98th Milano-Sanremo - PT
Italy, March 24, 2007
Live commentary by Gregor Brown and Hedwig Kröner, with additional reporting
from Tim Maloney
Welcome to Cyclingnews' coverage
of the 98th Milano-Sanremo (or Milan - San Remo). This is the big-one,
the longest one-day race in modern cycling, and truly worth its status as a
Monument. The race, organized by RCS Sport, is celebrating its centenary year
(with two editions not being run due to the war.)
The riders are
gathered this morning, under clear and crisp conditions in front of Castello
Sforzesco, nearby Milan's famous Duomo. The reported weather forecast for today
is continued clear weather, with expected partly cloudy conditions at the race's
mid-way point, Passo del Turchino (532m). After the pass, riders can expect
the race to heat up along the Ligurian coast under partly cloudy skies and temperatures
197 riders from 25 teams pushed off this morning, they include
Ag2r Prévoyance (Fra), Acqua & Sapone-Caffè Mokambo (Ita), Astana (Swi), Barloworld
(GBr), Bouygues Telecom (Fra), Caisse d'Epargne (Spa), Ceramica Panaria-Navigare
(Irl), Cofidis (Fra), Crédit Agricole (Fra), Discovery Channel (USA), Euskaltel-Euskadi
(Spa), Française Des Jeux (Fra), Gerolsteiner (Ger), Lampre-Fondital (Ita),
Liquigas (Ita), Predictor-Lotto (Bel), Quickstep-Innergetic (Bel), Rabobank
(Ned), Saunier Duval-Prodir (Spa), T-Mobile (Ger), Team CSC (Den), Team LPR
(Swi), Milram (Ita), Tinkoff Credit Systems (Ita) and Unibet.com (Swe).
The peloton made its way south, out of the world's fashion capital and onto
the open roads of Lombardy. Behind the riders is a long formation of team cars.
Last night there was a meeting with the teams' managers to discuss, amongst
other things, the ordering of the team cars. There was no conclusion reached
and it was later decided to run the team cars based on the ProTour team rankings.
Also, regarding the ProTour, the teams were presented last night, near Piazza
Duomo, in Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. It was a stunning presentation made
to highlight the race's 100 years. However, 12 teams decided to boycott the
presentation as part of the ongoing rift between the Grand Tours and ProTour.
The teams who did not show said that since RCS Sport does not recognize the
ProTour that they would not be present at its teams presentation. Those teams
who did not show were Quickstep-Innergetic, Predictor-Lotto, Caisse d'Epargne,
Ag2r Prévoyance, Cofidis, Crédit Agricole, Française Des Jeux, Team CSC, Discovery
Channel, Gerolsteiner, T-Mobile and Rabobank. All the wild-card teams were present.
Cyclingnews will report more on this later.
Liquigas face the cameras
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
Thor Hushovd (Crédit Agricole) was
one of the few not starting this morning. He reportedly has gastroenteritis.
10:07 CET 4km/290km to go
The first attack comes
after four kilometres. Elio Aggiano (Tinkoff Credit Systems) attacked, followed
by Roberto Traficante (Team LPR), Alessandro Donati (Acqua & Sapone-Caffè Mokambo)
and Alexandre Usov (Ag2r Prévoyance. They were immediately pulled back.
It is again gruppo compatto (or the peloton is all together).
Regarding the order of the team cars,
Radsportnews reported that it was decided on a random draw, not according
to ProTour rankings as the UCI would have wanted.
was at the teams' presentation last night. In fact he is often in the area,
shopping at the famous designer stores, such as Prada. He commented that "the
teams not showing is a mistake. They should have at least shown up to honour
the fans." Cyclingnews agrees with Cipo, we would have liked to see all
25 teams last night in Milan.
10:15 CET 21km/273km to go
It is still gruppo
compatto. Tinkoff, one of the wild-card invites, is very active at the front
of the race. In the team it has Mikhail Ignatiev and Pavel Brutt; both of these
Russians have won twice this year.
Pippo and Cipo
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
Cyclingnews' Tim Maloney was
at the start in Milan and talked with many of the riders who will be featuring
in the day's finale. Daniele Bennati, the leader of Lampre-Fondital, said, "My
intestinal virus from Paris-Nice is gone. I am not going to hide out today and
I am going to play my cards."
One of the leaders of Milram, Mirko
Celestino, will be racing on home roads; the finale of the race runs right past
his house. "I am in really in good shape," he reported to Cyclingnews.
"I will be watching the early breaks, but we are all for Alessandro Petacchi.
"Be careful of Riccardo Riccò, he has great legs!"
There was a lot
of talk about Riccardo Riccò's "vegetable" comments.
The 2006 winner, Filippo Pozzato (Liquigas), jokingly said that "he will attack
because he is not a 'vegetable.'" He added, "Sanremo is a race of distance and
experience." Riccò of Saunier Duval is riding in his first Milano-Sanremo while
Pozzato is the returning champion.
Cannondale produced a special
bike for 'Pippo' that is mirror-finished, which was designed to symbolize the
Roman God Mercury. He started the race with matching helmet and shoes, both
in a mirror finish. He is reportedly betting his Ferrari that he will win. He
said that "I will bet my Ferrari on a double." If he loses Cyclingnews could
trade in its blimp for a red Ferrari.
10:40 CET 46km/248km to go
The first hour of
racing was fast, at 46.1 km/h. Reports from Sanremo (or "San Remo") are telling
us that the sky is a little cloudy but for now there is no chance of rain.
There have been various breakaway
attempts in the last half hour of racing, but none of them were successful.
At km 56, Marco Pinotti (T-Mobile), Daniele Contrini (Tinkoff), Carlos Da Cruz
(Française des Jeux) and Andreas Dietziker (Lpr) got a 12 seconds gap, but were
then reeled back in by the bunch.
In Pontecurone at km 67, another
move was caught: the one of Massimo Codol (Acqua&Sapone), Roberto Traficante
(Lpr) and Tiziano Dall'Antonia (Panaria Navigare). It's still such a long
11:27 CET 74km/220km to go
The peloton is charging
along towards the Passo del Turchino and is being led by T-Mobile and Quick-Step.
Cyclingnews' Tim Maloney spoke with Eddy Merckx this morning. The Belgian
is the all-time great in Sanremo, having won the race an amazing seven times.
"It is very hard to say who will win and I think it is a wide open race," were
his thoughts on today's Classicissima . "How would I win? There are two
ways to win: wait for the sprint or try a solo attack. Today, I think I would
attack, to try to arrive solo."
Aussie Stuart O'Grady had has his
race face on in Milan this morning. Before a race he is always focused, like
no other rider. He quipped "Yeah, I am ready," and gave Cyclingnews'
Tim Maloney a nod. He indicated that his goal is to be in the placings.
11:48 CET 92km/202km to go
The first true escape
was launched! Yes, grab another caffè because the action is beginning! In Italy
it is common to have a caffè and brioche for breakfast. Walk into any bar and
you can get a very nice caffè and a soft brioche. The brioche can be taken plain,
or with fillings like chocolate, cream or jam.
Back to the escape!
The six riders to make it off the front of the peloton are Pavel Brutt (Tinkoff
Credit Systems), Andrei Kunitski (Acqua & Sapone-Caffè Mokambo), Koen De Kort
(Astana), Emanuele Sella (Ceramica Panaria-Navigare), Roberto Traficante (Team
LPR) and Aitor Hernández (Euskaltel-Euskadi). They currently have 1'23" on the
After two hours of racing the pace is still very high; 46.2
km/h. The riders have the wind at their backs, which is helping them push along
towards the Passo del Turchino. The fastest ever average speed was in 1990 when
Gianni Bugno won; 45.806. Bugno is, of course, Italian and comes from nearby,
11:59 CET 105km/189km to go
The gap is sky-rocketing!
The escape of six reaches Basaluzzo (Alessandria) with 7'25".
were 197 starters this morning from Milano, which means there were three non-starters.
Francesco Bellotti (Crédit Agricole) along with his teammate, Thor Hushovd,
did not start this morning, and we are working on the third non-starter.
Cyclingnews spoke with three
of the Discovery Channel riders this morning in Milan. Tony Cruz, the only American
in Milano-Sanremo, is one of the nicest guys you could meet in the peloton.
"We have two cards to play," said the rider from Los Angeles. "We have Popovych,
who we hope can follow the attacks on the climbs, and the other is Allan Davis,
who can be up with the best in the sprint."
Ukrainian Volodymyr Bileka
was happy to speak with us in English. "When I first joined the team I really
did not speak English," he said. "Maybe I will be able do something, but we
will have to see how my legs are after all the kilometres."
that today he is wearing the 1 of team leader, number 101. Usually teams will
give the first back-number in the set of numbers to the designated team captain.
Matt White, in his White Oakley shades, noted, "I feel better after my crash
in Paris-Nice. There are no serious consequences from that incident. Today will
be a hard day!"
12:12 CET 114km/180km to go
The escape of six
A special "Moien" to everyone Luxembourg. We know that
your riders Fränk Schleck (Team CSC) and Kim Kirchen (T-Mobile) are tucked away
in the peloton. It is likely that Schleck will try his luck in the finale, on
the Cipressa or Poggio. Kirchen should have some what of a free hand after showing
himself to be super-strong in Tirreno-Adriatico. Look for both of these riders
in the race's final 30 kilometres
We received confirmation from Caisse
d'Epargne of the third non-starter. José Joaquín Rojas "who because of an accident,
will not start in Milan-Sanremo, and he is obliged to rest for some time." The
team doctor reported that Rojas is suffering from back pains due to his crash,
and that he will have to wear a special support to re-start training after two
weeks of rest.
So, the three non-starters were José Joaquín Rojas,
Thor Hushovd (Crédit Agricole) and Francesco Bellotti (Crédit Agricole).
José Enrique Gutierrez (Team LPR)
Photo ©: Sirotti
12:56 CET 142km/152km to go
The escape is on
the Passo del Turchino and its gap is still around seven minutes.
There has been a crash reported at kilometre 135 involving Frédéric Guesdon
(Française Des Jeux) and José Enrique Gutierrez (Team LPR). The Frenchman and
Spaniard, who finished second in the 2006 Giro d'Italia, have gotten back up
and re-joined the peloton.
Over the top of Turchino the riders
will be able to smell the salty air blowing north from the Ligurian Sea. Running
down to the coast, they will pass through Albenga, where Mirko Celestino (Milram)
was born in 1974.
The winner of the 1999 Giro di Lombardia, who
now lives near Bergamo with his wife, knows these roads very well and will use
the knowledge to his advantage over the race's final climbs; i Capi,
the Capo Mele, Capo Cervo and Capo Berta, and then the Cipressa and Poggio.
13:12 CET 146km/148km to go
The escape is led
over the Passo del Turchino by Emanuele Sella (Ceramica Panaria-Navigare). The
advantage of break-away, currently descending, is still around seven minutes.
The average speed after three hours of racing is reported to be 45.2 km/h.
The peloton made its way up the climb but not without incident. Guennadi Mikhailov
(Astana), Marco Fertonani (Caisse d'Epargne) and Daniele Contrini (Tinkoff Credit
Systems) were tangled up, and unfortunately for the Italian of Tinkoff it meant
the end of the race. The rider, who lives near Brescia, will be forced to finish
the race in the team car.
Cyclingnews spoke with Vittorio
Agrate before the start. The Italian has a special vantage point in the races,
he is the motorcycle driver for Rai TV. "Pozzato," he quipped when asked
who would win this afternoon in Sanremo. That is great advice from a man who
rides right alongside our heroes.
Former professional Andrea Ferrigato
spoke with Cyclingnews at the start. 'Il Lupo' (the wolf), who is a past
Giro stage winner and now works for Selle Italia, said that "there would be
chaos on the Poggio. But the guy to watch out for is Enrico Gasparotto."
The 2005 Italian Champion was riding very well in the Tirreno-Adriatico, taking
second on its toughest
stage, and he indicated this last week that he wants to have a good Sanremo.
"I feel at the top of my form now and I believe I am a good racer. This year
and in the future, I hope to win some important races," the 24 year-old said
to La Gazzetta dello Sport.
13:50 CET 178km/116km to go
The average after
three hours of racing is 44.1 kilometres per hour.
legs have begun to weaken and he has lost pace with the escapees. The Team LPR
rider will soon be caught by the peloton, who is now 6'14" behind and is mostly
driven by Milram (especially active is Christian Knees). If you are a fan of
Robertos then you will be happy to know that Roberto Petito (Liquigas) is still
in the peloton. He will be working hard for Filippo Pozzato and Enrico Gasparotto
in the race's finale.
Another crash is reported in the peloton; Paolo
Longo Borghini (Barloworld) and Iban Mayoz (Euskaltel-Euskadi) have gone down
but without any serious consequences. Both have re-joined the peloton.
14:00 CET 181km/113km to go
The peloton are passing
through Savona, where the temperature is 12°C. The city used thrive in the Italian
iron industry. The riders will be able to see some fancy iron gates and even
the old iron foundries as they ride through the town.
14:08 CET 195km/99km to go
(Team LPR), after spending the first part of the race in the escape has abandoned
after 195 kilometres of racing.
Cyclingnews just got off the
phone with DS Matteo Algeri of Saunier Duval. He is at the finish area in Sanremo
and is reporting that it is "cloudy with a little bit of rain." He continued,
"I can't remember the last time there was a wet finish in Sanremo." (The last
race that finished in the rain was in 1991, won by Claudio Chiappucci. - ed.)
He confirmed that his team will work to setup an attack by Riccardo Riccò on
the Cipressa or Poggio, and then use Francisco José Ventoso for the sprint.
Algeri's favourite non-Saunier rider is Enrico Gasparotto (Liquigas). "He is
going so strong right now. Did you see him on the Tirreno stage to San Giacomo?"
"My favourite memory of Sanremo was when Maurizio Fondriest won in 1993," he
recalled. "The night before the race his wife had a baby girl, and because of
the win they named her Maria Vittoria. ['Vittoria' means 'victory' in Italian
14:28 CET 200km/94km to go
The escape is in Noli,
42 kilometres from Capo Mele.
Please send in your favourite Milano-Sanremo
memory to the address below. Thanks! Or Grazie, as they say here in Italy.
14:43 CET 215km/79km to go
The riders pass along
the Ligurian coast with an advantage of 4'52 over the Rabobank-led peloton.
In the first five hours of racing the average speed was 43.84 km/h.
The boys in orange are just stretching this race out for past winner Oscar Freire.
The three-time World Champion will be the man-to-beat according to many.
The riders are coming up on Celestino's
home town of Albenga, at kilometre 229. We have no news on the Aussie riders
but if we hear something we will surely pass it on.
memory was when Paolo Bettini foiled the sprinters. He is such a great rider."
- Ric Gordon.
"1992 Milano-Sanremo: Sean Kelly's decent of the Poggio
and the subsequent look on Moreno Argentin's face as Kelly caught him right
on the finishing straight of the Via Roma." - Stevo in Niles.
14:55 CET 223km/71km to go
The roads look really
dicey now. Lampre-Fondital is on the front hammering for its leader Daniele
Bennati. The Tuscan sprinter, from Arezzo, is a hot-favourite for the sprint
victory. He will have support from teammates Napolitano and Ballan.
"This is my first
Milan-Sanremo. Thanks for helping me discover the longest one day race in cycling."
"My favourite memory from Milan - San Remo is legendary
Oscar Freire win. I'm a Erik Zabel's fan, and for me this moment is very special."
- Denis Trubetskoy, Ukraine
Riders are coming up on Alassio which
is made famous by the chocolate "Baci di Alassio." Mmmm, it is formed from chocolate
and has a nutty mixture. If you are ever in Italy you must try one of
15:08 CET 241km/53km to go
De Kort looks to be
in difficulties as the escape of five hits the first of three capi, the
The Peloton is led by Christian Knees. The tall Milram
rider is riding along the stone cliffs. The water is down to his left, the escape
of five in front of him and the international peloton is at his back.
Brutt has his long hair flowing in
the wind. He has taken two wins so far this year for the newly constructed Tinkoff
The weather is quite cold. Pavel Brutt is opting for arm
warmers and knee warmers.
Brutt, number 222, puts in a slight
dig to go off the front. He is quickly brought back by his four 'friends.'
The scenery is so beautiful in this
part of Italy. Red roofs pop out of the lush green trees that are along side
the road. The riders are winding their way west along the coast towards Sanremo.
World Champion Paolo Bettini is right up in the front 20 of the peloton led
by Milram and Rabobank. He is keeping safe on these damp roads.
The escape is at 2'00"
15:17 CET 248km/46km to go
I Capi are
the three following climbs, the Capo Mele, Capo Cervo and Capo Berta, coming
at 242, 247 and 255 kilometres from the start.
15:20 CET 249km/45km to go
The five up front
are taking equal turns but it is Brutt who looks the strongest. Kunitski looks
so smooth; his long legs are not covered by knee-warmers and they are just pumping
up and down like a finely-tuned engine. He will be really proud of his performance
today, even if the escape gets caught.
Back behind it is now Cofidis
on the front of the peloton. The red-kitted team are 1'22" back from the escape.
The peloton is on Capo Berta, the
final of the three Capi. It is not able to smell the scent of the escapees.
The finish area is a huge party. There
are many tourists and locals who have lined the Via Roma to wait for the riders.
Currently there is a parade of military men on bicycles, it looks really cool.
15:27 CET 255km/39km to go
Tomas Vaitkus, new
Discovery signing, is now on the front of the peloton. They will be working
for Allan Davis in the sprint or setting up for Popovych to attack on the Poggio.
Crash in the peloton. This looks bad.
It appears to be Fabian Wegmann of Gerolsteiner. He is on his back with blood
all over his face.
Medics have taken off his helmet and they are
waving in help.
The rider is David Kopp and he now
has a neck brace on. We hope he will be fine. Medics are taking him away on
15:32 CET 256km/38km to go
"Testa della Corsa"
(head of the race): the three are working well together but their gap has dropped
dramatically. They now only have 48".
Alessandro Petacchi's wife is pacing
up and down the finish line area. She must be nervous for her husband.
Meanwhile, Brutt is continuing to ride so strong at the front of the escape.
Another crash in the peloton. It is
Marco Zanotti of Unibet. He is on his back after sliding out in a left-hand
corner. The medics are now arriving.
Regarding the crash of Kopp, fortunately
he seemed to be conscious, touching his head and leg with his hand.
The escape only has 28". Brutt is
feeling the pressure and he must think his chances are now over.
The peloton is lead by Bouygues Telecom. We are coming closer and closer to
the Cipressa. We can expect to see many attacks on the first of two race-closing
The escape is on the Cipressa.
Paolo Bettini is out the back door.
As soon as the peloton hit the Cipressa he went out the rear.
The pace is crazy-fast now. Milram
is on the front, controlling the pace for Petacchi.
The escape will
be caught at any moment.
15:42 CET 266km/28km to go
Voeckler is at the
business-end of affairs. The Frenchman might want to try his luck on the Cipressa.
The race is really heating up here!
Manuel Quinziato of Liquigas is setting
a mean pace and has now gone off the front with Thomas Voeckler (Bouygues Telecom)
on his wheel. The duo has gained a few seconds.
The early escape has been caught,
we now have gruppo compatto. Voeckler and Quinziato are also back in
Paolo Bettini (Quickstep-Innergetic),
number 161, looks like he will have no chance today. The team will be 100% for
Tom Boonen now. Good luck Tom!
Franco Pellizotti (Liquigas) has attacked.
He is really on good form after his performance in the Paris-Nice, where he
held the race lead after winning a stage. He joins up with Andrea Moletta (Gerolsteiner).
Yaroslav Popovych (Discovery Channel)
attacks to join and a trio is formed up front. This is a good looking move.
15:50 CET 272km/22km to go
The riders are coming
to the top of the Cipressa. The trio are on its way down, with about 20". These
turns are so risky. The road is ribbon-like as it goes down to the Ligurian
Update: Kopp is in hospital and getting
treatment. He'll be fine, says Gerolsteiner.
15:53 CET 275km/19km to go
Oscar Freire (Rabobank)
and a Lampre rider attack.
Meanwhile, Moletta crashes on a right-hand
corner. He wraps himself around a pole but looks to be fine. Medics are taking
him away. We now only have two up front, Popo and Franco.
Mirko Celestino (Milram) is chasing
from behind. It is Patxi Vila (Lampre-Fondital) and Celestino who are chasing
the duo up front. There is 10" between the two groups with the Poggio arriving.
A stretcher has arrived to carry Moletta
off. Not a good day for team Gerolsteiner.
This is a great move by Liquigas.
They now have one man up front, with Franco, and two cards to play in the peloton.
Gasparotto will follow any attacks on the Poggio and Pippo Pozzato will try
to win in a sprint.
Celestino is really gritting his teeth.
He knows these roads so well, having grown up in this area. But the duo, with
Vila, is doomed. The peloton is right on the two.
15:58 CET 278km/16km to go
Quick-Step is on the
front in large numbers. Franco Pellizotti (Liquigas) and Yaroslav Popovych (Discovery
Channel) have only 20" now.
The roads have dried out. It looks
like we will have a safe finish on dry roads.
Pellizotti looks to
be tiring as the Poggio approaches. The duo have 28".
16:01 CET 282km/12km to go
Watch for any attacks
to happen on the Poggio. This will be THE place for the attackers to make their
move. At the top there are only 5.7 kilometres to the line.
McEwen is moving up in the Peloton.
The duo of Pellizotti and Popovych
are going to be caught on the slopes of the Poggio. Here we go! Wait for the
Tom Boonen looks comfortable in the
The duo is caught. Gruppo Compatto.
Manuele Mori (Saunier Duval-Prodir)
is up at the front. Setting up for Riccò?
wait, Yaroslav Popovych (Discovery
Channel) is still off the front! He is pounding on his pedals. This tough rider
is not giving up.
16:06 CET 286km/8km to go
Ballan leads Bennati
for Lampre. They looks smooth!
Popo is taking these corners on the
downhill run of the Poggio with grace!
Riccardo Riccò (Saunier Duval-Prodir)
attacks as promised! Popo is caught.
Philippe Gilbert (Française Des Jeux)
16:09 CET 289km/5km to go
Kim Kirchen (T-Mobile)
is chasing. Gilbert and Riccò look very strong! The Belgian and Italian are
swapping turns. They have just topped the Poggio with five seconds.
They have to be very careful on this
descent of the Poggio. No one wants to leave the race like Moletta did on the
Bettini is Back. He is chasing hard on the descent of the
Poggio. He is playing perfect teammate to Boonen.
16:12 CET 291km/3km to go
Both Riccò and Gilbert
are very young. The Italian is 23 and the Belgian is 24.
This could be it cycling fans!
Lampre has the peloton lined out for
Bennati. The duo now looks doomed. We should have a bunch sprint. Brace yourself.
The duo are looking back. It is over
16:14 CET 293km/1km to go
Milram is there, so
is Lampre. We are in the final Km!
Ballan is leading the peloton.
Boonen is on the wheel of Freire.
Milram takes over.
It is Petacchi and Boonen.
But wait... Oscar Freire darts through!
The Spaniard has clinched his second
Freire was on the wheel of Petacchi.
The Milram lead-out train could not shake the Spaniard who came up on the left
with Allan Davis (Discovery) on his wheel. Boonen may have got second.
That was a remarkable show by Oscar
Freire. The Spaniard showed so well in Tirreno-Adriatico and was the favourite
of many cycling pundits, but he often has varying results. As well as three
World Championships he now has two Milan-Sanremos under his belt. Thinking back
to 1999, who would have ever guessed this punchy Spaniard would one day have
these impressive wins in his palmarès. Bravo Oscar!
were also impressive; three Australians in the top six with Davis, McEwen and
O'Grady. Good work boys.
Thanks for joining Cyclingnews
on our coverage of La Classicissima. Please return in the coming weeks
for more live coverage.
1 Oscar Freire (Spa) Rabobank
2 Allan Davis (Aus) Discovery Channel
3 Tom Boonen (Bel) Quickstep-Innergetic
4 Robbie McEwen (Aus) Predictor-Lotto
5 Stuart O'Grady (Aus) Team CSC
6 Erik Zabel (Ger) Team Milram
7 Gabriele Balducci (Ita) Acqua&Sapone
8 Alessandro Petacchi (Ita) Team Milram