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93rd Milan - San Remo - CDM
Italy, March 23, 2002
Can Zabel make it five?
By Jeff Jones
With over 150 wins in his 10 year career, Telekom's Erik Zabel is certainly one of the greats of modern sprinters. He wins great and small races all year round, and has held the number one UCI ranking for the last two years. Highlights of his career include a record five consecutive Tour de France jerseys (eight stage wins), three stages in the Vuelta España and eight wins in World Cup races.
Four of those have come in Milan-San Remo, which will take place for the 93rd time this Saturday, starting in Milan's Via della Chiesa Rossa and finishing in San Remo's Via Roma. An impressive tally, that puts Erik Zabel close to Costante Girardengo (6 wins) and Eddy Merckx, who holds the record at 7 wins. Although many have come close, no-one has won Milan-San Remo three times in a row. Can Zabel become the first?
Examining the competition, it is clear that his task will be difficult, as there are a number of riders with the form and experience able to challenge the super powerful German this year.
Last year's runner up, Mario Cipollini is riding in the new colours of Acqua & Sapone this year, and the new team has seemed to have increased his desire to win, with several victories so far including the final stage of Tirreno-Adriatico. In his post-victory comments, Cipollini didn't consider it to be one of his better victories as the finish was quite "messy". He remained reserved about his chances to win Milan-San Remo - a race that has eluded him so far in his career. All will depend on how well he gets over the Poggio, which comes at 6 kilometres to go.
Spanish dual World Champion Oscar Freire (Mapei) has proven his brilliance time and again throughout his injury plagued career. He can sprint and climb, has beaten Zabel on several occasions this year and has finished third in Milan-San Remo in 2000. Could 2002 see Oscar take his first victory in La Primavera?
Fassa Bortolo's strong squad contains a few standouts, with Alessandro Petacchi and Fabio Baldato being their designated sprinters. Petacchi showed in Paris-Nice that he could climb, collecting the tough stage 5 to go with his more conventional stage 1 victory. The experienced Baldato cleaned up in all three of the recent Scicilian races (Trofeo Pantalica, Trofeo Arancia Rossa, Trofeo dell'Etna) and came close to winning MSR two years ago. He is certainly a danger man if the other pure sprinters are not present in the finale.
The final fast man to put your money on this year is Lotto-Adecco's Robbie McEwen, who is having his best ever season win 9 wins to his credit so far, also including two stages in Paris-Nice. The Australian has only ridden Milan-San Remo once, and that may count against him as all of his rivals are more experienced in this race.
Should Milan-San Remo not finish in a bunch sprint, there are plenty of other candidates who will step up to the plate for a solo victory, or a win from a small breakaway. The first of these is recent Tirreno-Adriatico winner Erik Dekker (Rabobank), who looks stronger than ever this year and will certainly try something on the Poggio if he has a chance.
Laurent Jalabert (CSC) and Paolo Bettini (Mapei) are two riders enjoying some early season form, who also possess a fearsome finish. Both are experts at getting away in a small group and will certainly be trying to do so somewhere on the Poggio, if not before.
Danilo Di Luca (Saeco) is coming off two stage wins and second overall in Tirreno-Adriatico, and is superb in uphill finishes. Milan-San Remo does not quite fit into that category, but Di Luca remains a candidate for victory from a small to medium group of riders.
Finally riders such as Michele Bartoli (Fassa Bortolo), Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner), Rubens Bertogliati and Jan Svorada (Lampre), Guiliano Figueras (Panaria), Peter Van Petegem (Lotto), Markus or Beat Zberg (Rabobank) and George Hincapie (US Postal) could all pull of victories if things fall in their favour. At the least, they are good chances of a top 10 finish.
Erik Zabel still remains the man to beat. He only has one victory this year, but his formidable strength makes him impossible to underestimate. In the fifth stage of Tirreno-Adriatico, where he finished second behind Danilo Di Luca, the sprint came at the top of a six kilometre climb which put paid to most of the other sprinters. He certainly has the capacity to win, even if he has been a little reserved so far this season.
2001 Erik Zabel (Ger) Telekom 287 km in 7.23.13 (38.852 km/h) 2000 Erik Zabel (Ger) Telekom 294 km in 7.11.29 (40.882 km/h) 1999 Andrei Tchmil (Bel) Lotto-Mobistar 294 km in 6.52.37 (42.752 km/h) 1998 Erik Zabel (Ger) Telekom-ADR 294 km in 7.10.14 (41.00 km/h) 1997 Erik Zabel (Ger) Telekom 1996 Gabriele Colombo (Ita) Gewiss Playbus 1995 Laurent Jalabert (Fra) ONCE 1994 Giorgio Furlan (Ita) Gewiss Ballan 1993 Maurizio Fondriest (Ita) Lampre 1992 Sean Kelly (Ire) Festina 1991 Claudio Chiappucci (Ita) Carrera 1990 Gianni Bugno (Ita) Chateau d'Ax 1989 Laurent Fignon (Fra) System U 1988 Laurent Fignon (Fra) System U 1987 Erich Mutschler (Swi) Carrera 1986 Sean Kelly (Ire) KAS Mavic 1985 Hennie Kuiper (Ned) 1984 Francesco Moser (Ita) GiS Gelati-LucTuc 1983 Giuseppe Saronni (Ita) Del Tongo 1982 Marc Gomez (Fra) Wolber Spidel 1981 Alfons DeWolf (Bel) Vermeer-Thijs-Gios 1980 Pierino Gavazzi (Ita) Magniflex Olmo 1979 Roger De Vlaeminck (Bel) Gis 1978 Roger De Vlaeminck (Bel) Sanson 1977 Jan Raas (Ned) Frisol-Gazelle 1976 Eddy Merckx (Bel) 1975 Eddy Merckx (Bel) 1974 Felice Gimondi (Ita) 1973 Roger De Vlaeminck (Bel) 1972 Eddy Merckx (Bel) 1971 Eddy Merckx (Bel) 1970 Michele Dancelli (Ita) 1969 Eddy Merckx (Bel) 1968 Rudi Altig (Ger) 1967 Eddy Merckx (Bel) 1966 Eddy Merckx (Bel) 1965 Arie den Hartog (Ned) 1964 Tom Simpson (GBr) 1963 Joseph Groussard (Fra) 1962 Emil Daems (Bel) 1961 Raymond Poulidor (Fra) 1960 René Privat (Fra) 1959 Miguel Poblet (Spa) 1958 Rik Van Looy (Bel) 1957 Miguel Poblet (Spa) 1956 Fred DeBruyne (Bel) 1955 Germain Derijcke (Bel) 1954 Rik Van Steenbergen (Bel) 1953 Loretto Petrucci (Ita) 1952 Loretto Petrucci (Ita) 1951 Louison Bobet (Fra) 1950 Gino Bartali (Ita) 1949 Fausto Coppi (Ita) 1948 Fausto Coppi (Ita) 1947 Gino Bartali (Ita) 1946 Fausto Coppi (Ita) 1943 Cino Cinelli (Ita) 1942 Adolfo Leoni (Ita) 1941 Pierino Favalli (Ita) 1940 Gino Bartali (Ita) 1939 Gino Bartali (Ita) 1938 Giuseppe Olmo (Ita) 1937 Cesarde Del Cancia (Ita) 1936 Angelo Varetto (Ita) 1935 Giuseppe Olmo (Ita) 1934 Joseph Demysere (Bel) 1933 Learco Guerra (Ita) 1932 Alfredo Bovet (Ita) 1931 Alfredo Binda (Ita) 1930 Michele Mara (Ita) 1929 Alfredo Binda (Ita) 1928 Costante Girardengo (Ita) 1927 Pietro Chesi (Ita) 1926 Costante Girardengo (Ita) 1925 Costante Girardengo (Ita) 1924 Pietro Linari (Ita) 1923 Costante Girardengo (Ita) 1922 Giovanni Brunero (Ita) 1921 Costante Girardengo (Ita) 1920 Gaetano Belloni (Ita) 1919 Angelo Cremo (Ita) 1918 Costante Girardengo (Ita) 1917 Gaetano Belloni (Ita) 1915 Ezio Gorlaita (Ita) 1914 Ugo Agostoni (Ita) 1913 Odiel Defraeye (Bel) 1912 Henri Pellessier (Fra) 1911 Gustave Garrigou (Fra) 1910 Eugene Christophe (Fra) 1909 Luigi Ganna (Ita) 1908 Cyrille Van Hauwaert (Bel) 1907 Lucien Petit-Breton (Fra) Past Winners by Mario Stiehl, www.world-of-cycling.com.
Victories by Country at Milan-San Remo
Italy: 46 Belgium: 20 France: 12 Germany: 5 Holland: 3 Ireland, Spain: 2 Great Britain, Switzerland: 1