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99th Milano-Sanremo - HC
Italy, March 22, 2008
Cancellara fires to win Sanremo solo
Elite group led home by 2006 winner Pozzato
By Gregor Brown in Sanremo, with additional reporting by Susan Westemeyer
Swiss Fabian Cancellara succeeded in fulfilling the pundits' prognostics leading up to Italy's grandest one-day race, Milano-Sanremo. The 27 year-old of Team CSC – recent winner of Monte Paschi Eroica and Tirreno-Adriatico – made the final move of around 15 riders that was formed on the Poggio and then bided his time for one powerful surge with 2000 metres remaining to the finish along the Ligurian coast in Sanremo. Cancellara won the 298-kilometre Monument after seven hours and 14 minutes of racing with four seconds ahead of the group led by Italian Filippo Pozzato (Liquigas) and Belgian Philippe Gilbert (Française des Jeux).
"I started as a big favourite" – admitted Cancellara – "but then I was able to give my most for the win. People thought I could do something. But the climbs are there and then the sprint is there. This race is full of stress, but I remained calm and tranquil.
"My attack came from the gut; It was similar to the one I made in Compiègne [to win the stage of the 2007 Tour]," Cancellara continued, following his win of the race's 99th edition.
The forcing of Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner) on the 3.7-kilometre Poggio helped form the winning move. When the winner of Paris-Nice accelerated at 600 metres to the summit he was immediately marked by Enrico Gasparotto (Barloworld) to form a gruppetto that included Alessandro Ballan (Lampre), 2006 winner Pozzato, Gilbert, Alessandro Bertolini (Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni-Androni Giocattoli), last year's winner Oscar Freire (Rabobank), Rinaldo Nocentini (AG2R La Mondiale) and Cancellara. Gilbert pushed the pace further to help thin the group over the summit, where it had six seconds, but he could not ditch two-time World Champion time trialist, Cancellara.
A final effort by 'Tintin' Rebellin and a surge by Spaniard Iñigo Landaluze (Euskaltel-Euskadi) did nothing to dampen Cancellara's desire to add another important win to his long list of palmarès. 'Spartacus' went into hyper-space time trialling mode along Corso Cavallotti to move solo, an action similar to which was seen when he won the 2006 Roubaix solo from a 19-kilometre effort. He made the left turn at the fountain onto the race's new finale with a gap that was near unapproachable even as 2007 Round van Vlaanderen winner, Ballan, led the charge. Behind, Milram unsuccessfully attempted to bring back its sprint captain, 2005 winner Alessandro Petacchi.
Already with four race wins this season, Cancellara had to measure his efforts. "If I had waited it would not have worked. I understood that there were the metres to make the difference when I looked back. To win a Sanremo, like I did, I think the last rider to do that was Andrea Tchmil [in 1999]. He did 800 metres, whereas I rode two kilometres."
Gasparotto, who celebrated his 26 birthday today, was upset with the lack of cooperation. "I knew that Cancellara would do that, but damn it, I think that Liquigas and Lampre, with two riders each, did not do well to close the gap. I was forced to wait for the others, but..." commented the former Italian Champion. Gasparotto battled the same rider for Tirreno-Adriatico's overall victory, but there too he lost out to an all-mighty Cancellara by 16 seconds.
Freire was the one rider that none of the 15 others wanted to battle in the sprint and he felt the heat of the others' attacks. "I think I was always in a good position, but the final was very crazy," he noted. "The most important and strongest guy attacked. When Cancellara attacked everyone waited and did nothing, the race was over then. Liquigas waited for the sprint, Cancellara got away and no one was pulling."
The day did not pass without World Champion Paolo Bettini (Quick Step) making his mark. Though the Italian is slightly off form, he attacked at the foot of the Cipressa (27 kilometres remaining) to try his luck and weaken the opposition for his team-mates. He was marked by Thomas Lövkvist (High Road), and the duo were later joined by Rebellin and Niklas Axelsson (Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni-Androni Giocattoli).
"I was happy with the move," said Lövkvist. "We needed a bit of luck and some representation from other teams, like a Liquigas guy or one from Rabobank." Liquigas helped close the move, which eventually contained Paolo Savoldelli (LPR Brakes), before the start of the Poggio. "If I made it to the Poggio I would have nothing to do. I would probably make it with the first guys over, but if it came to a sprint I would have nothing."
Axelsson shared the same sentiments as Lövkvist. "I was happy with the move and my legs were not so bad," the Swede noted modestly. "It was a good break-away, with good riders. I am not fast in the sprint, I would have to attack. I tried the best as I could, but the peloton was too strong."
How it unfolded
The day got off to an early start at 9:45 for 199 riders in Milano, who set out under sunny skies in temperatures which were warmer than expected. The only one missing at the start was Tinkoff's Alberto Loddo, who overnight came down with the tummy nasties that have played havoc with the peloton this year.
Four riders jumped out early and quickly built up a big lead. Filippo Savini (CSF Group Navigare), Nicola D'Andrea (Miche-Silver Cross), Raivis Belohvosciks (Saunier Duval-Scott) and William Frischkorn (Slipstream Chipotle - H30) sought their chances for fame and fortune, building up a lead of over 16 minutes along the way. The peloton didn't seem terribly worried about the four, but calmly kept on going and slowly brought the lead down, minute by minute.
That was the story of the race for about the first 200 kilometres. In fact, if this had been a normal race, those four underdogs may have had a chance to stay away and go for the win. But Milano-Sanremo is anything other than a normal race.
With 94 kilometres to go, Gerolsteiner's 'Berni' Bernhard Kohl attacked on le Mànie climb. He wasn't successful in getting away, but he was successful in introducing the final stage of the race, or at least in waking up the peloton. They dropped the leaders' advantage to under nine minutes on the way up, and by the time everybody was on the way down the other side, it was less than five minutes. D'Andrea could not longer keep up and was quickly gobbled up by the peloton, which had by then cut the lead to 2.30. Frischkorn was showing the stress of the day's activities, as he seemed to be having cramps in his left thigh.
Things started really picking up with a little more than 50 kilometres to go. The first attacks out of the field were made, with Ivan Rovny of Team Tinkoff the most successful, getting away and maintaining a slight lead over the peloton. Capo Berto, after 250 kilometres, really got to the riders, but didn't prove to be decisive. It was tough enough to drop some of the less-talented climbers off the back, though.
With about 30 kilometres to go, the three who had been ahead for so long were finally caught. The next attack came on the Cipressa, from none other than World Champion Paolo Bettini (Quick Step), who took long-haired High Road youngster Thomas Lövkvist with him. The two were soon caught by Niklas Axelsson (Diquigiovanni) and Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner). Egoi Martinez (Euskaltel) and Carlos Barredo (Quick Step) touched wheels and went down, but were able to get back and keep on.
On the descent, Tristan Valentin of Cofidis crashed into the guard rail, which ended his day. Paolo Savoldelli (LPR) showed better skills and used the downbound slope to catch up to the quartet in the front. The five worked well together, but were never able to pull far enough away from the determined peloton.
For the rest of the bunch, the Cipressa blasted the peloton into little groups, all furiously trying to get to the front. The group of five around Rebellin was overtaken before the Poggio, as Liquigas led the charge of an increasingly larger group.
Things went fast and furious in the final kilometres. Alessandro Bertolini (Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni-Androni Giocattoli) was the first to give it a go on the Poggio. Several of the favourites went after him and on the descent a group of around 15 riders formed, including Fabian Cancellara (Team CSC), Enrico Gasparotto (Barloworld), Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner), Filippo Pozzato (Liquigas), Iñigo Landaluze (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Oscar Freire (Rabobank), Philippe Gilbert (Française des Jeux) and Thor Hushovd (Crédit Agricole).
Rebellin and Pozzato had a slight lead when the road leveled, but the group came back together. After an attempt by Landaluze, that also didn't go anywhere, it was World Time Trial Champion Fabian Cancellara who put on the show. He took off at 2 kilometres to go and showed what he had – and what he had was a lot. He powered his way across the finish line after 298 kilometres some five seconds ahead of Pozzato and Gilbert.
For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here
Images by AFP Photo
Images by Roberto Bettini/www.bettiniphoto.net
Images by Cicloweb.it
1 Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Team CSC 7.14.35 (41,142 km/h) 2 Filippo Pozzato (Ita) Liquigas 0.04 3 Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Française des Jeux 4 Davide Rebellin (Ita) Gerolsteiner 5 Mirco Lorenzetto (Ita) Lampre 6 Anthony Geslin (Fra) Bouygues Telecom 7 Rinaldo Nocentini (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale 8 Oscar Freire Gomez (Spa) Rabobank 0.05 9 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Crédit Agricole 10 Kurt-Asle Arvesen (Nor) Team CSC 11 Alessandro Bertolini (Ita) Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni-Androni Giocattoli 12 Enrico Gasparotto (Ita) Barloworld 13 Raffaele Illiano (Ita) Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni-Androni Giocattoli 0.08 14 Inigo Landaluze Intxaurraga (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi 0.11 15 Franco Pellizotti (Ita) Liquigas 0.12 16 Alessandro Ballan (Ita) Lampre 0.13 17 Erik Zabel (Ger) Team Milram 0.14 18 Alessandro Petacchi (Ita) Team Milram 19 Baden Cooke (Aus) Barloworld 20 Nick Nuyens (Bel) Cofidis - Le Crédit par Téléphone 21 Martin Elmiger (Swi) AG2R La Mondiale 0.15 22 Enrico Rossi (Ita) NGC Medical - OTC Industria Porte 23 Ariel Maximiliano Richeze (Arg) CSF Group Navigare 24 Xavier Florencio Cabre (Spa) Bouygues Telecom 25 Julian Dean (NZl) Slipstream Chipotle Presented By H30 26 Aitor Galdos Alonso (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi 27 Lloyd Mondory (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale 28 Manuele Mori (Ita) Saunier Duval - Scott 29 Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick Step 0.16 30 Arnaud Labbe (Fra) Bouygues Telecom 31 Luca Mazzanti (Ita) Tinkoff Credit Systems 32 Dmitriy Fofonov (Kaz) Crédit Agricole 33 Daniele Pietropolli (Ita) LPR Brakes 34 Jose Joaquin Rojas Gil (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne 35 Angel Gomez (Spa) Saunier Duval - Scott 0.17 36 Roger Hammond (GBr) Team High Road 37 Ruben Perez Moreno (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi 38 Luis Pasamontes Rodriguez (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne 0.18 39 Karsten Kroon (Ned) Team CSC 40 Matti Breschel (Den) Team CSC 41 Juan Antonio Flecha Giannoni (Spa) Rabobank 42 George Hincapie (USA) Team High Road 43 Pavel Brutt (Rus) Tinkoff Credit Systems 44 Sebastiaan Langeveld (Ned) Rabobank 0.19 45 Gabriele Missaglia (Ita) Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni-Androni Giocattoli 46 Paolo Longo Borghini (Ita) Barloworld 47 Fabian Wegmann (Ger) Gerolsteiner 48 Yaroslav Popovych (Ukr) Silence - Lotto 0.20 49 José Serpa (Col) Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni-Androni Giocattoli 50 Tiziano dall'Antonia (Ita) CSF Group Navigare 0.21 51 Patrick Calcagni (Swi) Barloworld 52 Frank Schleck (Lux) Team CSC 53 Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) Silence - Lotto 54 Stefan Schumacher (Ger) Gerolsteiner 55 Vladimir Karpets (Rus) Caisse d'Epargne 56 Giovanni Visconti (Ita) Quick Step 0.22 57 Emanuele Sella (Ita) CSF Group Navigare 0.23 58 Danilo Di Luca (Ita) LPR Brakes 59 Joaquim Rodriguez (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne 60 Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Cofidis - Le Crédit par Téléphone 0.24 61 Matteo Tosatto (Ita) Quick Step 62 Andrea Moletta (Ita) Gerolsteiner 0.25 63 Francisco Javier Vila Errandonea (Spa) Lampre 64 Daniele Nardello (Ita) Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni-Androni Giocattoli 65 Fabio Sabatini (Ita) Team Milram 0.28 66 Przemyslaw Niemec (Pol) Miche - Silvercross 0.47 67 Paolo Bailetti (Ita) LPR Brakes 0.48 68 Danilo Hondo (Ger) Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni-Androni Giocattoli 1.21 69 Matteo Priamo (Ita) CSF Group Navigare 70 Carlo Scognamiglio (Ita) Barloworld 71 Alexandre Botcharov (Rus) Crédit Agricole 72 Pablo Lastras Garcia (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne 73 Marcus Ljungqvist (Swe) Team CSC 1.28 74 Benoît Vaugrenard (Fra) Française des Jeux 1.29 75 Yuriy Krivtsov (Ukr) AG2R La Mondiale 1.38 76 Aurélien Passeron (Fra) Saunier Duval - Scott 1.46 77 Staf Scheirlinckx (Bel) Cofidis - Le Crédit par Téléphone 2.04 78 Marco Velo (Ita) Team Milram 2.05 79 Alberto Ongarato (Ita) Team Milram 80 Robbie McEwen (Aus) Silence - Lotto 81 Pedro Horrillo Munoz (Spa) Rabobank 82 Andrea Tonti (Ita) Quick Step 83 José Alberto Benítez (Spa) Saunier Duval - Scott 2.06 84 José Ivan Gutierrez Palacios (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne 85 Imanol Erviti Ollo (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne 86 Thomas Lövkvist (Swe) Team High Road 87 Paolo Savoldelli (Ita) LPR Brakes 88 Sébastien Minard (Fra) Cofidis - Le Crédit par Téléphone 2.07 89 Stuart O'Grady (Aus) Team CSC 2.08 90 René Mandri (Est) AG2R La Mondiale 2.23 91 Frédéric Guesdon (Fra) Française des Jeux 3.31 92 Koos Moerenhout (Ned) Rabobank 5.42 93 Marc De Maar (Ned) Rabobank 94 Christian Knees (Ger) Team Milram 95 Kjell Carlström (Fin) Liquigas 96 Murilo Fischer (Bra) Liquigas 5.43 97 Manuel Quinziato (Ita) Liquigas 98 Massimo Giunti (Ita) Miche - Silvercross 99 David Millar (GBr) Slipstream Chipotle Presented By H30 100 Vincent Jérôme (Fra) Bouygues Telecom 5.44 101 Niklas Axelsson (Swe) Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni-Androni Giocattoli 102 Paolo Bettini (Ita) Quick Step 5.46 103 Renaud Dion (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale 5.59 104 Javier Aramendia Lorente (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi 6.11 105 Fabio Baldato (Ita) Lampre 6.12 106 Kim Kirchen (Lux) Team High Road 107 Bernhard Eisel (Aut) Team High Road 108 Maxime Monfort (Bel) Cofidis - Le Crédit par Téléphone 6.13 109 Eddy Serri (Ita) Miche - Silvercross 6.14 110 Ermanno Capelli (Ita) Saunier Duval - Scott 7.15 111 Massimiliano Maisto (Ita) NGC Medical - OTC Industria Porte 112 Carlos Barredo Llamazales (Spa) Quick Step 7.16 113 Alan Pérez (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi 114 Paul Martens (Ger) Rabobank 115 Luis Felipe Laverde Jimenez (Col) CSF Group Navigare 116 Eric Berthou (Fra) Crédit Agricole 7.17 117 Aleksandr Kuschynski (Blr) Liquigas 118 Michael Albasini (Swi) Liquigas 119 Mauricio Soler (Col) Barloworld 120 Leif Hoste (Bel) Silence - Lotto 7.18 121 Piergiorgio Camussa (Ita) NGC Medical - OTC Industria Porte 11.22 122 Giairo Ermeti (Ita) LPR Brakes 123 Riccardo Chiarini (Ita) LPR Brakes 124 William Frischkorn (USA) Slipstream Chipotle Presented By H30 125 Filippo Savini (Ita) CSF Group Navigare 126 Stefano Usai (Ita) Miche - Silvercross 127 Raivis Belohvosciks (Lat) Saunier Duval - Scott 12.35 128 Peter Wrolich (Aut) Gerolsteiner 129 Andreas Klier (Ger) Team High Road 130 Bernhard Kohl (Aut) Gerolsteiner 131 Heinrich Haussler (Ger) Gerolsteiner 132 Marzio Bruseghin (Ita) Lampre 133 Johan Van Summeren (Bel) Silence - Lotto 134 Nikita Eskov (Rus) Tinkoff Credit Systems 135 Maarten Tjallingii (Ned) Silence - Lotto 136 Grischa Niermann (Ger) Rabobank 137 Pasquale Muto (Ita) Miche - Silvercross 138 Rony Martias (Fra) Bouygues Telecom 139 Nikolai Trusov (Rus) Tinkoff Credit Systems 140 Tristan Valentin (Fra) Cofidis - Le Crédit par Téléphone 141 Robert Hunter (RSA) Barloworld 142 Giampaolo Cheula (Ita) Barloworld 143 Egoi Martinez De Esteban (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi 144 Juan Jose Oroz Ugalde (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi 145 Niki Terpstra (Ned) Team Milram 15.50 146 Krzysztof Szczawinski (Pol) Miche - Silvercross 147 Simon Gerrans (Aus) Crédit Agricole 148 Gabriel Rasch (Nor) Crédit Agricole 149 Tom Stubbe (Bel) Française des Jeux 150 Donato Cannone (Ita) NGC Medical - OTC Industria Porte 151 Raffaele Ferrara (Ita) LPR Brakes 152 Roberto Ferrari (Ita) LPR Brakes 153 Eros Capecchi (Ita) Saunier Duval - Scott 154 Claudio Corioni (Ita) Liquigas