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94th Milan - San Remo - CDM
Italy, March 22, 2003
Paolo Bettini & Quick.Step spoil Cipollini's Birthday Bash
By Tim Maloney, European Editor
Clad in his 2002 World Cup champion's jersey, Paolo Bettini (Quick.Step-Davitamon) denied World Champ Mario Cipollini a second consecutive Milano-San Remo victory today with a magnificent ride to take his biggest win ever in the spring sunshine on via Roma in San Remo this afternoon.
"It was a great win," the tearful Bettini told RAI-TV in the post-race melee as he hugged his teammate Luca Paolini, who finished third in the all Italian podium today. For the first time in eight years, a break succeeded in Milano-San Remo as Paolini gave his all to keep the key escape away from the chasing peloton in the final kilometres and set up the big win for Bettini.
"Paolini was more than incredible today", said Bettini, "so I have to dedicate my win to the (Quick.Step-Davitamon) team. They were always there for me and did what I needed to win." But the 29 year old Bettini also dedicated the victory to his wife Monica, who's in "dolce attesa" (expecting) and will become a mama later this year.
A disappointed Mario Cipollini ended up winning the bunch sprint for fourth, just 11 seconds behind the front trio of Bettini, runner-up Mirko Celestino (Saeco) and Paolini, so there was no birthday party today on via Roma. "I showed that I was in great condition and if we had come in all together, I would have won. My team worked well today, especially Bennati and Ongarato", said a dignified but clearly disappointed Cipollini, who only had two teammates with him in the 69 strong second group.
Cipo's Domina Vacanze squad just could not control the brilliant Bettini today, who followed Quick.Step's d.s. Serge Parsani's plan to perfection today which finally sprung "Il Grillo" (Bettini's nickname, cricket in Italian) in his successful leap to win Milano-San Remo.
"We planned the attack (by Bettini) on the Cipressa", explained Parsani, "but when he was caught, I told him to stay calm and try again. It worked on the Poggio." And how. Bettini and his teammate Paolini flew the coop on the Poggio in a perfectly timed counter attack from Saeco's Danilo Di Luca, who attacked too early at the base of the Poggio climb and was eventually swept up by Bettini, Paolini and Celestino.
Domina Vacanze had little help in keeping a leash on the attackers in the final phases of Milano-San Remo. With Domina's Derganc out after a crash on the descent of Capo Cervo, Telekom seemed content to play the waiting game, while Fassa Bortolo seemed to self-destruct in the final 30km. Their top sprinter Alessandro Petacchi was still feeling the effects of his flu last week, and was dropped on the Cipressa, while their superboy Pippo Pozzato crashed on the descent of the same crucial climb, effectively taking the Silver Team out of the key action in the final of today's Milano-San Remo.
How it unfolded
On a cool, sunny March morning, the 195 riders from 25 teams headed out of Milano's Piazza San Ambrogio south towards the Ligurian coast and San Remo. Team Coast returned to the peloton after a suspension for financial irregularities, and after just 7 km of the opening classic of the 2003 World Cup in Binasco, old warrior Jacky Durand (FDJ) made his usual suicide move and got a gap. Dudu was joined by his teammate Carlos Dacruz, Stéphane Augé (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).
Lopez Gil dropped back so the break of eight chugged along, and after 145 km of racing at the summit of Passo Turchino, the fugitives had a maximum lead of 5'30". But try as they might, the break was going nowhere fast, as a tramontana tailwind from the northwest was blowing today and the pace was high, with the eventual average speed at over 44 km/h for the 297km classic.
Behind the break, a unified chase was keeping the pace high and as the 8 front-runners began to tire from their long break, their advantage began to drop. At the entrance to the Autostrada in Albenga that began the detour with 70km to go, the break had less than a minute and it seemed that their free pass would end after the detour ended. But uncertainty seemed to be the order of the day as the race re-entered the traditional percorso along the via Aurelia cost road. As the first of today's capi, Capo Berta began, the peloton was just letting the break hang out in front before the fireworks started.
With the break still 15" seconds up the road, the chase intensified and as riders jockeyed for position at 60 km/h on the Berta descent, Domina rider Derganc crashed face-first into a guardrail. He would be a crucial loss for Cipollini, who would need all the help he could get.
After six hours of racing in Imperia, the average speed was almost 44 km/h and the torrid pace finally sucked up the escapees after nearly 250 km of liberty. Approaching the penultimate climb of the 5.7km Cipressa with 30km to go, Rabobank was powering on the front, but as the climb began, local lad Mirko Celestino (Saeco) attacked hard. He got a gap and Bettini responded, bringing along Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner), Oscar Freire (Rabobank) and Alexander Vinokourov (Telekom). Neither sprinter Freire nor stopper Vinokourov, who was covering the break for Telekom team leader Zabel were pulling hard.
Cipressa was where the plans of Fassa Bortolo unraveled behind the break, as the ailing Petacchi went out the back and superboy Pippo Pozzato had a crash on the descent that knocked him out of contention and upset the equilibrium of the chase.
Despite their 15" gap at the top of the climb, which was scaled in just under 10'00, once the five man break hit the 9 km section of the via Aurelia between the base of the Cipressa and the start of the final climb of the Poggio, their fate was sealed. Cipollini sent Scirea, Ongarato and Bennati to the front to up the tempo, while Freire and Vino were not collaborating. In Finale Liguria with only 10km to go, the dangerous break came back after some inspired riding by Bettini.
"When the group caught us (after Cipressa), I thought for a minute that it was finished," Bettini told Cyclingnews. "But I told myself 'I might lose today, but I'm going to give it everything I've got left.'"
As the 3.3 km climb of the Poggio commenced, Cipo looked great, pedaling up just behind the massed red jerseys of the Saeco team. The record for the Poggio climb is 5'22" by Giorgio Furlan in 1994, and last year, Bettini topped the hill in 6'15" and was then caught on the descent in San Remo. Early on, Saeco's Alexander Shefer took of with Di Luca on his wheel. It was a daring early attack by the dynamic young star Di Luca, who crashed just before the Poggio last year, but his pace began to slow after gaining over 10". Bettini and Paolini waited to made their move on the false flat after the Sanctuary of Madonna della Guardia, where other winners like Saronni, Fondriest and Furlan had gone before.
Only Celestino could follow when they pounced and the trio rapidly caught Di Luca. "It was too bad for me (on the Poggio) since I had a strong headwind all the way up", Di Luca told Cyclingnews. "When I was caught, I simply had nothing left to stay. But I feel good for the team and good for Celestino," explained the simpatico rider from Spoltore.
Over the top of the Poggio, the front four had clocked a time of 6'13, just 2" ahead of last year's pace. They had a narrow margin of 6" on the chasers and it looked like Bettini & Co. would be caught. But Paolini gave it his all, and when the trio hit the base of the Poggio with 2.2 km to go, their margin was still 15". Cipo's Domina team had simply burned too many matches chasing Bettini's break on the Cipressa and with the incredible pace, they couldn't maintain control.
No one could stop the explosive Bettini now, even a police motorcycle that balked the front trio in the final kilometre. Celestino made a game effort but couldn't match the surge of the Tuscan from La California, who crossed the finish line of the 94th edition of Milano-San Remo shouting with passionate joy.
Post-race, the 29 year old Bettini also dedicated the victory to his wife Monica, who's in "dolce attesa" (expecting) and will become a mama later this year. "Now we'll go to Belgium," said World Cup leader Bettini, where Il Grillo and his new Quick.Step-Davitamon squad must surely be most powerful squad on the starting line in the Ronde van Vlaanderen in two weeks time.
Images by Fotoreporter Sirotti
Images by Tim Maloney/Cyclingnews.com
Images by Marco Bardella
1 Paolo Bettini (Ita) Quick.Step-Davitamon 6.44.43 (44.03 km/h) 2 Mirko Celestino (Ita) Team Saeco 3 Luca Paolini (Ita) Quick.Step-Davitamon 0.02 4 Mario Cipollini (Ita) Domina Vacanze-Elitron 0.11 5 Dario Pieri (Ita) Team Saeco 6 Erik Zabel (Ger) Team Telekom 7 Oscar Freire Gomez (Spa) Rabobank 8 Jan Svorada (Cze) Lampre 9 Serguei Ivanov (Rus) Fassa Bortolo 10 Guido Trenti (USA) Fassa Bortolo 11 Gianluca Bortolami (Ita) Caldirola-Sidermec 12 Bernhard Eisel (Aut) FDJeux.com 13 Marcus Zberg (Swi) Gerolsteiner 14 Baden Cooke (Aus) FDJeux.com 15 Graziano Gasparre (Ita) De Nardi-Colpack 16 Matthew Wilson (Aus) FDJeux.com 17 Kim Kirchen (Lux) Fassa Bortolo 18 Marc Lotz (Ned) Rabobank 19 Beat Zberg (Swi) Rabobank 20 Ruggero Marzoli (Ita) Alessio 21 Stuart O'grady (Aus) Crédit Agricole 22 Mariano Piccoli (Ita) Lampre 23 Fabio Sacchi (Ita) Team Saeco 24 David Millar (GBr) Cofidis, Le Crédit par Téléphone 25 Xavier Florencio Cabre (Spa) O.N.C.E.-Eroski 26 Alexandre Botcharov (Rus) AG2r Prévoyance 27 Laurent Brochard (Fra) AG2r Prévoyance 28 René Haselbacher (Aut) Gerolsteiner 29 Michael Blaudzun (Den) Team CSC 30 Robbie McEwen (Aus) Lotto-Domo 31 Martin Elmiger (Swi) Phonak Hearing Systems 32 Andrea Noe' (Ita) Alessio 33 Raimondas Rumsas (Ltu) Lampre 34 Vladimir Duma (Ukr) Landbouwkrediet-Colnago 35 Maximilian Sciandri (GBr) Lampre 36 Oskar Camenzind (Swi) Phonak Hearing Systems 37 Igor Astarloa (Spa) Team Saeco 38 Fabrizio Guidi (Ita) Team Coast 39 Giuliano Figueras (Ita) Ceramiche Panaria-Fiordo 40 Fabio Baldato (Ita) Alessio 41 M.A. Martin Perdiguero (Spa) Domina Vacanze-Elitron 42 Robert Hunter (RSA) Rabobank 43 Nicolas Jalabert (Fra) Team CSC 44 Bram Tankink (Ned) Quick.Step-Davitamon 45 Angel Vicioso Arcos (Spa) O.N.C.E.-Eroski 46 Paolo Bossoni (Ita) Caldirola-Sidermec 47 Gianluca Sironi (Ita) Caldirola-Sidermec 48 Paolo Lanfranchi (Ita) Ceramiche Panaria-Fiordo 49 Bert Grabsch (Ger) Phonak Hearing Systems 50 Manuel Quinziato (Ita) Lampre 51 Alessandro Cortinovis (Ita) Lampre 52 Oscar Pereiro Sio (Spa) Phonak Hearing Systems 53 Yaroslav Popovych (Ukr) Landbouwkrediet-Colnago 54 Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Kelme-Costa Blanca 55 Massimiliano Lelli (Ita) Cofidis, Le Crédit par Téléphone 56 Laurent Dufaux (Swi) Alessio 57 Leonardo Zanotti (Ita) De Nardi-Colpack 58 Max Van Heeswijk (Ned) US Postal presented by Berry Floor 59 Zbigniew Spruch (Pol) Lampre 60 Andrea Peron (Ita) Team CSC 61 Richard Virenque (Fra) Quick.Step-Davitamon 62 Giovanni Lombardi (Ita) Domina Vacanze-Elitron 63 Vjatceslav Ekimov (Rus) US Postal presented by Berry Floo 64 Juan Antonio Flecha Giannoni (Spa) iBanesto.com 65 Daniele Bennati (Ita) Domina Vacanze-Elitron 66 Nico Mattan (Bel) Cofidis, Le Crédit par Téléphone 67 Jan Hruska (Cze) O.N.C.E.-Eroski 68 Christophe Oriol (Fra) AG2r Prévoyance 69 Steffen Wesemann (Ger) Team Telekom 70 Jan Schaffrath (Ger) Team Telekom 71 Ruslan Ivanov (Mda) Alessio 72 Gian Matteo Fagnini (Ita) Team Telekom 0.21 73 Romans Vainsteins (Lat) Caldirola-Sidermec 74 Serhiy Honchar (Ukr) De Nardi-Colpack 0.24 75 Angelo Lopeboselli (Ita) Cofidis, Le Crédit par Téléphone 0.28 76 Davide Rebellin (Ita) Gerolsteiner 77 Rolf Aldag (Ger) Team Telekom 78 Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick.Step-Davitamon 79 Paolo Fornaciari (Ita) Team Saeco 80 Danilo Di Luca (Ita) Team Saeco 81 Alexandre Shefer (Kaz) Team Saeco 82 Dmitri Fofonov (Kaz) Cofidis, Le Crédit par Téléphone 1.00 83 Eugeni Petrov (Rus) iBanesto.com 84 Lorenzo Bernucci (Ita) Landbouwkrediet-Colnago 1.48 85 Gianpaolo Caruso (Ita) O.N.C.E.-Eroski 86 Matteo Carrara (Ita) De Nardi-Colpack 87 Stefano Zanini (Ita) Team Saeco 1.54 88 Lennie Kristensen (Den) Team CSC 89 Isaac Galvez Lopez (Spa) Kelme-Costa Blanca 2.24 90 Philippe Gaumont (Fra) Cofidis, Le Crédit par Téléphone 91 Leon Van Bon (Ned) Lotto-Domo 92 Marco Milesi (Ita) Caldirola-Sidermec 2.30 93 Matthias Kessler (Ger) Team Telekom 94 Andy Flickinger (Fra) AG2r Prévoyance 2.49 95 Mario Scirea (Ita) Domina Vacanze-Elitron 96 Leonardo Giordani (Ita) De Nardi-Colpack 3.44 97 Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) Team Telekom 98 Bradley Wiggins (GBr) FDJeux.com 3.57 99 Mikel Astarloza (Spa) AG2r Prévoyance 4.17 100 Fabian Wegmann (Ger) Gerolsteiner 5.04 101 Hans De Clercq (Bel) Lotto-Domo 102 Gabriele Balducci (Ita) Caldirola-Sidermec 103 Koos Moerenhout (Ned) Lotto-Domo 104 Victor Pena (Col) US Postal presented by Berry Floor 105 Benoit Joachim (Lux) US Postal presented by Berry Floor 106 Antonio Cruz (USA) US Postal presented by Berry Floor 107 Gabriele Missaglia (Ita) Lampre 108 Sergiy Avdyeyev (Ukr) Landbouwkrediet-Colnago 109 Matteo Tosatto (Ita) Fassa Bortolo 110 Michele Bartoli (Ita) Fassa Bortolo 111 André Korff (Ger) Team Coast 112 Rik Verbrugghe (Bel) Lotto-Domo 113 Jo Planckaert (Bel) Cofidis, Le Crédit par Téléphone 114 Frank Vandenbroucke (Bel) Quick.Step-Davitamon 115 Ludovic Turpin (Fra) AG2r Prévoyance 116 Steffen Kjaergaard (Nor) US Postal presented by Berry Fl 5.43 117 Davide Bramati (Ita) Quick.Step-Davitamon 6.28 118 Jordi Riera Valls (Spa) Kelme-Costa Blanca 119 Daniel Becke (Ger) Team Coast 120 Andrea Tafi (Ita) Team CSC 121 David Derepas (Fra) FDJeux.com 122 Massimo Strazzer (Ita) Phonak Hearing Systems 123 Paolo Tiralongo (Ita) Ceramiche Panaria-Fiordo 124 Luca Mazzanti (Ita) Ceramiche Panaria-Fiordo 125 Aart Vierhouten (Ned) Lotto-Domo 8.31 126 Gorik Gardeyn (Bel) Lotto-Domo 127 Denis Bertolini (Ita) Phonak Hearing Systems 128 Michael Rogers (Aus) Quick.Step-Davitamon 129 Massimo Apollonio (Ita) Caldirola-Sidermec 130 Matthew White (Aus) US Postal presented by Berry Floor 131 Julian Dean (NZl) Team CSC 132 Thomas Liese (Ger) Team Coast 133 Christopher Jenner (Fra) Crédit Agricole 134 Michele Gobbi (Ita) De Nardi-Colpack 135 Fred Rodriguez (USA) Caldirola-Sidermec 136 Raphael Schweda (Ger) Team Coast 137 Udo Bolts (Ger) Gerolsteiner 138 Roger Beuchat (Swi) Phonak Hearing Systems 139 Sergiy Matveyev (Ukr) Ceramiche Panaria-Fiordo 140 Guido Trentin (Ita) Cofidis, Le Crédit par Téléphone 141 Alexandre Moos (Swi) Phonak Hearing Systems 142 Yohann Charpenteau (Fra) Crédit Agricole 8.45 143 Cédric Fragniere (Swi) Crédit Agricole 8.58 144 Allan Davis (Aus) O.N.C.E.-Eroski 10.02 145 Lauri Aus (Est) AG2r Prévoyance 11.37 146 Stéphane Auge (Fra) Crédit Agricole 147 Eric Leblacher (Fra) Crédit Agricole 148 Marc Wauters (Bel) Rabobank 149 Peter Wrolich (Aut) Gerolsteiner 150 Bram De Groot (Ned) Rabobank 151 Karsten Kroon (Ned) Rabobank 152 Jan Boven (Ned) Rabobank 153 Wim Vansevenant (Bel) Lotto-Domo 12.47 154 Paul Van Hyfte (Bel) Team CSC 12.52 155 Julian Usano Martinez (Spa) Kelme-Costa Blanca 156 Regis Lhuillier (Fra) FDJeux.com 157 Stefan Adamsson (Swe) Team Coast 158 Mark Scanlon (Irl) AG2r Prévoyance 159 Yuri Mitlushenko (Ukr) Landbouwkrediet-Colnago 160 Jakob Piil (Den) Team CSC 161 Rafael Mateos Perez (Spa) iBanesto.com 162 Carlos Dacruz (Fra) FDJeux.com 163 Jacky Durand (Fra) FDJeux.com 164 Claudio Bartoli (Ita) Ceramiche Panaria-Fiordo 165 Michele Colleoni (Ita) De Nardi-Colpack 166 Brett Lancaster (Aus) Ceramiche Panaria-Fiordo 167 Scott Davis (Aus) Ceramiche Panaria-Fiordo 168 Sebastian Lang (Ger) Gerolsteiner 17.49 169 Ruslan Gryschenko (Ukr) Landbouwkrediet-Colnago 19.40 170 Corey Sweet (Aus) Crédit Agricole 19.59 Starters: 195 Classified: 170
1 Paolo Bettini (Ita) Quick.Step-Davitamon 100 pts 2 Mirko Celestino (Ita) Team Saeco 70 3 Luca Paolini (Ita) Quick.Step-Davitamon 50 4 Mario Cipollini (Ita) Domina Vacanze-Elitron 40 5 Dario Pieri (Ita) Team Saeco 36 6 Erik Zabel (Ger) Team Telekom 32 7 Oscar Freire Gomez (Spa) Rabobank 28 8 Jan Svorada (Cze) Lampre 24 9 Serguei Ivanov (Rus) Fassa Bortolo 20 10 Guido Trenti (USA) Fassa Bortolo 16 11 Gianluca Bortolami (Ita) Caldirola-Sidermec 15 12 Bernhard Eisel (Aut) FDJeux.com 14 13 Marcus Zberg (Swi) Gerolsteiner 13 14 Baden Cooke (Aus) FDJeux.com 12 15 Graziano Gasparre (Ita) De Nardi-Colpack 11 16 Matthew Wilson (Aus) FDJeux.com 10 17 Kim Kirchen (Lux) Fassa Bortolo 9 18 Marc Lotz (Ned) Rabobank 8 19 Beat Zberg (Swi) Rabobank 7 20 Ruggero Marzoli (Ita) Alessio 6 21 Stuart O'grady (Aus) Crédit Agricole 5 22 Mariano Piccoli (Ita) Lampre 4 23 Fabio Sacchi (Ita) Team Saeco 3 24 David Millar (GBr) Cofidis, Le Crédit par Téléphone 2 25 Xavier Florencio Cabre (Spa) O.N.C.E.-Eroski 1 Teams 1 Team Saeco 12 pts 2 Fassa Bortolo 9 3 FDJeux.com 8 4 Rabobank 7 5 Quick.Step-Davitamon 6 6 Lampre 5 7 Alessio 4 8 Caldirola-Sidermec-Saunier Duval 3 9 Domina Vacanze-Elitron 2 10 Phonak Hearing Systems 1