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Pozzato outfoxes favorites to win Milan-San Remo

Alessandro Petacchi and Tom Boonen lined up as the five-star favorites for Saturday’s 97th running of Milan-San Remo, but it was Boonen’s Quick Step-Innergetic teammate Filippo Pozzato sneaking away as the surprise winner. Pozzato marked an attack by Alessandro Ballan (Lampre-Fondital) near the top of the decisive Poggio climb with about 7km to go and then rode the coattails of a six-man lead group to hold off the fast-charging peloton.

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By Andrew Hood

Pozzato surprises the peloton

Pozzato surprises the peloton

Photo: Graham Watson

Alessandro Petacchi and Tom Boonen lined up as the five-star favorites for Saturday’s 97th running of Milan-San Remo, but it was Boonen’s Quick Step-Innergetic teammate Filippo Pozzato sneaking away as the surprise winner.

Pozzato marked an attack by Alessandro Ballan (Lampre-Fondital) near the top of the decisive Poggio climb with about 7km to go and then rode the coattails of a six-man lead group to hold off the fast-charging peloton.

“Sometimes in cycling it’s not the strongest man who wins,” said Pozzato, who won in 6 hours, 29 minutes, 40 seconds (45.27kph) ahead of Petacchi, with Luca Paolini (Liquigas) third.

Team CSC’s Frank Schleck led the way up the Poggio when Ballan counter-attacked out of the main bunch near the twisting summit. Pozzato and five others cleared the Poggio with about 15 seconds on the peloton, led by the ambitious Milram team working for defending champion Petacchi.FullResults

Pozzato grabbed the wheel and watched as Schleck, Ballan, Igor Astarloa (Barloworld), Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel) and Ronaldo Nocentini (Acqua e Sapone) chased glory.

Then, as the peloton was gobbling up the attackers, Pozzato sprang to life at 300 meters to go, holding off Petacchi at the line to score the biggest win of his career.

The escape

The escape

Photo: Graham Watson

“I saw the sign at 300 meters and I thought I wouldn’t make it, but when I saw I was still alone at 20 meters, I knew I had won,” Pozzato said.

Others left watching
Pozzato’s win is sure to drive some polemic in the Italian papers (which are on strike for the Sunday edition, so read all about it on Monday). The winning move came over the Poggio to defy the sprinters, but Pozzato admitted he wasn’t doing any of the work.

“I feel bad for Ballan and the others because I couldn’t collaborate in the break because I had Boonen coming behind,” he said. “I was a little lucky today, because normally I cannot beat a sprinter of Petacchi’s stature head to head.”

Quick Step played the right tactic by putting Guido Trenti and Pozzato twice into moves over the Cipressa and Poggio while Boonen’s rainbow jersey lurked in the background.

Auger and Contrini in the early break

Auger and Contrini in the early break

Photo: Graham Watson

With Pozzato riding Ballan’s wheel over the Poggio, it was left to Milram to make the chase. A disappointed Petacchi said he had the win in his legs, but admitted the team was outmaneuvered.

“I was in top form, but I didn’t have the luck today,” Petacchi said. “You need to have the luck to win Milan-San Remo. Our team rode great today and I wanted to pay back their efforts with a victory. But my compliments go to Pozzato. Quick Step worked the tactics perfectly with Pozzato on the wheel and they left the chase up to us.”

Milram looked to have the break reeled in after a heroic effort by four-time champion Erik Zabel in the closing kilometers. But just as the peloton was catching the others, Pozzato took his chance for victory and had enough in the tank to hold off Petacchi.

“Petacchi asked me to work with three kilometers to go to close the gap,” Zabel said. “The tactics were difficult because the other teams didn’t help us at all. Everyone waited too long.”

Other teams admitted as much. With CSC and Lampre riders in the break, they obviously weren’t going to do any work. Rabobank’s Oscar Freire said he wasn’t feeling in top shape and called off his troops when Erik Dekker and Juan Antonio Flecha massed to the front on the Poggio.

“I really didn’t have the legs to win today anyway,” the 2004 winner said after finishing sixth. “We didn’t work so much in the finale because the legs just weren’t feeling that good.”

Boonen on the Cipressa

Boonen on the Cipressa

Photo: Graham Watson

Squirting through to take third was Paolini, who shot past the right side of Boonen, who had his arms up in the air to celebrate his teammate’s victory.

“We worked to animate the race and play my card for the sprint. Two times third in this race, maybe someday I’ll win,” said Paolini, referring to his third place in 2003 behind Bettini. “This is a good test for Flanders, which is the race that I really want to win.”

Early break over Turchino
Many complain that Milan-San Remo follows the same script year after year: an early break, a hard chase, a frenetic gallop over the Cipressa and Poggio, and a bunch sprint to settle the score.

As far as the early scenario was concerned, there were no major changes in the plot line.

After some early moves, eight riders extracted themselves at 27km. In the group were: Giampaolo Cheula (Barloworld), Mirko Allegrini and Sergiy Matveyev (Panaria), Staf Scheirlinckx (Cofidis), Unai Extebarria (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Ludovic Auger (FDJeux), Kjell Carlstrom (Liquigas) and Daniele Contrini (LPR).

It wasn’t as if the peloton was on a Saturday stroll, with the average speed in the first hour at 45.65kph and the second hour at 47.1kph.

The lead grew to 6:12 at 87km when four riders, including Saul Raisin (Crédit Agricole), seemed to try to bridge out.

“We were just riding, then we turned around and the peloton just stopped, so were just hanging out there for a while,” said Raisin, who did not finish. “I was told to go to the front, so I rode at the front of the peloton for like 200km. By the time the Cipressa climb, I just blew.”

The lead settled in at nine minutes up and over the Passo di Turchino, the day’s major obstacle at 532 meters. From there, it was a fast descent down to the Mediterranean Sea.

The peloton wasn’t welcomed by sun and soft breezes, but rather cloudy skies and brisk tail-crosswinds blowing off the Med, a rather dreary day for “La Primavera.”

When things looked grim on the Capo Berta, Allegrini and Extebarria dropped the remnants of the breakaway to keep their hopes alive. The pair plunged off the headland back into the brisk cross-tailwinds pushing them onward toward the Via Roma with 16 seconds on the chasers and 54 seconds on the main bunch.

Milram chases

Milram chases

Photo: Graham Watson

A hard fall involving Massimiliano Mori (Naturina-Sapore di Mare) disrupted the chase coming through Imperio. He suffered cuts to his back, but his helmet saved from more serious injuries.

As for the disintegrating break, it wasn’t meant to be, and the peloton scooped them up with Lampre-Fondital and Quick Step-Innergetic doing a lion’s share of the work to end the scene nearing the approach to the Cipressa.

Up the Cipressa
Things heated up real fast on the Cipressa climb with 22km to go. Making the first major move was Stefano Garzelli (Liquigas), who shot away early on the climb. Grabbing his wheel was Peter Wrolich (Gerolsteiner).

Moorenhout and Schleck attack

Moorenhout and Schleck attack

Photo: Graham Watson

Sticking out his tongue and showing some grinta that the tifosi love so much, Garzelli continued to chug away with CSC and Rabobank keeping a close watch on the front.

Markus Zberg (Gerolsteiner), a winner of the final stage at Paris-Nice, finished off Garzelli before Andrea Moletta (Gerolsteiner) went on a solo flier. The stiff pace was putting the hurt on the main bunch, with riders slipping off the back under pressure on the uphill charge. Kurt-Asle Arvesen (CSC) countered to check Moletta, with Pozzato marking the wheel.

Freire, Alexandre Vinokourov (Liberty Seguros) and Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d’Epargne) were all making their presence felt at the front as the move was absorbed. Quick Step was impressive, putting Pozzato, Boonen and Bettini on the nose of the group to keep a lid on any more aggression.

The twisting, narrow descent off the Cipressa complicated order in the bunch and Bettini went hard at the front to string out the peloton on the harrowing downhill. The main bunch was down to about 60 riders. Robbie McEwen (Davitamon-Lotto), who was riding with a cracked rib, was lingering near the back and wouldn’t be a factor later in the race.

On the flats with 15km to go, Schleck, Koos Moerenhout (Phonak) and Vicente Reynes (Caisse d’Epargne) chugged away with Guido Trenti (Quick Step) marking the wheel in the day’s decisive move.

With Trenti sitting on, the three riders opened up 25 seconds on the bunch heading toward the final Poggio climb. Milram pinned three riders on the front to make the chase.

An irate Ivan Gutierrez (Caisse d’Epargne) was yelling at Italian TV motorbikes, who were riding too close to the front of the chase and accidentally (perhaps not) motor-pacing the chasers.

With 10km to go, Lampre helped in the chase to narrow the gap to the Schleck group to 21 seconds when Frederic Guesdon (FDJeux) slipped out of the main bunch ever so briefly.

Up the Poggio
The leading four hit the base of the Poggio nursing a lead of about 15 seconds.

The podium

The podium

Photo: Graham Watson

Erik Dekker and Juan Antonio Flecha (Rabobank) set a blistering pace to put the hurt on the bunch, but Hushovd, Boonen, Freire and Petacchi were all still hovering near the front in good position.

With the gap dwindling under the pressure, Schleck dropped the others and decided to go it alone with about 2km left on the climb, taking one corner so wide he was forced to brake.

“I really made some mistakes on that climb. I never rode the Poggio before and I came too fast into the corners,” Schleck said. “Those guys caught me with about 300 meters to go and then I caught back on for the descent.”

Schleck continued to power alone when Ballan counter-attacked, drawing the attention of Pozzato. Also chasing were Astarloa, Sanchez and Nocentini and the leaders had about 12 seconds at the base of the Poggio.

The full chase was on, with Fabio Sacchi and Marco Velo doing the hard work for Milram. The gap was down to eight seconds with 3km to go and it looked like a mass sprint was in order.

“The team worked perfectly today,” Petacchi said. “We had everyone working perfectly in their roles. We just let it slip away from us.”

Breaks over the Poggio rarely work. The last rider to pull it off was Bettini in 2003, when then-teammate Paolini and Mirko Celestino held off the peloton.

Today’s scenario was different. Milram was chasing hard, Boonen was sitting on Petacchi’s wheel and Pozzato was sitting on Ballan’s wheel. The team had its bases covered.

Ballan, Nocentini and Sanchez each tried fleeing attacks in the final kilometer, but the peloton was on them like an incoming tide. Only Pozzato was fresh enough to swim against it.

Top 10
1. Filippo Pozzato (I) Quick Step-Innergetic, 294km in 6:29:40 (45.27kph)
2. Alessandro Petacchi (I) Milram, s.t.
3. Luca Paolini (I), Liquigas, s.t.
4. Tom Boonen (B), Quick Step-Innergetic, s.t.
5. Danilo Napolitano (I), Lampre- Fondital s.t.
6. Oscar Freire (Sp), Rabobank, s.t.
7. Stefano Garzelli (I), Liquigas, s.t.
8. Alessandro Ballan (I), Lampre- Fondital, s.t.
9. Martin Elmiger (Swi), Phonak, s.t.
10. Matteo Carrara (I), Lampre-Fondital, s.t.

Photo Gallery


Results – 97th Milan-San Remo

1. Filippo Pozzato (I), Quick Step-Innergetic, 294km in 6:29:41 (45.26

2. Alessandro Petacchi (I), Milram

3. Luca Paolini (I), Liquigas

4. Tom Boonen (B), Quick Step-Innergetic

5. Danilo Napolitano (I), Lampre-Fondital

6. Oscar Freire Gomez (Sp), Rabobank

7. Stefano Garzelli (I), Liquigas

8. Alessandro Ballan (I), Lampre-Fondital

9. Martin Elmiger (Swi), Phonak

10. Matteo Carrara (I), Lampre-Fondital

11. Igor Astarloa (Sp), Barloworld

12. David Kopp (G), Gerolsteiner

13. Thor Hushovd (Nor), Crédit Agricole

14. Fabian Wegmann (G), Gerolsteiner

15. Andreas Klier (G), T-Mobile

16. Fabrizio Guidi (I), Phonak

17. Marcus Zberg (Swi), Gerolsteiner

18. Leon Van Bon (Nl), Davitamon-Lotto

19. Allan Davis (Aus), Liberty Seguros-Würth

20. Frank Schleck (Lux), CSC

21. Erik Zabel (G), Milram

22. Uros Murn (Slo), Phonak

23. Bernhard Eisel (A), Française des Jeux

24. Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Sp), Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears

25. Fabian Cancellara (Swi), CSC

26. Bjoern Leukemans (B), Davitamon-Lotto

27. Murilo Antonio Fischer (Bra), Naturino-Sapore Di Mare

28. Roger Hammond (GB), Discovery

29. Anthony Geslin (F), Bouygues Telecom

30. Cristian Moreni (I), Cofidis

31. Vladimir Gusev (Rus), Discovery

32. Philippe Gilbert (B), Française des Jeux

33. Rinaldo Nocentini (I), Acqua Sapone

34. Michael Barry (Can), Discovery 0:05

35. Heinrich Haussler (G), Gerolsteiner

36. Xavier Florencio Cabre (Sp), Bouygues Telecom

37. Constantino Zaballa Gutierrez (Sp), Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears

38. Mario Aerts (B), Davitamon-Lotto

39. Inaki Isasi Flores (Sp), Euskaltel-Euskadi

40. Juan Antonio Flecha Giannoni (Sp), Rabobank

41. Davide Rebellin (I), Gerolsteiner

42. Kurt-Asle Arvesen (Nor), CSC

43. Andy Flickinger (F), Bouygues Telecom

44. José Ivan Gutierrez Palacios (Sp), Caisse d'Epargne-Illes

45. Yuriy Krivtsov (Ukr), AG2R Prevoyance

46. Bradley Wiggins (GB), Cofidis

47. Leonardo Bertagnolli (I), Cofidis

48. Luca Mazzanti (I), Ceramica Panaria-Navigare

49. Samuel Sanchez Gonzalez (Sp), Euskaltel-Euskadi

50. Christophe Le Mevel (F), Crédit Agricole

51. Pedro Horrillo Munoz (Sp), Rabobank

52. Frédéric Guesdon (F), Française des Jeux

53. Massimiliano Gentili (I), Naturino-Sapore Di Mare

54. Angel Gomez Gomez (Sp), Saunier Duval-Prodir

55. Alexandr Arekeev (Rus), Acqua Sapone

56. Guido Trenti (USA), Quick Step-Innergetic

57. Walter Beneteau (F), Bouygues Telecom

58. Andrea Moletta (I), Gerolsteiner

59. Patrik Sinkewitz (G), T-Mobile

60. Bert Grabsch (G), Phonak

61. Pablo Lastras Garcia (Sp), Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears

62. Damiano Cunego (I), Lampre-Fondital

63. Vicente Reynes Mimo (Sp), Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears

64. Luis Leon Sanchez Gil (Sp), Liberty Seguros-Würth

65. Koos Moerenhout (Nl), Phonak

66. Grégory Rast (Swi), Phonak

67. Andrey Kashechkin (Kaz), Liberty Seguros-Würth

68. Sébastien Hinault (F), Crédit Agricole

69. Guido Trentin (I), Saunier Duval-Prodir

70. Vincenzo Nibali (I), Liquigas

71. Giampaolo Caruso (I), Liberty Seguros-Würth

72. Sylvain Chavanel (F), Cofidis

73. Erik Dekker (Nl), Rabobank

74. Fabio Sacchi (I), Milram

75. Paolo Bettini (I), Quick Step-Innergetic 0:16

76. Marcus Ljungqvist (S), CSC 0:25

77. Mikhaylo Khalilov (Ukr), LPR

78. Karsten Kroon (Nl), CSC

79. Ruben Perez Moreno (Sp), Euskaltel-Euskadi

80. Gorazd Stangelj (Slo), Lampre-Fondital

81. Pedro Arreitunandia Quintero (Sp), Barloworld 0:42

82. David Lopez Garcia (Sp), Euskaltel-Euskadi 0:48

83. Giuliano Figueras (I), Lampre-Fondital 0:49

84. Miguel A. Martin Perdiguero (Sp), Phonak

85. Rubens Bertogliati (Swi), Saunier Duval-Prodir 0:56

86. Thomas Dekker (Nl), Rabobank

87. Christophe Brandt (B), Davitamon-Lotto, at 1:13

88. Angel Vicioso Arcos (Sp), Liberty Seguros-Würth

89. Serguei Ivanov (Rus), T-Mobile

90. Cristian Gasperoni (I), Naturino-Sapore Di Mare

91. Leonardo Giordani (I), Naturino-Sapore Di Mare, at 1:37

92. Davide Bramati (I), Quick Step-Innergetic, at 1:51

93. Tomas Vaitkus (Ltu), AG2R Prevoyance, at 1:57

94. Wim Vansevenant (B), Davitamon-Lotto, at 2:03

95. Dario Pieri (I), LPR, at 2:24

96. Stephan Schreck (G), T-Mobile, at 2:29

97. Jean-Patrick Nazon (F), AG2R Prevoyance

98. Paolo Fornaciari (I), Lampre-Fondital

99. Sergiy Matveyev (Ukr), Ceramica Panaria-Navigare

100. Jose Joaquin Rojas Gil (Sp), Liberty Seguros-Würth

101. Daniele Contrini (I), LPR, at 2:42

102. Johan Van Summeren (B), Davitamon-Lotto, at 2:57

103. Marco Velo (I), Milram, at 3:17

104. Matteo Tosatto (I), Quick Step-Innergetic

105. Hugo Sabido (Por), Barloworld

106. Robert Hunter (RSA), Phonak

107. Giosuè Bonomi (I), Barloworld, at 3:56

108. Massimo Giunti (I), Naturino-Sapore Di Mare, at 5:11

109. Francisco J. Ventoso Alberdi (Sp), Saunier Duval-Prodir 6:15

110. Bradley Mcgee (Aus), Française des Jeux, at 6:55

111. Samuel Dumoulin (F), AG2R Prevoyance, at 7:01

112. Cyril Dessel (F), AG2R Prevoyance

113. Mark Renshaw (Aus), Crédit Agricole

114. Benat Albizuri Aransolo (Sp), Euskaltel-Euskadi

115. Marco Pinotti (I), Saunier Duval-Prodir

116. Matthew White (Aus), Discovery

117. Francesco Bellotti (I), Crédit Agricole

118. Henk Vogels (Aus), Davitamon-Lotto

119. Maarten Den Bakker (Nl), Milram

120. Andrea Masciarelli (I), Acqua Sapone

121. Imanol Erviti (Sp), Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears

122. Mathew Hayman (Aus), Rabobank

123. Nick Nuyens (B), Quick Step-Innergetic

124. Franck Renier (F), Bouygues Telecom

125. Mauricio Soler (Col), Acqua Sapone

126. Valerio Agnoli (I), Naturino-Sapore Di Mare

127. Allan Johansen (Den), CSC

128. Pavel Padrnos (Cze), Discovery

129. Mark Scanlon (Irl), AG2R Prevoyance

130. Vladimir Efimkin (Rus), Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears

131. Mauro Facci (I), Barloworld

132. Alexander Efimkin (Rus), Barloworld

133. Leif Hoste (B), Discovery

134. Joseba Albizu Lizaso (Sp), Euskaltel-Euskadi

135. Thomas Voeckler (F), Bouygues Telecom

136. Christophe Mengin (F), Française des Jeux

137. Thierry Marichal (B), Cofidis

138. Fortunato Baliani (I), Ceramica Panaria-Navigare

139. Gilberto Simoni (I), Saunier Duval-Prodir

140. Joerg Jaksche (G), Liberty Seguros-Würth

141. Axel Maximiliano Richeze (Arg), Ceramica Panaria-Navigare

142. Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz), Liberty Seguros-Würth

143. Volodymir Gustov (Ukr), CSC

144. Giairo Ermeti (I), LPR

145. Paride Grillo (I), Ceramica Panaria-Navigare, at 8:10

146. Emanuele Sella (I), Ceramica Panaria-Navigare

147. Marcus Burghardt (G), T-Mobile, at 8:26

148. Mirko Allegrini (I), Ceramica Panaria-Navigare, at 9:30

149. Dmitri Konyshev (Rus), LPR

150. Giuseppe Palumbo (I), Acqua Sapone

151. Andrea Rossi (I), Acqua Sapone

152. Matteo Priamo (I), Ceramica Panaria-Navigare

153. Jimmy Engoulvent (F), Crédit Agricole

154. Andrus Aug (Est), Acqua Sapone

155. Unai Etxebarria Arana (Ven), Euskaltel-Euskadi

156. Olivier Bonnaire (F), Bouygues Telecom

157. Alexandre Pichot (F), Bouygues Telecom

158. Giuseppe Muraglia (I), LPR

159. Ludovic Auger (F), Française des Jeux

160. Jimmy Casper (F), Cofidis, at 10:48

161. Giampaolo Cheula (I), Barloworld

162. Ludovic Turpin (F), AG2R Prevoyance

Current ProTour standings

1. Floyd Landis (USA), Phonak, 52 pts

2. Thomas Dekker (Nl), Rabobank, 51

3. Filippo Pozzato (I), Quick Step-Innergetic, 50

4. Alessandro Petacchi (I), Milram, 47

5. Alessandro Ballan (I), Lampre-Fondital, 45

6. Francisco Javier Vila Errandonea (Sp), Lampre-Fondital 43

7. Jörg Jaksche (G), Liberty Seguros-Würth, 40

8. Tom Boonen (B), Quick Step-Innergetic, 39

9. Antonio Colom Mas (Sp), Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears, 35

10. Luca Paolini (I), Liquigas, 35

11. Samuel Sanchez Gonzalez (Sp), Euskaltel-Euskadi, 31

12. Paolo Savoldelli (I), Discovery, 30

13. Danilo Napolitano (I), Lampre-Fondital, 26

14. Frank Schleck (Lux), CSC, 25

15. Michael Boogerd (Nl), Rabobank, 25

16. Oscar Freire Gomez (Sp), Rabobank, 24

17. Leonardo Bertagnolli (I), Cofidis 23

18. José Azevedo (Por), Discovery, 20

19. Erik Dekker (Nl), Rabobank, 15

20. Stefano Garzelli (I), Liquigas, 15