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99th Milano-Sanremo - HC

Italy, March 22, 2008

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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

Cancellara crosses the line after his incredible solo attempt
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

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.

Paolo Bettini gave it a go on the Cipressa
Photo ©: Cicloweb.it
(Click for larger image)

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).

Cancellara during the attack
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

"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

Filippo Pozzato (Liquigas) gasps as he is leading the chasers
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

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.

Filippo Pozzato with his new hair style
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

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.

George Hincapie (High Road) used the race as preparation for the upcoming northern classics
Photo ©: Cicloweb.it
(Click for larger image)

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