Freire three-peats with a win in Milano-Sanremo
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Saturday, March 20, 2010

Freire three-peats with a win in Milano-Sanremo

by Bjorn Haake at 12:10 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Race Reports and Results, Milan-Sanremo

Oscar FreireOscar Freire easily won the sprint royale today in Milano-Sanremo against Tom Boonen and Alessandro Petacchi in a group of about two dozen riders. In an unusual Classicissima, the break of the day was caught early and breaks on the Cipressa and Poggio were discouraged through the high speeds. Efforts by Vincenzo Nibali and Filippo Pozzato were neutralized in the final kilometers, leaving the decision up to the sprinters.

Mark Cavendish's repeat dreams ended on the Cipressa, where he fell behind, already weakened by being dropped on the Turchino earlier in the race.

Freire looked tired at the finish and who could blame him? "This is always a tough race and the rain made it even harder," he said. He chose his tactic to follow Daniele Bennati's wheel early on in the final, shadowing the Italian for about two kilometers. "It was really clear that Liquigas was going for Bennati. I thought I could get past him. He appeared nervous and I felt really strong."

Freire already won his fifth race of the season, a change from last year, which began with a bad crash in California. "Every year is different and this time, I started well."

The Spaniard is still one win down on Erik Zabel and four down on Eddy Merckx. "But winning here three times is something I am really proud of."

A fast start

Under the Milan drizzle, the peloton set off early, at 10:02 am local time. Fabrice Piemontesi (Androni Giocattoli), Aristide Ratti (Carmiooro NGC) and Diego Caccia (ISD–Neri) decided to set off on their own and quickly gained time on the pack, even though they raced the first two hours at an average speed of more than 44 km/h. The three built a maximum lead of over 20 minutes.

The race started in earnest at the first climb of the day, the Turchino. The bad weather with rain, fog and temperatures of 10 degrees centigrade caused a few crashes. As the riders - with rain capes - emerged from the tunnel over the Turchino pass, Garmin's Murilo Fischer stopped at the side of the road and held his shoulder - he had to abandon with a broken collarbone, after he crashed on the slippery road.

The increased pace cut down the lead to the front three, but also spit two thirds of the peloton out the back. The dropped group included defending champion Mark Cavendish, Damiano Cunego and Andy Schleck.

Cavendish in trouble

Knowing that, Katusha put the hammer down - taking Cavendish out of contention would be preferred by most teams. The pace was only briefly slowed as a dog was trying to match the riders, but he quickly ran out of steam as Katusha's Serguei Ivanov sprinted past the four-legger.

The peloton tackled the sinuous descent of Le Manie less than two minutes behind the front trio, with the Cavendish group about another minute back. As the descent leveled out, the break was caught.

The front was still strung out, but the Cavendish group inched closer on the flat parts after Le Manie. The temperatures slightly rose closer to the seaside and the Cavendish group joined the leaders less than 80 kilometers from the finish, just before the feed zone.

In Alassio, Maxime Bouet attacked and caused several riders to counter. Bouet pedaled ahead about half a minute in front of a group of seven, including Maxime Monfort, Dmitry Grabovskyy, Manuele Mori and Luca Mazzanti.

After 15 kilometers the situation was unchanged, which prompted Grabovskyy to attack his break companions and try to bridge up to Bouet by himself. The two joined forces with 41km to go, at the Capo Berta - at the same time the six break away riders were caught by the peloton.

Bouet paid for his efforts, though, and was unable to hold Grabovskyy's wheel. Grabovskyy held on until 29km to go, but just before the start of the Cipressa, his solo effort was over.

Kolobnev accelerated three kilometers from the top, but all the favorites stayed put, except Cavendish, who was dropped. On the descent, a few riders around Sylvain Chavanel, Francesco Ginanni, Alessandro Ballan and Franco Pellizotti made a small gap, but the move was caught with less than 18 kilometers remaining.

Yoann Offredo then took off and managed to stay away until the lower parts of the Poggio. He was caught with 8.5 kilometers to go, leaving the stage to the champions. The ascent of the final climb was kept at a high pace by Stefano Garzelli (Acqua & Sapone) for teammate Luca Paolini, with Petacchi in the best position of all the sprinters sitting third wheel.  HTC-Columbia's Michael Rogers tried to go first on the Poggio with Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) following it up with a strong effort. Pozzato then put in his bid for the line with just 500 meters left to climb. Gilbert struggled to match his acceleration, and over the top of the climb the Italian had a slight advantage.  He left it too late, though, and was immediately brought back into the fold.

Vicenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Doimo) attacked on the difficult winding descent and was able to get a small gap, but at the base he was caught and passed by the attacking Italian champion.  Pozzato continued to power on the flat, but again, his advantage wasn't enough with the group behind very motivated.

On the run into the line the Liqugas-Doimo team took control of the select group of thirty with their man Bennati in tow, followed by Freire, then Boonen, with Petacchi ready to strike.  After Bennati launched his sprint, it was the triple world champion that showed the rest why he deserved to be a triple Milan-Sanremo victor with two bike lengths to spare.

2010 Milan-Sanremo results:
1. Oscar Freire (Rabobank)
2. Tom Boonen (Quick Step)
3. Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre Farnese Vini)
4. Sacha Modolo (Colnago - CSF Inox)
5. Daniele Bennati (Liquigas)
6. Thor Hushovd (Cervélo TestTeam)
7. Francesco Ginanni (Androni Giocattoli)
8. Maxim Iglinskiy (Astana)
9. Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto)
10. Luca Paolini (Acqua & Sapone)

The Poggio

The final kilometer



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