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97th Milan - San Remo - PT
Italy, March 18, 2006
And the angels sing: Pozzato power wins Milano-Sanremo for Quick.Step
By Tim Maloney, European Editor
When we saw Filippo Pozzato Saturday morning in Piazza San'Ambrogio at the start of the 97th edition of Milano-Sanremo, the 24 year-old Quick.Step rider made sure to show us his brand new saddle with a design of a blond angel on top. Pozzato then told us he had "super" legs and was hoping to find a way to ride his own race in La Classicissima di Primavera. In the end, after a tension filled race, perhaps it was the angels who looked out for Pozzato in the last 500 meters along via Roma in Sanremo, for Pippo made just the right move at just the right time after his Quick.Step team had dominated Milano-Sanremo all day.
The talented young rider from Sandrigo, Italy had promised a breakthrough win for several years after his stage win in the 2004 Tour de France with Fassa Bortolo, and passed to Quick.Step with high hopes. But sickness kept Pozzato from fully showing his talent last season, although he did score a big victory in the HEW Cyclassics at the end of July in Hamburg, Germany. This year, Pozzato prepared well over the winter and has already had some solid results in Het Volk and Tirreno-Adriatico. Today in Sanremo, it was Pozzato's turn to confirm the talent and class many have seen in him for years with a dramatic win in Italy's biggest one-day bicycle race.
As Pozzato was surrounded by a mad scrum of media and hysterical tifosi after his victory, he told RAI-TV's Alessandra DiStefano, "With two big champions in the team like Tom Boonen and Paolo Bettini, I was hoping to have the chance to do something today. I felt great today and when I saw on the Cipressa that no one had the legs to make a difference, I went to the front and rode hard tempo to keep it together." Pozzato and Quick.Step had a further advantage when teammate Guido Trenti was away in break in the 10km between the base of the Cipressa and the first slopes of the Poggio.
"On the Poggio, I thought Paolo (Bettini) might go, but he didn't, so when Ballan attacked, I followed his move. I got across to him, but I felt bad because I wasn't working. That was what the team car told me to do, but it's not my way to race."
Pozzato often trains with his neighbour Ballan and is no stranger to the Lampre-Fondital rider's strong ascending skills, but Pozzato had the legs and the focus to stay right with Laigueglia winner Ballan. Pozzato spoke of his winning move, a classic Italian contropiede counterattack, explaining, "I saw Nocentini wasn't doing much in the front group and was expecting his move. When he went, I did too and when (Nocentini) slowed, I had to go with 400 meters to go. I was pretty cooked, but I manage to hold off the group. I have to thank the team and all the people that have supported me. My fan club is here today and my fiancée Chiara and my parents. So this is a dream... a race I've always dreamed of winning. I couldn't believe it at first, but now it's sinking in. Today is the best day of my life."
For Milano-Sanremo runner-up Alessandro Petacchi, it was close but no cigar today on via Roma, as Ale-Jet's afterburners were just not enough to close the gap on his former teammate Pozzato. The speedster from La Spezia wanted to win one for his new Milram team, but his disappointment came through as he sat up and clapped his hands, crossing the finish line just behind the Quick.Step man in second place. Even thought Milram was outridden and outsmarted by Quick.Step today, Petacchi showed he is a team player by saying, "The team did a great job today; we were on the front all day. We had the responsibility on our shoulders; I won last year and we were racing to win today and did as much as we could. To win at Sanremo, you need great condition and some luck too.
"Even before the Poggio, (Quick.Step's) Trenti was away and I tried to save Sacchi and Zabel for the final. We sacrificed our riders chasing; our plans kind of got upset, we had to use Sacchi to pull the break back before the Poggio. And Filippo was very good today to get away on the Poggio, where my team had to work, which helped Boonen. We did our best... I showed how strong I was today with my sprint, but I'm sorry about the way it worked out. I wanted to win today, but I needed a little bit of luck."
Like his training buddy Pozzato, Alessandro Ballan was all smiles after Milano-Sanremo, as his superb attack on the Poggio was almost the decisive move in today's Milano-Sanremo. Ballan explained, "I tried to get away and it worked; I thought the sprinters would catch us sooner but we had a good gap, even though the only one working with me was Astarloa. Pozzato couldn't work since he had the World Champion on his team. It's too bad because I could have had a better result today, but that's OK. It was a moral victory for me and I'm really happy with my condition. Now I'm waiting for the Belgian classics."
Elegant and stylish as always, former Milano-Sanremo winner Mario Cipollini came from his nearby home in Monte Carlo to presented Pozzato with his Milano-Sanremo trophy and afterwards paid homage to the race and the winner. "Today was a bad day for the sprinters' teams from the beginning as they had to work all day to bring the break back. That decimated their teams and the ability to control the race in the final kilometres. It was a stupendous race, very emotional and filled with tension. The situation was changing all the time in the finale and Pozzato had a fantastic ride at the end, confirming all the quality we've all seen in him. Plus Ballan was superb; to attack like he did on the Poggio is not easy. It was great to see two young talents in Italian cycling.
"It was much more emotional to watch the race today than to ride it. I think today was a great day for sport and a great day for cycling. Plus an Italian won, so it was an extraordinary Milano-Sanremo."
Certainly, Pozzato and his guardian angel would agree with Super Mario.
How it unfolded
After the official start in the southern part of Milano at 930, there was a short lull before the hostilities began, but quickly the battle commenced with attack after attack. Eventually an eight man group got away after 27km on the outskirts of Pavia, with Daniele Contrini (LPR), Unai Etxebarria (Euskaltel), Staf Scheirlinckx (Cofidis), Ludovic Auger (Française des Jeux), Kjell Carlström (Liquigas-Bianchi), Mirko Allegrini and Sergiy Matveyev (Panaria-Navigare), Giampaolo Cheula (Barloworld). The eight escapees quickly gained time on the gruppo and by Novi Ligure after 95km, the break had 10'30 on the gruppo. This big lead woke up the sprinters' teams and Quick.Step began to chase.
The break hit the long winding ascent to Passo Turchino and atop the climb with 151km to go, the break still had 8'00 lead. Down the long descent to SS1, the old Roman coast road called via Aurelia plunged the racers and the break hit the Ligurian coast in Voltri and headed west to Sanremo with a northeast tailwind pushing the pace for the escapees and the gruppo. Team Milram was powering the pace, and the break's lead began to fall. Alessandro Cortinovis was hammering on the front up Capo Mele ascent as the costal ascents began with 52 km to go, and the break was less than 3'00 ahead. Milram, Quick.Step and Credit Agricole were chasing, with Rabobank playing possum. The break was working well together, but the pace behind was being driven too hard by Milram.
After 254km, Allegrini attacked and split the front group on Capo Berta and was quickly joined by Etxebarria. This duo went off the front and quickly gained time on the six remaining break riders, with the gruppo coming up fast. As the gruppo passed through Onelia with the dangerous roundabout with the fountain, Naturino's Massimiliano Mori crashed hard, but wasn't seriously injured. As the remains of the break exited Imperia with 32km to go, the front two riders had 15 seconds on the other six chasers, with the gruppo led by Lampre-Fondital. But as San Lorenzo al Mare approached with 27km to go, all eight riders were finally absorbed after being away for 240km, just before the penultimate climb of the day - the Cipressa - began.
Gerolsteiner sent Wrolich up front and the next move was from Garzelli, who bridged across to the Gerolsteiner rider. Rebellin, Bettini, and Schleck up front, but no determined chase of the Liquigas man. Suddenly Gerolsteiner's Moletta and Schleck punched it and went past Garzelli. There was a regroupment behind, and Moletta gained on the others, but Arvesen (CSC), Mazzanti (Panaria) and Pozzato (Quick.Step) covered the move. The Quick.Step man then went to the front and rode hard tempo, with teammate Boonen on his wheel. Bettini took over for the last kilometre, and at the summit of the Cipressa climb with 18km to go, the time for the ascent was 9'55, considerably slower than 2005's 9'28.
On the tricky Cipressa descent, Carrara (Lampre-Fondital) gapped up front, but Bettini closed it as Quick.Step blue was swarming ahead. The Olympic champion led the long line of riders back down to the via Aurelia, putting pressure on the group and trying to create a split, while McEwen and Napolitano struggled to get back on after being dropped on the climb. Back on the coast road with 18km to go, Moerenhout (Phonak) went away and was quickly joined by Trenti (Quick.Step), Schleck (CSC) and Reynes (Caisse d'Epargne). This quartet quickly got 0'10, Rabobank sounded the alarm bells behind and upped the chase pace behind with Team Milram. Trenti was not working as he was working as a stopper for Boonen. At 15km to go, the break was helped by a tailwind and now had a 0'25 lead in Arma di Taggia. Quick.Step was smartly sitting back, as Milram's Sacchi and Den Bakker were burning all their matches on the front to bring the gap down, while Lampre and Gerolsteiner were helping them.
At Capo Verde just before the Poggio behind, a light rain had begun to fall and after 280km, the pace was still blazing and as the as the Poggio began, the quartet had 0'18 lead as they passed the pink race marker that indicated 9km to go. As the gruppo hit the bottom of the final 3.3 km ascent, Rabobank hit the front, while Milram's Velo and Sacchi were cooked by the chase, so Petacchi only had Zabel left for his leadout man. Erik Dekker powered the chase with Freire and Flecha behind as the break's lead was disappearing. Schleck attacked with 8.3km to go, but lost time when he blew it on a curve, while there were still at least 100 riders in chase group. With 7km to go, 1.5km from the summit of the Poggio, Schleck had dropped the break and was 0'10 ahead of the chasers, with the gruppo at 0'15. Suddenly Ballan attacked from the chase gruppo on the steep part of the Poggio just before the small chapel that has seen so many decisive moves in Milano-Sanremo.
Pozzato marked the Lampre-Fondital rider's move and eventually, Barloworld's Astarloa got across too. At the summit of the Poggio with 5km to race, Ballan led Pozzato and Astarloa, with the Milram-led gruppo chasing hard 0'10 behind. The ascent was ridden in 6'14, well behind record pace.
Nocentini (Acqua & Sapone), Schleck and Sanchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) got across as Milram just couldn't close the gap with Sacchi chasing desperately up front. At the base of the Poggio with 2.2 km to go, the leaders still had 0'08 as they entered the via Aurelia. A few raindrops were falling as Milram put Zabel on the front to chase. The break was not united as the finish approached and a solo move by Sanchez with 1.5km to go doomed them to be caught.
As the front of the race passed under the 1km kite and made the left turn into via Fiume, then the right hander with the finish in sight, the gruppo was just about to make contact with Rabobank's Dekker back on the front with Milram's Zabel. Nocentini made a strong attack in a bid for glory with 600m to go, but he was cooked, and Pozzato, who had covered his move, countered with 350 meters to go and just kept going to the line for the win. Behind him, Petacchi rode a superb sprint to reduce Pozzato's 10m gap to 1 bike length, but for the 2005 winner from Team Milram, it was just too little, too late, as Pozzato and the Quick.Step squad just rode better and smarter to win the 97th edition of Milano-Sanremo.
For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here
Images by Roberto Bettini/www.bettiniphoto.net
Images by Fotoreporter Sirotti
Images by Tim Maloney/Cyclingnews.com
1 Filippo Pozzato (Ita) Quick Step-Innergetic 6.29.41 (45.27 km/h) 2 Alessandro Petacchi (Ita) Team Milram 3 Luca Paolini (Ita) Liquigas 4 Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick Step-Innergetic 5 Danilo Napolitano (Ita) Lampre-Fondital 6 Oscar Freire Gomez (Spa) Rabobank 7 Stefano Garzelli (Ita) Liquigas 8 Alessandro Ballan (Ita) Lampre-Fondital 9 Martin Elmiger (Swi) Phonak Hearing Systems 10 Matteo Carrara (Ita) Lampre-Fondital 11 Igor Astarloa (Spa) Barloworld 12 David Kopp (Ger) Gerolsteiner 13 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Credit Agricole 14 Fabian Wegmann (Ger) Gerolsteiner 15 Andreas Klier (Ger) T-Mobile Team 16 Fabrizio Guidi (Ita) Phonak Hearing Systems 17 Marcus Zberg (Swi) Gerolsteiner 18 Leon Van Bon (Ned) Davitamon-Lotto 19 Allan Davis (Aus) Liberty Seguros-Würth Team 20 Frank Schleck (Lux) Team CSC 21 Erik Zabel (Ger) Team Milram 22 Uros Murn (Slo) Phonak Hearing Systems 23 Bernhard Eisel (Aut) Française des Jeux 24 Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears 25 Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Team CSC 26 Bjoern Leukemans (Bel) Davitamon-Lotto 27 Murilo Antonio Fischer (Bra) Naturino-Sapore Di Mare 28 Roger Hammond (GBr) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team 29 Anthony Geslin (Fra) Bouygues Telecom 30 Cristian Moreni (Ita) Cofidis, le Credit par Telephone 31 Vladimir Gusev (Rus) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team 32 Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Française des Jeux 33 Rinaldo Nocentini (Ita) Acqua Sapone 34 Michael Barry (Can) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team 0.05 35 Heinrich Haussler (Ger) Gerolsteiner 36 Xavier Florencio Cabre (Spa) Bouygues Telecom 37 Constantino Zaballa Gutierrez (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears 38 Mario Aerts (Bel) Davitamon-Lotto 39 Inaki Isasi Flores (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 40 Juan Antonio Flecha Giannoni (Spa) Rabobank 41 Davide Rebellin (Ita) Gerolsteiner 42 Kurt-Asle Arvesen (Nor) Team CSC 43 Andy Flickinger (Fra) Bouygues Telecom 44 José Ivan Gutierrez Palacios (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears 45 Yuriy Krivtsov (Ukr) AG2R Prevoyance 46 Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Cofidis, le Credit par Telephone 47 Leonardo Bertagnolli (Ita) Cofidis, le Credit par Telephone 48 Luca Mazzanti (Ita) Ceramica Panaria-Navigare 49 Samuel Sanchez Gonzalez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 50 Christophe Le Mevel (Fra) Credit Agricole 51 Pedro Horrillo Munoz (Spa) Rabobank 52 Frédéric Guesdon (Fra) Française des Jeux 53 Massimiliano Gentili (Ita) Naturino-Sapore Di Mare 54 Angel Gomez Gomez (Spa) Saunier Duval-Prodir 55 Alexandr Arekeev (Rus) Acqua Sapone 56 Guido Trenti (USA) Quick Step-Innergetic 57 Walter Beneteau (Fra) Bouygues Telecom 58 Andrea Moletta (Ita) Gerolsteiner 59 Patrik Sinkewitz (Ger) T-Mobile Team 60 Bert Grabsch (Ger) Phonak Hearing Systems 61 Pablo Lastras Garcia (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears 62 Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre-Fondital 63 Vicente Reynes Mimo (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears 64 Luis Leon Sanchez Gil (Spa) Liberty Seguros-Würth Team 65 Koos Moerenhout (Ned) Phonak Hearing Systems 66 Grégory Rast (Swi) Phonak Hearing Systems 67 Andrey Kashechkin (Kaz) Liberty Seguros-Würth Team 68 Sébastien Hinault (Fra) Credit Agricole 69 Guido Trentin (Ita) Saunier Duval-Prodir 70 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas 71 Giampaolo Caruso (Ita) Liberty Seguros-Würth Team 72 Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Cofidis, le Credit par Telephone 73 Erik Dekker (Ned) Rabobank 74 Fabio Sacchi (Ita) Team Milram 75 Paolo Bettini (Ita) Quick Step-Innergetic 0.16 76 Marcus Ljungqvist (Swe) Team CSC 0.25 77 Mikhaylo Khalilov (Ukr) Team L.P.R. 78 Karsten Kroon (Ned) Team CSC 79 Ruben Perez Moreno (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 80 Gorazd Stangelj (Slo) Lampre-Fondital 81 Pedro Arreitunandia Quintero (Spa) Barloworld 0.42 82 David Lopez Garcia (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 0.48 83 Giuliano Figueras (Ita) Lampre-Fondital 0.49 84 Miguel A. Martin Perdiguero (Spa) Phonak Hearing Systems 85 Rubens Bertogliati (Swi) Saunier Duval-Prodir 0.56 86 Thomas Dekker (Ned) Rabobank 87 Christophe Brandt (Bel) Davitamon-Lotto 1.13 88 Angel Vicioso Arcos (Spa) Liberty Seguros-Würth Team 89 Serguei Ivanov (Rus) T-Mobile Team 90 Cristian Gasperoni (Ita) Naturino-Sapore Di Mare 91 Leonardo Giordani (Ita) Naturino-Sapore Di Mare 1.37 92 Davide Bramati (Ita) Quick Step-Innergetic 1.51 93 Tomas Vaitkus (Ltu) AG2R Prevoyance 1.57 94 Wim Vansevenant (Bel) Davitamon-Lotto 2.03 95 Dario Pieri (Ita) Team L.P.R. 2.24 96 Stephan Schreck (Ger) T-Mobile Team 2.29 97 Jean-Patrick Nazon (Fra) AG2R Prevoyance 98 Paolo Fornaciari (Ita) Lampre-Fondital 99 Sergiy Matveyev (Ukr) Ceramica Panaria-Navigare 100 Jose Joaquin Rojas Gil (Spa) Liberty Seguros-Würth Team 101 Daniele Contrini (Ita) Team L.P.R. 2.42 102 Johan Van Summeren (Bel) Davitamon-Lotto 2.57 103 Marco Velo (Ita) Team Milram 3.17 104 Matteo Tosatto (Ita) Quick Step-Innergetic 105 Hugo Sabido (Por) Barloworld 106 Robert Hunter (RSA) Phonak Hearing Systems 107 Giosuè Bonomi (Ita) Barloworld 3.56 108 Massimo Giunti (Ita) Naturino-Sapore Di Mare 5.11 109 Francisco J. Ventoso Alberdi (Spa) Saunier Duval-Prodir 6.15 110 Bradley Mcgee (Aus) Française des Jeux 6.55 111 Samuel Dumoulin (Fra) AG2R Prevoyance 7.01 112 Cyril Dessel (Fra) AG2R Prevoyance 113 Mark Renshaw (Aus) Credit Agricole 114 Benat Albizuri Aransolo (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 115 Marco Pinotti (Ita) Saunier Duval-Prodir 116 Matthew White (Aus) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team 117 Francesco Bellotti (Ita) Credit Agricole 118 Henk Vogels (Aus) Davitamon-Lotto 119 Maarten Den Bakker (Ned) Team Milram 120 Andrea Masciarelli (Ita) Acqua Sapone 121 Imanol Erviti (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears 122 Mathew Hayman (Aus) Rabobank 123 Nick Nuyens (Bel) Quick Step-Innergetic 124 Franck Renier (Fra) Bouygues Telecom 125 Mauricio Soler (Col) Acqua Sapone 126 Valerio Agnoli (Ita) Naturino-Sapore Di Mare 127 Allan Johansen (Den) Team CSC 128 Pavel Padrnos (Cze) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team 129 Mark Scanlon (Irl) AG2R Prevoyance 130 Vladimir Efimkin (Rus) Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears 131 Mauro Facci (Ita) Barloworld 132 Alexander Efimkin (Rus) Barloworld 133 Leif Hoste (Bel) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team 134 Joseba Albizu Lizaso (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 135 Thomas Voeckler (Fra) Bouygues Telecom 136 Christophe Mengin (Fra) Française des Jeux 137 Thierry Marichal (Bel) Cofidis, le Credit par Telephone 138 Fortunato Baliani (Ita) Ceramica Panaria-Navigare 139 Gilberto Simoni (Ita) Saunier Duval-Prodir 140 Joerg Jaksche (Ger) Liberty Seguros-Würth Team 141 Axel Maximiliano Richeze (Arg) Ceramica Panaria-Navigare 142 Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) Liberty Seguros-Würth Team 143 Volodymir Gustov (Ukr) Team CSC 144 Giairo Ermeti (Ita) Team L.P.R. 145 Paride Grillo (Ita) Ceramica Panaria-Navigare 8.10 146 Emanuele Sella (Ita) Ceramica Panaria-Navigare 147 Marcus Burghardt (Ger) T-Mobile Team 8.26 148 Mirko Allegrini (Ita) Ceramica Panaria-Navigare 9.30 149 Dmitri Konyshev (Rus) Team L.P.R. 150 Giuseppe Palumbo (Ita) Acqua Sapone 151 Andrea Rossi (Ita) Acqua Sapone 152 Matteo Priamo (Ita) Ceramica Panaria-Navigare 153 Jimmy Engoulvent (Fra) Credit Agricole 154 Andrus Aug (Est) Acqua Sapone 155 Unai Etxebarria Arana (Ven) Euskaltel-Euskadi 156 Olivier Bonnaire (Fra) Bouygues Telecom 157 Alexandre Pichot (Fra) Bouygues Telecom 158 Giuseppe Muraglia (Ita) Team L.P.R. 159 Ludovic Auger (Fra) Française des Jeux 160 Jimmy Casper (Fra) Cofidis, le Credit par Telephone 10.48 161 Giampaolo Cheula (Ita) Barloworld 162 Ludovic Turpin (Fra) AG2R Prevoyance
1 Floyd Landis (USA) Phonak Hearing Systems 52 pts 2 Thomas Dekker (Ned) Rabobank 51 3 Filippo Pozzato (Ita) Quick Step-Innergetic 50 4 Alessandro Petacchi (Ita) Team Milram 47 5 Alessandro Ballan (Ita) Lampre-Fondital 45 6 Francisco Javier Vila Errandonea (Spa) Lampre-Fondital 43 7 Jörg Jaksche (Ger) Liberty Seguros-Würth Team 40 8 Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick Step-Innergetic 39 9 Antonio Colom Mas (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears 35 10 Luca Paolini (Ita) Liquigas 35 11 Samuel Sanchez Gonzalez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 31 12 Paolo Savoldelli (Ita) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team 30 13 Danilo Napolitano (Ita) Lampre-Fondital 26 14 Frank Schleck (Lux) Team CSC 25 15 Michael Boogerd (Ned) Rabobank 25 16 Oscar Freire Gomez (Spa) Rabobank 24 17 Leonardo Bertagnolli (Ita) Cofidis, le Credit par Telephone 23 18 José Azevedo (Por) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team 20 19 Erik Dekker (Ned) Rabobank 15 20 Stefano Garzelli (Ita) Liquigas 15 Teams 1 Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team 52 pts 2 Phonak Hearing Systems 49 3 Gerolsteiner 43 4 Lampre-Fondital 42 5 Liberty Seguros-Würth Team 41 6 Team CSC 37 7 Rabobank 34 8 Credit Agricole 31 9 Quick Step-Innergetic 29 10 Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears 29