeuw or Jalabert." Early Sunday morning, and Zabel packed his bags to pick up on the nomadic life of the pro circuit -- a 600km drive in a rented car to Lloret de Mar in Spain for Monday's first stage of the Setmana Catalana. He had a last word for the press. "I knew that it was 17 years since Milan--San Remo was won in a sprint and that it would necessarily end like that one day, but I did't want to think about it. But when my wife called me on Friday to tell me that she'd dreamt of me winning the race in a sprint, I got worried. I've had many dreams that have become reality, now I feel as if I'm in paradise." =20

And for Laurent Jalabert it was a case of pick yourself up, dust yourself down.... Bruised and battered, he rode for two hours on Sunday. "I haven't broken anything but I'm aching all over, as is to be expected after such a fall." By all, means he said, he'd be at the start for the Criterium International, in his home Tarn area, on the 29th. Monday, Jalabert was back home in Mazamet but he wasn't riding his bike -- not on the road at least. The weather was beastly [il faisait un temps de chien] and in his condition he preferred a session on the home trainer. "The weather's been very bad," he said. It's rained solidly all day long.... I've got pains in my back, in my left arm, one of my legs is still swollen. I've been thoroughly put through the grater..". The short training session hadn't thrown out his plans -- he'd meant it to be "a tranquil day" anyway. And Saturday and Sunday's mini-Tour de France, the Criterium International? "I hope to be competitive but I don't know to what extent [the crash] will have upset my condition, which was very good. But it's true that I'm recuperating less well -- the nights are bad and I sleep poorly..."

Johan Museeuw had been taken to hospital in San Remo Saturday and given a thorough X-ray examination. No broken bones were found. Nor was there any muscle damage. "In two or three days he'll back on his bike," said Mapei PR man Gabriele Sola.


Born July 7, 1970, Berlin, East Germany, 1.76m, 69kg
Married with one child

Amateur: 4th Olympic road race 1992 (Barcelona); stage winner in Peace
Race 1992

Pro: October 1992 individual (Union Frondenberg), Team Deutsche
Telekom 1992--97

37 victories (excluding criteriums) including:
Milano--San Remo 1997; Paris--Tours 1994; Ruta del Sol 1997; Trofeo
Luis Puig 1997; Tour of Cologne 1996; Classic Haribo 1994; four stages
of Tour de France: (Charleroi and Bordeaux 1995, Nogent-sur-Oise and
Gap 1996); Tour green jersey 1996; two stages of Tour de Suisse1995;
two stages of Tirreno--Adriatico (1993, 1995); three stages of Quatre
Jours de Dunkerque (2 in 1995, 1 in 1996); four stages of Tour de
l'Avenir 1994.

"Among my 42 race wins [_including_ criteriums] I've never won except
in [a mass] sprint except for the Tour du Nord-Ouest in Switzerland in
1993 and Hanover--Berlin last May when I broke away 100km from the
finish with  three other riders. The race ended up being 324km-long
and the organizer was severely reprimanded by the UCI!"


 1. Erik Zabel (Ger, Team Deutsche Telekom) 294km in 6.57.47 (42.22kph)
 2. Alberto Elli (Ita, Casino-C'est votre equipe)
 3. Biagio Conte (Ita, Scrigno-Gaerne)
 4. Francesco Casagrande (Ita, Saeco)
 5. Michele Bartoli (Ita, Maglificio MG-Technogym)
 6. Mirko Celestino (Ita, Team Polti)
 7. Sergei Outschakov ((Ukr, Team Polti)
 8. Rolf Sorensen (Den, Rabobank)
 9. Andrea Ferrigato (Ita, Roslotto-ZG Mobili)
10. Andrea Noe (Ita, Asics)
11. Davide Casarotto (Ita, Scrigno-Gaerne
12. Beat Zberg (Swi, Mercatone Uno)
13. Jesper Skibby (Den, TVM)
14. Peter Van Petegem (Bel, TVM)
15. Max Sciandri (GB, La Francaise des Jeux)

16. Lars Michaelsen

All the results from 16 downwards therefore move down one place 
(Jalabert 17th etc)

16. Laurent Jalabert (Fra, ONCE)
17. Mirko Gualdi (Ita, Team Polti)
18. Mauro Gianetti (Swi, La Francaise des Jeux)
19. Rolf Jaermann (Switzerland) Casino-C'est votre equipe)
20. Stefano Della Santa (Ital, Mercatone Uno)        
21. Stephane Heulot (Fra, La Francaise des Jeux)
22. Bo Hamburger (Den, TVM)
23. Dimitri Konychev (Rus, Roslotto-ZG Mobili)
24. Roberto Petito (Ita, Saeco)
25. Alexander Chefer (Kaz, Asics)
26. Kai Hundertmark (Ger, Team Deutsche Telekom)
27. Paolo Savoldelli (Ita, Roslotto-ZG Mobili)
28. Claudio Chiappucci (Ita, Asics)
29. Franco Ballerini (Ita, Mapei-GB)
30. Marco Pantani (Ita, Mercatone Uno)
31. Peter Farazijn (Bel, Lotto-Mobistar-Isoglass)
32. Didier Rous (Fra, Festina-Lotus)
33. Mikel Zarrabeitia (Spa, ONCE)
34. Pascal Chanteur (Fra, Casino-C'est votre equipe)
35. Jan Ullrich (Ger, Team Deutsche Telekom)
36. Axel Merckx (Bel, Team Polti)
37. Marc Wauters (Bel, Lotto-Mobistar-Isoglass)
38. Tom Steels (Bel, Mapei-GB)
39. Johan Museeuw (Bel, Mapei-GB)          all s.t.
40. Maarten Den Bakker (Neth, TVM)       +22 secs
41. Laurent Dufaux (Swi, Festina-Lotus)           +1.21
42. Enrico Zaina (Ita, Asics)
43. Richard Virenque (Fra, Festina-Lotus)         +1.26
44. Mauro Bettin (Ita, Ceramiche Refin-Mobilvetta Design) + 3.07
45. Fabiano Fontanelli (Ita, Maglificio MG-Technogym)
46. George Hincapie (USA, US Postal Service)
47. Stephane Barthe (Fra, Casino-C'est votre equipe)
48. Andrei Tchmil (Ukr, Lotto-Mobistar-Isoglass)
49. Sergio Previtali (Ita, Scrigno-Gaerne)
50. Robbie McEwen (Aus, Rabobank)
51. Leon Van Bon (Neth, Rabobank)
52. Michael Andersson (Swe, TVM)
53. Fabrizio Bontempi (Ita, Brescialat)
54. Stuart O'Grady (Aus, GAN)
55. Nicola Loda (Ita, Maglificio MG-Technogym)
56. Jo Planckaert (Bel, Lotto-Mobistar-Isoglass)
57. Elio Aggiano (Ita, Ceramiche Refin-Mobilvetta Design)
58. Adriano Baffi (Ita, US Postal Service)
59. Fabio Baldato (Ita, Maglificio MG-Technogym)
60. Henk Vogels (Aus, GAN)
61. Viateslav Djavanian (Rus, Roslotto-ZG Mobili)
62. Zbigniew Spruch (Pol, Mapei-GB)
63. Scott Sunderland (Aus, GAN)
64. Laurent Desbiens (Fra, Cofidis)
65. Endrio Leoni (Ita, Aki-Safi)
66. Fabrizio  Guidi (Ita, Scrigno-Gaerne)
67. Michael Blaudzun (Den, Rabobank)
68. Rossano Brasi (Ita, Team Polti)
69. Stefano Casagranda (Ita, Maglificio MG-Technogym)
70. Tony Rominger (Swi, Cofidis)
71. Bruno Thibout (Fra, Cofidis)
72. Juan-Carlos Dominguez (Spa, Kelme-Costa Blanca-Eurosport)
73. Fabrice Gougot (Fra, Casino-C'est votre equipe)
74. Sergei Gontchar (Ukr, Aki-Safi)
75. Andrea Tafi (Ita, Mapei-GB)
76. Luca Sironi (Ita, Aki-Safi)
77. Marco Artunghi (Ita, Mercatone Uno)
78. Markus Zberg (Swi, Mercatone Uno)
79. Marty Jemison (USA, US Postal Service)
80. Jose Luis Arrieta (Spa, Banesto)
81. Roberto Heras (Spa, Kelme-Costa Blanca-Eurosport)
82. Nicola Minali (Ita, Batik-Del Monte)
83. Viatcheslav Ekimov (Rus, Rabobank)
84. Dario Nicoletti (Ita, Maglificio Mg-Technogym)
85. Alexei Sivakov (Rus, Roslotto-ZG Mobili)
86. Laurent Roux (Fra, TVM)
87. Simone Borgheresi (Ita, Mercatone Uno)
88. Rolf Aldag (Ger, Team Deutsche Telekom)
89. Pavel Padrnos (Cze, Roslotto-ZG Mobili)
90. Mario Chiesa (Ita, Asics)
91. Marco Velo (Ita, Brescialat)
92. Dario Bottaro (Ita, Mercatone Uno)
93. Marcos Antonio Serrano (Spa, Kelme-Costa Blanca-Eurosport)
94. Silvio Martinello (Ita, Saeco)
95. Tristan Hoffman (Neth, TVM)
96. Santiago Blanco (Spa, Banesto)
97. Bjarne Riis (Den, Team Deutsche Telekom)
98. Angelo Lecchi (Ita, Maglificio MG-Technogym)
99. Angel Casero (Spa, Banesto)
100. Filippo Simeoni (Ita, Asics)
101. Vicente Aparicio (Spa, Banesto)
102. Marco Lietti (Ita, Ceramiche Refin-Mobilvetta Design)
103. Luc Leblanc (Fra, Team Polti)
104. Gabriele Colombo (Ita, Batik-Del Monte)
105. Alex Zulle (Swi, ONCE)
106. Armin Meier (Swi, Batik-Del Monte)
107. Mario Cipollini (Ita, Saeco)
108. Evgeni Berzin (Rus, Batik-Del Monte) all s.t.
109. Luis Diaz de Otazu (Spa, ONCE)  4.09
110. Gian Matteo Fagnini (Ita, Saeco)      + 4.26
111. Laurent Madouas (Fra, Lotto-Mobilstar-Isoglass)
112. Mauro Radaelli (Ita, Aki-Safi)
113. Massimiliano Lelli (Ita, Saeco)
114. Massimo Apollonio (Ita, Scrigno-Gaerne)
115. Frederic Pontier (Fra, Casino-C'est votre equipe)
116. Aart Vierhouten (Neth, Rabobank)
117. Simone Rebellin (Ita, La Francaise des Jeux)
118. Darren Baker (USA, US Postal Service)
119. Abraham Olano (Spa, Banesto)
120. Luca Scinto (Ita, Maglificio MG-Technogym)
121. Andrea Peron (Ita, La Francaise des Jeux)
122. Cedric Vasseur (Fra, GAN)
123. Andrea Brognara (Ita, Batik-Del Monte)
124. Ronan Pensec (Fra, GAN)
125. Carlo Bomans (Bel, Mapei-GB)
126. Wilfried Peeters (Bel, Mapei-GB)
127. Andrei Teteriuk (Kaz, Lotto-Mobistar-Isoglass)
128. Brian Holm (Den, Team Deutsche Telekom)
129. Peter Meinert-Neilsen (Den, US Postal Service)
130. Pascal Derame (Fra, US Postal Service)
131. Luca Mazzanti (Ita, Ceramiche Refin-Mobilvetta Design)
132. Andrea Vatteroni (Ita, Scrigno-Gaerne)    all s.t.
133. Jorgen Werner (Ger, Ceramiche Refin-Mobilvetta Design) + 4.34
134. Frederic Guesdon (Fra, La Francaise des Jeux)        + 7.09
135. Jose Luis Rubiera (Spa, Kelme-Costa Blanca-Eurosport)       +8.49
136. Fernando Escartin (Spa, Kelme-Costa Blanca-Eurosport)       +10.24
137. Marco Villa (Ita, Brescialat)   s.t.
138. Djamolidine] Abdujaparov (Uzb, Lotto-Mobistar-Isoglass) +12.12
139. Arvis Piziks (Lith, Rabobank)
140. Gilles Bouvard (Fra, Festina-Lotus) both s.t.
141. Frederic Moncassin (Fra, GAN)      +12.32
142. Leonardo Calzavara (Ita, Aki-Safi)
143. Gabriele Balducci (Ita, Ceramiche Refin-Mobilvetta Design)
144. Enrico Cassani (Ita, Team Polti)
145. Philippe Gaumont (Fra, La Francaise des Jeux)
146. Leonardo Guidi (Ita, Scrigno-Gaerne)
147. Marco Zen (Ita, Roslotto-ZG Mobili)
148. Sebastien Medan (Fra, Festina-Lotus)
149. Christophe Moreau (Fra, Festina-Lotus)
150. Valerio Tebaldi (Ita, Fetsina-Lotus)
151. Marco Saligari (Ita, Casino-C'est votre equipe))
152. Simone Bertoletti (Ita, Batik-Del Monte)
153. Ermanno Brignoli (Ita, Batik-Del Monte)
154. Cristian Salvato (Ita, Ceramiche Refin-Mobilvetta Design)
155. Roberto Sierra (Spa, ONCE)
156. Ludwig Willems (Bel, Lotto-Mobistar-Isoglass)
157. Mario Scirea (Ita, Saeco)
158. Giuseppe Calcaterra (Ita, Saeco)
159. Mario Traversoni (Ita, Mercatone Uno)  all s.t.
160. Francisque Teyssier (Fra, GAN)  +13.51
161. Michelangelo Cauz (Ita, Aki-Safi) +14.20
162. Gerrit De Vries (Neth, Team Polti) s.t.
163. Marzio Bruseghin (Ita, Brescialat)      +15.04
164. J. V. Garcia (Spa, Banesto)                + 15.25

(196 starters, 165 classified)


 1. Erik Zabel (Ger, Team Deutsche Telekom) 100
 2. Alberto Elli (Ita, Casino-C'est votre equipe) 70
 3. Biagio Conte (Ita, Scrigno-Gaerne) 50
 4. Francesco Casagrande (Ita, Saeco) 40
 5. Michele Bartoli (Ita, Maglificio MG Technogym) 36
 6 .Mirko Celestino (Ita)         32
 7. Sergei Usciakov (Ukr)         28
 8. Rolf Sorensen (Den, Rabobank)           24
 9. Andrea Ferrigato (Ita)        20
10. Andrea Noe (Ita)              16
11. Davide Casarotto (Ita)        15
12. Beat Zberg (Swi, Mercatone Uno) 14
13. Jesper Skibby (Den, TVM) 13
14. Peter Van Petegem (Bel, TVM) 12
15. Maximilian Sciandri (GB, La Francaise des Jeux) 11
16. Laurent Jalabert (Fra, ONCE) 10
17. Mirko Gualdi (Ita) 9
18. Mauro Gianetti (Sch)  8
19. Rolf Jaermann (Sch) 7
20. Stefano Della Santa (Ita) 6
21. Stephane Heulot (Fra) 5
22. Bo Hamburger (Den) 4
23. Dimitri Konychev (Rus, Roslotto-ZG Mobili) 3
24. Roberto Petito (Ita) 2
25. Alexander Chefer (Kaz) 1

Team standings

 1. Team Polti   12
 2. TVM  9
 3. La Francaise des Jeux 8
 4. Casino-C'est votre equipe  7
 5. Roslotto-ZG Mobili   6
 6. Team Deutsche Telekom  5
 7. Mercatone Uno    4
 8. Scrigno-Gaerne    3
 9. Asics   2
10. Maglificio MG-Technogym (Ita)  1