Nibali and Scarponi, Italy's Milan-Sanremo heroes
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Sunday, March 20, 2011

Nibali and Scarponi, Italy's Milan-Sanremo heroes

by Samuel Morrison at 6:31 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Spring Classics, Milan-Sanremo
Italian Grand Tour duo ignites race and fans' hopes

Vincenzo Nibali and Michele Scarponi flew the flag for Italy yesterday in the country's biggest spring classic, Milano-Sanremo. Both riders went on the attack, but failed to stop Australian Matt Goss from winning in a sprint.

The two Grand Tour riders found themselves in different groups following the two crashes near the Mànie climb.

"I was ahead," team Liquigas' Nibali told La Gazzetta dello Sport. "The first fall, at the foot of Mànie, [Thor] Hushovd slid and destroyed his bike. I didn't even notice the second crash [with Oscar Freire], on the descent of Mànie.

"It was a great opportunity, most sprinters were left out of the first group. [Team-mate Valerio] Agnoli pulled on Mànie. I asked Alessandro Ballan to put his BMC men to the front because behind they were suffering."

Nibali's group with 44 men led with a gap of one minute at the start of the Cipressa, near 30 kilometres to race.

"Agnoli also pulled on the Cipressa. I had the idea to attack there, but also a fear of being alone and it'd finish me. I thought I'd play it all on the Poggio."

Scarponi was the only rider to bridge from the second group, which also featured riders such as Mark Cavendish, Tyler Farrar, Oscar Freire and Thor Hushovd.

"I was sleeping. I was behind, and left behind," Scarponi said of the crashes. "The gap was down to one minute, but I was not sure to come back, I thought, 'now or never.'

Scarponi rocketed clear on the Cipressa, chased for several kilometres and finally joined the Gilbert group ahead of the final climb, the Poggio. Meanwhile Nibali prepared for his move, trying to pick the best moment to accelerate on the climb.

"I was waiting. There was still an escape," Nibali added. "When [Philippe] Gilbert fired, I followed him. When he eased up, I shot to the right. On top of the Poggio, I had Greg Van Avermaet on sight, but halfway down, I turned and Cancellara was right behind. It was better to try, though, I have no regrets."

"On top of the Poggio, I was almost back with Nibali," Scarponi continued. He was one of only eight for the final kilometre. "I tried to anticipate the sprint, going at 300 metres. If Sanremo was 297.7 kilometres instead of 298, I would have won!"

After their heroics, Scarponi finished sixth and Nibali eighth. Their next big duel will be at the three-week Giro d'Italia, where they both will ride for the general classification.


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