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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

95th Milan - San Remo - CDM

Italy, March 20, 2004

2003 results     Preview     Course Map     Start List    Results

Commentary by Jeff Jones, with additional reporting from Tim Maloney

Complete live report

Start time: 9:38 CET
Estimated finish time: 16:35 CET

09:33 CET    0km/294km to go
Paolo Bettini (L)
Photo ©: Marco Bardella
Welcome to Cyclingnews.com's coverage of the 95th Milan-San Remo, the first round of the men's World Cup and the longest in the year-long 10 race series at 294 km. Starting from Milan in the northwest of Italy, the race heads southwest, over the Turchino Pass (km 143) before hitting the Ligurian coastline at just over half distance. From then on, the riders follow the coast, encountering several small Capi [climbs] en route to San Remo. The Capo Mele (km 242), Capo Cervo Mimosa (km 247) and Capo Berta (km 254) are all preludes to the Cipressa (km 272, 240m), which is often where key attacks can go. But the most important climb is the twisting, turning Poggio (km 288) with its summit just 6 km from the finish. Many riders have escaped on this climb to win, including last year's victor Paolo Bettini.

It's pretty warm this morning, as opposed to other years, about 15 degrees and calm. However it's reported that there's rain on the other side of the Turchino Pass, which could really change things. The wind is not particularly strong at the moment, but once the race hits the coast the riders will probably encounter a
Lideccio wind, an offshore wind that will probably change directions.

There's a lot of discussion at the start about whether it is going to be a sprint finish or whether an attack will get away, but most people think it's the most wide open San Remo in years. The prognostics are for either Bettini or Petacchi, with Freire and Vinokourov as other names.

Four time winner Erik Zabel has been a little sick, although he's been in the top three 12 times this year, so he's clearly in shape. Zabel is one rider that shouldn't be counted out, as he knows how to position himself in the final sprint. The best Petacchi has done is 17th, as he still gets nervous in big races. After 300km of racing flat out, it's hard to say. If the weather is not good, then it will help Zabel.

09:54 CET   
The start shot was given at 9:38am, with rider number 45, Brett Lancaster (Panaria) the only non-starter. The first rider to attack was Andrea Tafi (Alessio-Bianchi), but he was quickly brought back. After 8 km, there's some activity from Jacky Durand (Landbouwkrediet) and Patrick Calcagni (Vini Caldirola).

One of our readers, Richard Harris, lives near Voltri, where the race hits the coast after the descent of the Turchino. He reports that it's a "wet, murky day" at 9:30am. "The group won't arrive on the coast for another 3 hours, but I doubt the descent of the Turchino will be particularly dry by then. It is a longish 12km descent, with bends and in the wet anything could happen. After that, the main Aurelia road is likely to be drier (unless it rains again, which I doubt)."

Richard adds that "If the two later descents are wet, all hell could break loose and some people might get their seasons off to a very bad start. There is a bit of a tailwind too, so expect a group sprint."

His prediction: Oscar Freire or Alessandro Petacchi

10:13 CET    20km/274km to go
Durand and Calcagni's move was short lived, and a new attack by Roberto Petito (Fassa Bortolo) met with similar success. The peloton has come back together, although numerous riders are trying for that elusive early breakaway.

10:29 CET    30km/264km to go
Australian Matthew White (Cofidis) is the next rider to attack, going clear at the 21 km mark. He is chased by Giulio Tomi (Vini Caldirola), who eventually catches him. The pair have 20" lead.

10:46 CET    40km/254km to go
Matthew White and Giulio Tomi are still dangling 0'23 in front of the main peloton, trying to break the elastic to form the Early Break (tm). They have been joined by Alexandre Naulleau, a neo-pro with Brioches la Boulangere.

10:54 CET    50km/244km to go
White, Naulleau and Tomi cannot get clear of the bunch and are reeled in at the 38 km mark. The average speed after the first hour of racing is a steady 41.4 km/h. The peloton is all together at the 46 km mark.

Carlos DaCruz (FDJeux.com) has crashed, and is out of the race. He is being taken to hospital in Pavia for x-rays on his collarbone and wrist.

11:15 CET    64km/230km to go
The peloton has been remarkably resistant in letting an early move go clear in the 95th Milan-San Remo. After 60 km, an attack by Nicolas Portal (Ag2r Prevoyance), Toni Tauler (Illes Balears), Ludo Dierckxsens (Landbouwkrediet-Colnago) and Carlos Barredo (Liberty Seguros) is trying where others have failed.

11:23 CET    70km/224km to go
They've done it (Portal, Tauler, Barredo and Dierckxsens) have 2'34 on the main bunch at the 65 km mark. Behind them, Giulio Tomi (Vini Caldirola), who was in an earlier break, is chasing and is just 0'30 away from catching them.

11:33 CET    77km/217km to go
The four leaders: Nicolas Portal (Ag2r Prevoyance), Toni Tauler (Illes Balears), Ludo Dierckxsens (Landbouwkrediet-Colnago) and Carlos Barredo (Liberty Seguros) now have 6'05 advantage over the peloton, with Giulio Tomi (Vini Caldirola) dangling at 0'45 behind the break. He got to within 0'30, but the leaders did not wait for him and now he's facing a long day out in no-man's land.

11:46 CET    85km/209km to go
After two hours of racing, the average speed is still a fairly brisk 41 km/h.

Giulio Tomi is lucky. He has caught the four leaders who now have an impressive 11'15 advantage over the main peloton. The group consists Nicolas Portal (Ag2r Prevoyance), Toni Tauler (Illes Balears), Ludo Dierckxsens (Landbouwkrediet-Colnago), Carlos Barredo (Liberty Seguros) and Giulio Tomi (Vini Caldirola).

12:02 CET    97km/197km to go
The five leaders are continuing to make good ground over the peloton, which has relaxed at last in the typical Italian style. There's still plenty of time to catch the front riders, with almost 200km left to race.

In Voltri (km 155), local resident and CN reader Richard Harris reports that it's raining a bit harder now, which could make things interesting off the Turchino Pass. He still believes it will be dry for the finish.

12:19 CET    110km/184km to go
The five leaders are continuing to ride away from the peloton in the first third of this enormously long race. Portal, Tauler, Barredo, Tomi, and Dierckxsens were 16'50 ahead of the main bunch at the 90 km mark!

12:34 CET    115km/179km to go
Alexandre Vinokourov (T-Mobile)
Photo ©: Marco Bardella

We have some photos available from the start, courtesy of Marco Bardella. Click here for our Milan-San Remo photo gallery.

The breakaways, Portal, Tauler, Dierckxsens, Barredo and Tomi, have 17'00 on the main peloton at the last time check (km 100). It's going to take some riding to catch them now, although there's still plenty of time.

12:46 CET    124km/170km to go
One rider we haven't mentioned today is Michele Bartoli (Team CSC). The classy Tuscan will have the whole of the CSC team riding for him, and there's no doubt that if he feels up to it, he'll be a danger man on the Cipressa and the Poggio. Bartoli has never won Milan-San Remo, and like any Italian, would dearly love to.

12:55 CET    126km/168km to go
The halfway mark of the race is approaching, and we still have five riders approximately 11 km (16'20 was the last time check) in front of the peloton. The five are: Nicolas Portal (Ag2r Prevoyance), Toni Tauler (Illes Balears), Ludo Dierckxsens (Landbouwkrediet-Colnago), Carlos Barredo (Liberty Seguros) and Giulio Tomi (Vini Caldirola), who escaped at the 60 km mark. They are now approaching the Turchino Pass (km 143, 532m).

The peloton has picked up its speed, courtesy of the Fassa Bortolo, Rabobank and Phonak teams. The average speed after three hours of racing is 39.4 km/h.

13:13 CET    136km/158km to go
The teams of Fassa Bortolo, Rabobank and Phonak continue to ride at a controlling tempo at the head of the peloton. This has the effect of pegging the advantage of the five fugitives back to a fairly manageable 16'05.

13:25 CET    141km/153km to go
The lead group's advantage has dropped to 14'20 as it approaches the Turchino Pass. The peloton seems to be intent in making sure that this quintet does not sneak away for good.

Pablo Chao, one of our readers from Asturias, Spain, reports that Carlos Barredo (Liberty Seguros), who is in the break, is a talented young rider with many wins in the amateur ranks. He's a good sprinter too, although there's a long way to go to San Remo before he can test his sprinting legs.

13:45 CET    150km/144km to go
The leaders are at the top of the Turchino Pass now, with their gap coming down to 12'20 and falling. It's still Fassa Bortolo, Rabobank and Phonak riding on the front of the peloton.

13:49 CET   
We spoke to a few riders before start in Milan today, including favourite Oscar Freire. The Rabobank rider says that he's "feeling positive...I have good legs and I hope that there'll be enough of a selection on the Poggio that I'll be able to stay with the leaders but get rid of Petacchi. That means I'll be able to sprint without Petacchi."

Freire's teammate Maarten den Bakker told Cyclingnews that "I'm feeling good. We're hoping to be able to use the team to support Freire in the final."

Erik Dekker seemed to be in a good mood too, but he was very nervous and had his "race face" on.

13:55 CET    157km/137km to go
At the top of the Turchino Pass, the peloton is now just 10'30 behind the breakaway group of Portal, Tauler, Dierckxsens, Tomi and Barredo.

Another rider we talked to this morning was George Hincapie (US Postal-Berry Floor) who was in a good mood. He reported that his stomach problems are now gone and, "I'm really happy about the way I rode in Paris-Nice. I feel really strong and I'm really confident about being in the final." [Unlike two years ago when he punctured 1 km from the foot of the Poggio]

Cyclingnews recently interviewed Hincapie, and you can find that here.

14:07 CET    172km/122km to go
The leaders are now heading along the Via Aurelia, the coast road that will take them to San Remo. The last time check was 12'00, so the peloton's chase has eased off a bit. The average speed after four hours is 38.3 km/h.

We talked to Fassa Bortolo's Filippo Pozzato this morning, who said he was "Feeling good for my chances but clearly the team leader is Petacchi and we're here to work for him. I hope to get a chance to do something, but my main job is to work for Petacchi."

14:25 CET    182km/112km to go
Portal, Tauler, Dierckxsens, Tomi and Barredo have been away for 120 km now, and are racing along the Via Aurelia with the main peloton in pursuit behind them. There's still 110 km of racing left, and the latest time check after 177 km had the leaders at 10'50. Rabobank is doing a lot of the work in front still.

For those of you who are interested, Lance Armstrong did not end up starting today so we won't see another of his leadouts for Max van Heeswijk, who is riding well at the moment.

14:42 CET    192km/102km to go
The latest weather report is that it has stopped raining and it's now overcast and 14 degrees.

Bobby Julich (CSC) will be riding in the service of Michele Bartoli today. He told Cyclingnews that, "Everything's going really good. I'm finally on a good team and I'm really happy here."

14:46 CET    200km/94km to go
Carlos De Cruz (FDJeux.com), who crashed at the 40 km mark today, is now in Pavia hospital with a suspected fractured vertebra. He will remain under obvservation until at least Monday, and he is not expected to return to racing for a few weeks.

The latest time gap is 9'34 to the leaders with 94 km to go. The chase will start in earnest now.

14:57 CET    207km/87km to go
After five hours on the road, the average speed is 38.8 km/h, and the peloton is starting to get a move on in order to catch Nicolas Portal (Ag2r Prevoyance), Toni Tauler (Illes Balears), Ludo Dierckxsens (Landbouwkrediet-Colnago), Carlos Barredo (Liberty Seguros) and Giulio Tomi (Vini Caldirola), who have been away since kilometre 60.

Latest time check was 9'00 as the peloton passed the 94 km to go mark, which means the leaders should be swallowed up somewhere near the Cipressa, providing the bunch increases its tempo.

15:04 CET    211km/83km to go
News just in: the women's Primavera Rosa has just finished, with (unofficially) Zoulfia Zabirova winning back to back titles with pretty much the same move as last year. Zabirova attacked on the Cipressa and no-one was able to bring her back, and she won by approximately a minute. Dutchwoman Mirjam Melchers (Farm Frites Hartol) was second after attacking on the descent of the Cipressa, while World Cup leader Oenone Wood (AIS) won the bunch sprint for third, and will keep her jersey that means.

15:09 CET    219km/75km to go
We have 75 km to go, and the leading break of five is still working smoothly together, doing short turns.

The peloton is moving fast now, with Paolo Bettini looking relaxed as he chats to a teammate.

15:13 CET    224km/70km to go
Quick.Step is not doing much of the chasing at the moment, preferring to leave it to Phonak, Rabobank, T-Mobile and Gerolsteiner. A good tactic, if they want to get Bettini in position for the Cipressa and Poggio.

15:18 CET    225km/69km to go
The five leaders, Portal, Tauler, Dierckxsens, Barredo and Tomi have now passed through Ceriale, the second feed zone, with 70 km to go. Their gap is now down to 7'12, according to plan.

15:23 CET    229km/65km to go
The five leaders are now in Albenga, with the peloton in hot pursuit behind them, slowing briefly for a feed in Cerriale. The gap is now down to 6'25, and the leaders will certainly be caught before the finish.

15:30 CET    233km/61km to go
Giulio Tomi takes his spot at the back of the five man rotating breakaway. The leaders are still making good progress as behind them the peloton is being towed along by Nardello (T-Mobile) and Marichal (Lotto-Domo). Saeco, Rabobank and Gerolsteiner jerseys are also up there.

15:34 CET    235km/59km to go
The gap has come down to less than 5 minutes now as the peloton starts to lift its pace. The five leaders are looking remarkably good after 175 km out in the wind. There's still around 60 km to go, and the peloton is stringing out at 60 km/h.

The weather is quite pleasant now - dry and sunny.

15:39 CET    238km/56km to go
In front, Portal asks the race motorbike how much time they've got. The answer: 4'30, with around 55 km to go.

Andrea Tafi (Alessio) does a big turn in front of the peloton. The average speed after 6 hours is 39.5 km/h.

15:41 CET    239km/55km to go
Ludo Dierckxsens (Landbouwkrediet) peels off the back of the break, puts it in his biggest gear and attacks hard. Carlos Barredo tries to follow and gets the Belgian's wheel. They're flying now.

15:44 CET    244km/50km to go
After Dierckxsens attacked on the Capo Mele, there are now three leaders: Ludo Dierckxsens, Nicolas Portal and Carlos Barredo. The other two riders in the break, Toni Tauler and Giulio Tomi are chasing them a few seconds behind.

But the peloton is moving fast....

15:50 CET    246km/48km to go
Dierckxsens is going most of the work, and slows his pace, allowing the two two riders to get back on again. But it's not for long, as Portal, Barredo and Dierckxsens attack again on the Capo Cervo. This time, Tauler and Tomi are quick to react.

But Barredo punctures...he has no chance of getting them back.

15:53 CET    246km/48km to go
Dierckxsens is going most of the work, and slows his pace, allowing the two two riders to get back on again. But it's not for long, as Portal, Barredo and Dierckxsens attack again on the Capo Cervo. This time, Tauler and Tomi are quick to react.

But Barredo punctures...he has no chance of getting them back.

15:54 CET    249km/45km to go
But he does! With a little help from the team car... He's fiddling with his back break, so perhaps there was a problem there.

The gap is now just 2'20, and T-Mobile is riding hard on the front of the peloton.

15:57 CET    254km/40km to go
Lotto-Domo jerseys are also appearing at the front of the bunch, so Peter Van Petegem and Robbie McEwen might be feeling ok.

The leaders are now on the Capo Berta, and Giulio Tomi is being tailed off. Carlos Barredo attacks, and straight away Dierckxsens is on him. The gap to the peloton is just 1'32.

15:59 CET    251km/43km to go
Barredo, Diercksxens and Portal are away on the Capo Berta, with less than a minute's lead over the peloton. Now we see some CSC and Saeco jerseys up there. Bettini, Vinokourov, Freire, Astarloa, Di Luca, Celestino are all there in front.

The latest gap: 1'05.

16:01 CET    257km/37km to go
We are, as they say, approaching the business end of the bike race and the peloton is in the process of sweeping up the remnants of the five man break that has been away since km 60. Ludo Dierckxsens is the last man standing, and is now riding solo about 0'40 in front of the peloton. It's still Saeco pulling for Astarloa, Celstino and Di Luca.

Australian champion Matt Wilson (FDJ) is about 20 riders back, quite distinctive in his green and gold national champion's jersey.

Dierckxsens is on the descent of the Capo Berta, flying.

16:04 CET    261km/33km to go
Ludo is now motoring through Imperia, with the peloton in hot pursuit. A Phonak rider - Uros Murn? - has punctured or abandoned it looks like.

Dierckxsens is powering, elbows out wide, giving it everything to hold off the peloton for as long as possible. He's clearly suffering and clearly enjoying it.

16:04 CET    262km/32km to go
Frank Vandenbroucke (Fassa Bortolo) gets to the front of the peloton. His options are fairly limited today due to the presence of Petacchi.

16:07 CET    264km/30km to go
Dierckxsens now has the climb of the Cipressa ahead of him, and he could well last until the foot of the climb, but not much further. It's been a great ride from the 39 year old Belgian, who will be looking forward to the classics now. His gap is 0'40.

16:11 CET    265 km/29km to go
Dierckxsens has 0'45 to the peloton. This climb is going to hurt. Lotto-Domo has upped the tempo in the peloton with Peter van Petegem ready to go. CSC has also moved up for Bartoli.

Ludo is now down to 0'25.

16:14 CET    267km/27km to go
Dierckxsens is being caught as CSC winds the pace up to 60 km/h. There's a bit of shoulder work in the bunch and Bettini is fighting hard to hold his spot near the front. But it's not easy.

Now a whole lot of Saeco jerseys move up, and Dierckxsens is finally caught right at the foot of the Cipressa.

16:15 CET    268km/26km to go
It's Bettini himself who leads the charge on the Cipressa, with Popovych, Vinokourov, Vicioso in tow. Freire is there, as is Hincapie, Paolini...

16:20 CET    271km/23km to go
Erik Dekker (Rabobank) attacks on the Cipressa and gets a small gap. He is joined by Steffen Wesemann (T-Mobile). Then Bobby Julich (CSC) has a go.

Cipollini is being dropped, although he has his whole team around him.

16:22 CET    273km/21km to go
Dekker and Wesemann have 11 seconds lead on the chasers as they crest the Cipressa. Julich is with Spezialetti, with the peloton now coming up behind them. The gap drops to 6 seconds.

16:24 CET    274km/20km to go
Spezialetti is burying himself to bring back Wesemann and Dekker, and the effort pays off. The peloton is more or less back together again for the descent. Cipo is chasing 0'18 behind with his teammates.

16:25 CET    275km/19km to go
Mirko Celestino nearly headbutts a motorbike on the descent of the Cipressa, as he opens up a small gap. He lives here, so he knows this descent extremely well.

16:27 CET    275km/19km to go
Rebellin, Astarloa, Van Bon are at the front of the peloton on the descent, chasing Celestino. There's a crash on a corner! Van Bon (Lotto) and Rebellin are down. And it looks like a CSC rider - Bartoli - as well.

16:32 CET    280km/14 km to go
Celestino has 12 sconds on the peloton, which has caught Astarloa and Wegmann. Fassa Bortolo and T-Mobile are hammering at the front.

Cipo has not made it back to the leading peloton, only the second peloton. His race is effectively over.

16:33 CET    281/13 km to go
Celestino has started to suffer, as the peloton gets closer and closer. He looks behind and the peloton catches him. It's going to happen on the Poggio.

Kessler and Klier are now on the front of hte peloton, driving it at 60 km/h for Vino and Zabel. Now Fassa Bortolo jerseys move up. Zabel is in third wheel but not for long. Van Petegem, VDB, Merckx are all there.

16:35 CET    285/9 km to go
The Poggio starts, and it's Sacchi leading for Fassa Bortolo. The pace is extremely high.

First attack from Carrara (Lampre) before the first hairpin. He gets a gap.

Dekker and Vicioso join Carrara in front, as a Phonak rider - Pereiro - tries to get clear too.

16:38 CET    286/8 km to go
Pereiro joins the three leaders, Dekker, Carrara and Vicioso on the Poggio. An interesting move, and obviously Dekker is feeling great. Philippe Gilbert (FDJ) sets off in pursuit too. The peloton is still fairly big.

16:40 CET    287/7 km to go
Seven km to go, as Vinokourov, Astarloa and Rebellin launch themselves out of the peloton. Bettini is there, as is Popovych. Bettini counters!

Still Pereiro, Dekker, Carrara and Vicioso in front. But Bettini flies past them! Vicioso tries to get his wheel and succeeds. Oohlala.

16:41 CET    288/6 km to go
Figueras leads the chase behind Bettini and Vicioso as they start the descent of the Poggio. Celestino and Astarloa are still well placed in the peloton. As is Sanchez (Euskaltel).

Zabel is well placed. Peloton of about 60 men.

16:43 CET    289/5 km to go
Bettini and Vicioso have been caught by the peloton on the descent, as Astarloa takes over in front. It looks like a bunch sprint is on the cards...

16:44 CET    290/4 km to go
4km to go and the bunch is in one long line on the descent of the Poggio. Plenty of Fassa jerseys there, and Petacchi is one of them. Look out!

16:45 CET    292/2 km to go
The bunch reaches the bottom of the Poggio, still strung out but hanging together, just. Astarloa pulls off the front after trying to attack. It's very fast now as a Vini Calidrola rider attempts to attack. Pozzato is right on him. Pellizotti and Bettini are still up there.

16:47 CET    293/1 km to go
The Fassa Bortolo train starts to form with 1.5 km to go. It's a bunch sprint for sure. Wesemann is also up there for T-Mobile and Zabel.

16:48 CET    294/0 km to go
Zabel, Freire and Petacchi are well placed, and Van Heeswijk is also up there. But it's three Fassas in front, with Zabel in fourth. Petacchi hits out with 150m to go, then Zabel comes round, with Freire right there on his wheel...

But Freire makes a big move around the outside and he might just have taken it from Zabel and Petacchi!! Petacchi didn't have the horsepower.

It's confirmed that Freire has won, with Zabel second, O'Grady third and Petacchi fourth. Zabel raised his hands too early - an unforgivable mistake when you have Freire there.

So Freire is the first World Cup leader in 2004, with his last minute burst of speed that has caught many a fellow sprinter off guard (he did it to Cipo last year). Thanks for following our coverage of the race. We'll be back with the Ronde van Vlaanderen in two weeks time.


1 Oscar Freire (Spa) Rabobank              7.11.23
2 Erik Zabel (Ger) T-Mobile
3 Stuart O'Grady (Aus) Cofidis
4 Alessandro Petacchi (Ita) Fassa Bortolo
5 Max van Heeswijk (Ned) USPS-Berry Floor
6 Igor Astarloa (Spa) Cofidis
7 Romans Vainsteins (Lat) Lampre
8 Paolo Bettini (Ita) Quick.Step-Davitamon
9 Miguel Martin Perdiguero (Spa) Saunier Duval
10 Peter Van Petegem (Bel) Lotto-Domo

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