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Milan San-Remo
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2002 Milan San Remo
2003 World Cup
2003 Primavera Rosa
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Competitive Cyclist

94th Milan - San Remo - CDM

Italy, March 22, 2003

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Complete Live Report

Start time: 9:30 CET
Estimated finish time: 16:20 CET

Welcome to Cyclingnews' coverage of the 94th Milan-San Remo, the first spring classic of the year, and the first round of the World Cup. 'La Primavera' (The Spring), as it's commonly nicknamed, takes place over a massive 294 kilometres, making it the longest UCI one day race of the season. Starting in Milan in the northern part of Italy, the race winds its way south through the countryside until it hits the Turchino Pass after 143 kilometres. At 532m, this is the biggest climb of the race, however it generally comes too early to cause much of a split in the bunch.

After the descent of the Turchino, the race follows the coastline through the provinces of Savona and Imperia, taking in some very picturesque scenery en route. This section is all quite flat, with the hills starting again at km 255 with the Capo Berta (Capo Mele has been bypassed this year due to landslides in the area). Following that is the Cipressa (240m) at 272 kilometres, which is often the spring board for a number of attacks. Finally at kilometre 288 is the Poggio di Sanremo, the last chance for anyone to get away before a bunch sprint. Six kilometres later, the race finishes on San Remo's Via Roma. Who will it be this year?

The weather is clear and cool (about 5 degrees), with a fairly strong breeze from the north west. That will help the riders over the first half of the race to the Turchino, and it should be fast, because the sprinters teams will want to keep control of the race.

9:53 CET
The riders left Milan's Piazza Sant'Ambrogio some minutes before 9:30 for a 3 km neutral section before the race started officially. The talk in the Piazza was that Quick.Step-Davitamon and Saeco were going to attack to try and launch Paolo Bettini and Danilo Di Luca into breakaways. On the other hand, Fassa Bortolo and Domina Vacanze were going to try and control the race to set things up for a bunch sprint. Most of the riders we spoke to at the start thought a bunch sprint was likely, and Cipollini was the man to beat.

10:14 CET
Cyclingnews spoke with diarist Guido Trenti (Fassa Bortolo) this morning in Piazza Sant'Ambrogio, who was feeling very positive about today. "We're really ready to go today," said Trenti, who hopes to play a role in leading out Alessandro Petacchi for the win.

As for Petacchi, he looked disappointed when we talked to him. "I'm not really feeling that great," he said. Who knows, it could be that Pippo Pozatto may be the man for Fassa Bortolo today? Or perhaps it was just pre-race nerves on Petacchi's part?

10:35 CET
One of the dark horses today is American Fred Rodriguez, who rides for the Caldirola-Sidermec-Saunier Duval team. Rodriguez finished second in Milan-San Remo last year behind Cipollini, and certainly knows what it takes. Unfortunately for him this year, he got shaken up after his crash in the Tour of Rhodes in February. However, he told Cyclingnews that he's "training really well and feels stronger and more focused this year than last year. I'm really confident and positive about my chances today."

10:50 CET
The first update on what's happening so far in the race has come through. After 20 kilometres, a break of nine riders containing none other than Jacky Durand (FDJeux.com) had 38 seconds lead on the peloton.

Reader Alan Creswell-Graae asks who are the favourites today. Well, most people (myself included) are picking Mario Cipollini, who packs the best sprint and has a very strong team around him. That is absolutely critical in order to get things back together after the Poggio. Cipollini would find it harder to win on his own, with no support, as everyone will be watching him.

Others include Oscar Freire (Rabobank), who probably has the best chance at beating Cipo, and Erik Zabel (Telekom), who has won this race four times. You can't discount Robbie McEwen either, as he is one of the few riders to have beaten Cipo in a head to head sprint in the last year.

If a break does manage to succeed on the Poggio or before then, then look for Paolo Bettini, Danilo Di Luca, Filippo Pozzato, Davide Rebellin and Giuliano Figueras.

11:02 CET
The nine riders in the break are: Jacky Durand and Carlos Dacruz (FDJ), Stéphane Auge (Credit Agricole), Peter Wrolich (Gerolsteiner), Jose Lopez Gil (iBanesto.com), Ignacio Gutierrez (Kelme), Paul Van Hyfte (CSC), Wim Vansevenant (Lotto-Domo) and Niki Aebersold (Team Coast). They are being chased by Michele Gobbi (De Nardi) and Mikhail Timochine (Landbouwkrediet), who were nearly 3 minutes behind them after 36 km. The peloton was at 3'50 at that point.

The leaders covered 40.7 kilometres in the first hour.

11:29 CET
The leaders have covered around 80 kilometres of the 294 to be completed. Still a long way to go for Durand and co., with the peloton not really wishing to chase them yet.

Cyclingnews spoke to Max Sciandri (Lampre) this morning, about his and other riders chances today. "I'm feeling well," said the experienced British/Italian rider. "I think it's the 13th Milan-San Remo I've ridden. It should be a sprint today.

Sciandri tipped Cipollini to win today. "Even though he said he's not feeling well, Cipollini should be the man."

12:01 CET
Another rider to tip Cipollini was the very experienced Cofidis rider Massamiliano Lelli, who is in his 15th Milan-San Remo today. "Cipollini is ready to go, he looks in great shape," Lelli told Cyclingnews this morning.

In regard to the favourites, one rider we haven't mentioned is 2000 World Champion Romans Vansteins (Caldirola-Sidermec), who is looking in better form this year than last. He's got the sprint to do it, and rode well in Tirreno-Adriatico.

Of the non-sprinters, watch out for Alexandre Vinokourov (Telekom), who showed his strength, both mentally and physically, in winning Paris-Nice last week. He's certainly a rider to try a last minute attack on the Poggio (as he did last year), unless he's assigned to help Zabel.

12:17 CET
The situation after 80 kilometres of racing was that a group of nine riders ( Jacky Durand and Carlos Dacruz (FDJ), Stéphane Auge (Credit Agricole), Peter Wrolich (Gerolsteiner), Jose Lopez Gil (iBanesto.com), Ignacio Gutierrez (Kelme), Paul Van Hyfte (CSC), Wim Vansevenant (Lotto-Domo) and Niki Aebersold (Team Coast)) had 4'12 lead on the peloton, after having covered nearly 44 km in the second hour of racing. The two chasers, Michele Gobbi (De Nardi) and Mikhail Timochine (Landbouwkrediet), have been caught.

The main teams doing the tempo setting are Quick.Step-Davitamon (Bettini), Domina Vacanze (Cipollini) and Rabobank (Freire).

12:43 CET
The riders are nearing the halfway point now, having raced 128 kilometres. The Turchino Pass still has to be climbed, but that is coming up soon. Jacky Durand is probably the best known rider in the break, due to his countless efforts like this in the past. It's also interesting to see Team Coast's Niki Aebersold up there - at least the team is guaranteed some coverage once the TV starts in a couple of hours.

Tim McKay asks when Milan-San Remo was last won by a breakaway. Discounting Andrei Tchmil's last minute attack to win the 1999 edition, we'd have to go back until 1996 when Gabriele Colombo won by attacking on the Cipressa. With the strength of the sprinters' teams now, and the overall fitness of everyone in the race, it means that bunch sprints are more likely in Milan-San Remo. That's not to say a breakaway won't succeed, because the ascent/descent of the Poggio is very tricky, and really disrupts a leadout train.

12:55 CET - 140 km/154 km to go
The leading nine are on the Turchino Pass now, a 15 km ascent but not overly steep. The peloton remains at a stead 4'45, obviously trying to keep the gap to the leaders pegged. It would be a bit different if there were only two or three riders away - the peloton could afford to relax and let them get 15 minutes. But with nine riders cooperating well, the scenario changes.

13:21 CET
The leaders have crossed the Turchino Pass and are now on the Via Aurelia, the coast road that leads them all the way to San Remo. The group contains Jacky Durand and Carlos Dacruz (FDJ), Stéphane Auge (Credit Agricole), Peter Wrolich (Gerolsteiner), Jose Lopez Gil (iBanesto.com), Ignacio Gutierrez (Kelme), Paul Van Hyfte (CSC), Wim Vansevenant (Lotto-Domo) and Niki Aebersold (Team Coast).

Correction: Gabriele Colombo attacked on the Cipressa in 1996, taking three other riders with him. He won by attacking them in the final kilometre.

13:30 CET
It's reported that Jose Lopez Gil was dropped from the leading bunch on the climb of the Turchino, leaving eight riders in front. The peloton was at 3'35 at the top of the pass.

14:01 CET
The peloton is now being controlled by the Telekom team, working for Erik Zabel. The gap is being pegged to back to three minutes, with this northwesterly tailwind making life easy for the break and the peloton. The fourth hour saw 43.02 kilometres covered, so the peloton is gearing up for a fast finish.

There are eight riders in front now: The group contains Jacky Durand and Carlos Dacruz (FDJ), Stéphane Auge (Credit Agricole), Peter Wrolich (Gerolsteiner), Ignacio Gutierrez (Kelme), Paul Van Hyfte (CSC), Wim Vansevenant (Lotto-Domo) and Niki Aebersold (Team Coast).

14:29 CET
The 94th Milan-San Remo is now into its final 90 kilometres, with the status quo being maintained between the eight rider break and the still large peloton. All the top sprinters, Mario Cipollini, Erik Zabel, Oscar Freire, Alessandro Petacchi, Romans Vainsteins and Robbie McEwen are relying on their teams to keep things together for the finale, and so far it's working. The speed will begin to increase as the bunch senses the finish.

14:42 CET
The eight leaders are coming back to the peloton, which is still complete. They have only 1 minute of their lead remaining, having a maximum of around 5 minutes at one stage. It's still the Telekom and Domina Vacanze teams doing the work in front.

14:47 CET - 227 km/70 km to go
The eight leaders still have 1'13 on the peloton, which is one solid block across the Autostrada, before it heads back along the Via Aurelia. So, there no desire to close the gap down just yet. The leaders are still cooperating well.

Cipollini is quite close to the front, in the third or fourth row. He's concentrating as you have to for this race.

14:55 CET - 233 km/64 km to go
The eight leaders, Jacky Durand, Carlos Dacruz, Stéphane Auge, Peter Wrolich, Ignacio Gutierrez, Paul Van Hyfte, Wim Vansevenant and Niki Aebersold, have around 1 minute's lead on the massive peloton with around one and a half hours of racing to go. Quick.Step, with Richard Virenque prominent, is now at the front. What can they do, with riders like VDB and Bettini?

The average speed today is 43.2 km/h so far, and that will no doubt increase a little.

15:01 CET
The race is still travelling along the Autostrada, due to the landslides along the coast. The leaders have 1'43 on the peloton, which is being driven by Quick.Step, with Tom Boonen, Bram Tankink, Richard Virenque, and Davide Bramati. Rabobank and Domina Vacanze are also near the front of the group, with Australian champion Stuart O'Grady (Credit Agricole) not far from the front rank. He definitely wants to win this race.

15:06 CET - 241 km/56 km to go
Stephane Auge (Credit Agricole) has been dropped by the break, leading seven in front with less than a minute's lead.

Mario Cipollini, who is 36 years old today, cruises up the outside of the peloton to improve his position. The bunch is moving quite quickly now. There is a fall at the back, with a couple of Ag2r riders and A Gerolsteiner rider - Olaf Pollack - going down. He's out of the race.

The gap is now just 20 seconds. The break can start thinking about what it's like to ride in the peloton again.

15:12 CET - 246 km/51 km to go
A couple of Fassa riders, including Bartoli, and US Posties, are chasing back onto the peloton after a small break. They are slowly getting there, but will find it hard to get back into the race.

15:16 CET - 247 km/50 km to go
The leaders are now back on the Via Aurelia, with a 15 seconds advantage over the peloton. Matthew Wilson (FDJ) is at the back of the bunch, getting assistance from the team car.

15:22 CET - 252 km/45 km to go
The seven man break, with Jacky Durand, Carlos Dacruz, Stéphane Auge, Peter Wrolich, Ignacio Gutierrez, Paul Van Hyfte, Wim Vansevenant and Niki Aebersold, is still managing to hold a lead over the peloton, as it descends the Capo Cervo.

There is a fall at the back with a Domina Vacanze rider going down - Martin Derganc. He's not moving, and his team director has stopped to help him. Also a Landbouwkrediet rider (Bileka) came down, but is ok.

Derganc is stretchered off into an ambulance. Let's hope he's OK, although he still hasn't moved. He is clutching his shoulder, so it could be a minimum of a broken collarbone.

15:29 CET - 258 km/39 km to go
The leaders have been reduced to four now on the Capo Berta. Durand and Vansevenant are no longer there. Kelme's Jordi Ribera has set off in pursuit.

Wrolich, Aebersold, and Van Hyfte are leading over the Capo Berta, but Van Hyfte has problems following and the leaders are just two in number now.

15:35 CET - 262 km/33 km to go
Aebersold and Wrolich have 6" lead on Van Hyfte, with the peloton still at 15". The breakaways have done a remarkable job in holding off the bunch, having been away since around the 20 kilometre mark.

Van Hyfte has rejoined the leading two just after Imperia. Rabobank has got to the front of the peloton, with Freire in good position. US Postal has also got a few riders up there, with Van Heeswijk the man to work for.

After six hours, the average is 43.38 km/h

15:38 CET - 264 km/31 km to go
The leaders have been caught, after around 240 km at the head of the race. Rabobank has upped the pace in preparation for the Cipressa. O'Grady and Cipollini are near the front too.

15:41 CET - 267 km/28 km to go
Rafaele Ferrara (Alessio) has crashed, and is out of the race. The peloton is travelling very fast now - between 60 and 70 km/h at times! The Cipressa approaches.

McEwen is right near the front, in the company of a teammate. Not far behind are Mario Cipollini and Paolo Bettini, both of whom are attentive.

15:44 CET - 269 km/26 km to go
The bunch hits the foot of the Cipressa led by Saeco, with Danilo Di Luca positioned well. Let's see if we can guess the tactic...

It's Mirko Celestino (Saeco) who attacks first. Alexandre Botcharov (Ag2r) goes after him.

15:50 CET - 272 km/25 km to go
Bettini, Vinokourov and Rebellin attack in pursuit of Celestino and Botcharov. They get a gap to the peloton, but it's not much. Cipollini is slipping back through the bunch. Freire is also there. They catch Celestino and Botcharov.

Petacchi has been dropped. He clearly wasn't feeling good today.

15:52 CET - 273 km/24 km to go
The Cipressa has caused some damage, but will it come back together? In the lead we have Rebellin, Bettini, Vinokourov, Freire - four very strong leaders.

Domina Vacanze is getting Cipo back into the race. Saeco is also marshalling its forces in the peloton, but Celestino obviously missed that break.

15:58 CET - 277 km/20 km to go
On the descent of the Cipressa, Filippo Pozzato crashes, and is out of the race. That effectively ends Fassa Bortolo's chances today. Luca Mazzanti also fell.

The leading four, Vino, Bettini, Rebellin and Freire, are holding 15 seconds on the peloton. Freire is suffering. Mirko Celestino (Saeco) has made it onto the break, so now there are five...

16:01 CET - 279 km/16 km to go
Bettini gets a little gap on his own on this descent, using the motorbike a little bit. Celestino bridges the gap, followed by Rebellin and Freire. Vinokourov is off the back, talking to his director. The gap is now 23 seconds.

Domina Vacanze is organising the chase for Cipollini.

16:03 CET - 281 km/14 km to go
The Domina Vacanze chase is having an effect, bringing the gap down to 19 seconds. Bettini is nervous, and attacks the group.

16:05 CET - 285 km/12 km to go
Bettini's attack is chased down, and Vinokourov takes over the lead. Celestino, Freire and Rebellin are still there, but the gap has shrunk to 8 seconds.

Mario Scirea's work has succeeded in catching the break. Gruppo compatto again.

16:08 CET - 288 km/9 km to go
Danilo Di Luca (Saeco) is getting ready for an attack on the Poggio, which is coming now. Cipollini is right up there, as is Vainsteins.

16:08 CET - 289 km/8 km to go
The bunch hits the Poggio, and it's Shefer and Di Luca who get a gap off the front. Cipollini is back a little.

Di Luca sees the gap and attacks hard. Andrea Peron (CSC) chases Di Luca.

16:11 CET - 290 km/7 km to go
Di Luca has eight seconds lead on the peloton, which is flying up the Poggio. Chasing him are Peron and Gontchar (De Nardi).

16:12 CET - 291 km/6 km to go
Di Luca approaches the top of the Poggio with his 8 second lead intact. Peron and Gontchar will have to get him on the descent. But the peloton is big and dangerous. Cipo, Vainsteins, McEwen are all there.

Zoulfia Zabirova has won the women's Primavera Rosa.

16:13 CET
Paolini and Bettini chase down Di Luca together with Celestino, just before the top of the Poggio. So we have two Saeco's and two Quick.Steps on the descent of the Poggio.

Lorenzo Bernucci falls at the top of the Poggio. He's OK though, but loses his position.

16:15 CET - 5 km to go
The leading four - Luca Paolini, Paolo Bettini, and Mirko Celestino are being closely pursued by the peloton on the descent of the Poggio. They probably won't last. Di Luca is dropped. They have 11"

16:18 CET - 3 km to go
Di Luca is chasing Paolini, Bettini and Celestino on his own, with the peloton close behind. The gap is 14". Cipollini and Zabel's men are leading the peloton. McEwen is still up there.

16:19 CET - 2 km to go
Two kilometres left, and it's Celestino, Bettini and Paolini going full on into San Remo. Di Luca is in between them, as is McEwen.

Rabobank and Telekom are leading the peloton.

16:20 CET - 1 km to go
The final kilometre, and we have still three leaders, Bettini, Paolini and Celestino.

Bettini is in third wheel and easily wins the sprint! Celestino is second, followed by Paolini. Cipollini wins the bunch sprint for fourth. What a win by Bettini - the strongest man today, clearly. He is ecstatic - the first rider to win in a breakaway since Colombo in 1996.

Bettini thus gets to keep his World Cup jersey, that he wore all day today to victory on Via Roma.

We have an update on Martin Derganc, who had a bad fall with 45 km to go. He's concsious and has been taken to hospital in Impreia. His condition is stable and he looks like he's broken.

Thanks for following Milan-San Remo with Cyclingnews today. We'll be back with the Ronde van Vlaanderen on April 6 for some serious cobbled action. Also look for an exclusive column from Paolo Bettini next week on Cyclingnews.


1 Paolo Bettini (Ita) Quick.Step-Davitamon     6.44.43 (43.58 km/h)
2 Mirko Celestino (Ita) Saeco
3 Luca Paolini (Ita) Quick.Step-Davitamon
4 Mario Cipollini (Ita) Domina Vacanze
5 Dario Pieri (Ita) Saeco
6 Erik Zabel (Ger) Telekom
7 Oscar Freire (Spa) Rabobank
8 Jan Svorada (Cze) Lampre
9 Serguei Ivanov (Rus) Fassa Bortolo
10 Guido Trenti (USA) Fassa Bortolo

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