When the Crédit Agricole team’s Jérome Neuville crashed on the cobblestones at Quievy, 110km into the Hell of the North, he could not have known how close he was to becoming a human pancake. But as the bright yellow Mavic neutral service car slid toward the Frenchman’s prostrate body, the fear in his eyes registered the danger.
That was the last we saw of him from inside the car, as driver Antonio Pacheco swerved to the right to avoid Neuville’s legs sprawled across the road. We hit something, and hard, but we could not tell if it was only his bike or if we had hit him as well.
Susanne Ljungskog sat in for 110km of the Varazze-San Remo, but just before the top of the Poggio climb with 8km to go, the 25-year-old Swede made a blistering attack. The Vlaanderen-T-Interim rider had a 200-meter gap at the high point in the village of Poggio overlooking the green waves of the Ligurian sea below.
She said later, “I am a good descender, and I thought I could hold it until the finish. When I looked back with one kilometer to go and saw that I still had a good gap, I knew that I would win.” Mirjam Melchers (Acca Due O/Lorena) won the sprint in this World Cup stop number
It looked like a magical finish in the making for the Italian throngs lined up along Via Roma in San Remo. Super Mario, the guy whose face was on half of the T-shirts being hawked in the crowd, had caught back onto the front group on the descent of the Poggio, and he had a four-man Saeco train pulling him to the front.
[nid:20289]But Erik Zabel’s Deutsche Telekom train was also working well, and despite Cipollini closing the gap rapidly, he was still a half bike-length behind at the line after charging past world road champion Romans Vainsteins with 25 meters to go.
Milan-San Remo is the first big classic and the chance for many riders to cop a big win. It has ended many times in a large sprint, as well as in solo victories. Erik Zabel (Deutsche Telekom) has won three of the last four editions and looks to be the strong favorite again, having shown good form in February and March races in Spain. After interviewing many team mechanics the day before the race, in fact, those who would make a prediction of a rider not on their own teams, Zabel was the one.
Milan-San Remo is not only the first of the major classics, but it is also the longest. The course is
In its third year of existence, the GAS women’s road team promises to be a force to be reckoned with in everything from major Tours to World Cup individual races and overall. Sponsored by an Italian jeans and sportswear company, the team has added more power this season to an already star-studded roster. At the team introduction on February 26, GAS spokesman Piergiorgio Dal Santo said, "We want to be the Mapei team of women’s cycling, both in terms of setting the standard for professionalism as well as by being the best team in the world."
Joining 1997 world road champion and 2000 Giro
The 84th Giro d’Italia route was announced on November 11, and according to Marco Pantani, the 3572km race between Pescara on the eastern coast and Milan promises to be a “wide-open race.” Indeed, many of the stages of the May 19-June 10 race could favor a climber such as Pantani.
The race includes 21 stages, an 8km prologue in Pescara, one rolling 55km time trial in stage 15, a foray into Slovenia, and one rest day before the San Remo-San Remo 17th stage. There are 22 major climbs spread out over 10 of the stages, with the highest being the Colle Fauniera at 2511 meters (8161 feet). Three