MARIO CIPOLLINI: The Lion King did it, after 13 failed attempts, he roared on the finish line in Via Roma, and gave the MSR title back to Italy after six years (last time it was Gabriele Colombo in 1996). Interviewed by RAI after the race, here is what he said :"That's a dream come true. It my take some time for me to realize that I got it. I still can't believe it. I want to dedicate this victory to Adriano De Zan (the legendary Italian TV commentator who passed away the last summer) He always said I could win this race, and perhaps he too helped me from up above today".
"The help I got from my teammates proved fundamental. They stayed beside me all over the race. It was a strange, unusual MSR, as the winds affected the race a lot, and the crash near Imperia splintered the field. In any case, we have been extremely competitive, with Lombardi, ("American") Trenti, Gentili and Perdiguero who always stood beside me. I gritted my teeth, struggled and waited for the final sprint to come ...
My build-up for this victory ? I made a lot of sacrifices, I started training at the middle of December with my new team, and my mind set on this race. I really believed I could get this result, and the teammates helped me to do it .. Things couldn't be better !!!!
The crash not only splintered the field, but also completely changed things inside the peloton. No teams looked like being ready to do a great job, but as for us, to stay with the best riders on the Poggio climb and catch Bettini after his attack was no small thing at all.
There are many important World Cup races, but MSR is like the dream of a lifetime to me.
As for the Worlds, they say the route suits fast riders, I hope when in Zolder I may be in the same condition as today".
ANTONIO SALUTINI: The Acqua e Sapone-Cantina Tollo-RDZ Team Manager, who followed Super Mario in his move from Saeco, was almost crying when interviewed by RAI at the end of the race... "That's Mario's nicest victory ever ... we have been together from a long long time, and finally we did it today ! We built this win thanks to a extraordinary team, they all did a terrific job in the final part of the race. We know we could catch Bettini and the other escapee (Figueras) in the last two kilometres, also thanks to the headwind. And that's what actually happened. Mario has been training in order to win MSR from October, and finally we have got what we wanted to. The whole team was great, but it's no no wonder: I was really confident in all of them, the younger riders too, as we had won the latest pre-MSR race" (the final stage of Tirreno-Adriatico).
GIUSEPPE PETITO (Acqua e Sapone's Team assistant): "And now we'll have to change our plans, as we had not been invited to many World Cup races before, but now after MSR we'll have to revise so many things and goals, and start working on it from now".
DANILO DI LUCA: He was one of the main favorites for the win, but a crash prevented him from having his say in the final part of MSR. He told RAI TV journalists about the crash and his current mood: "We were riding very fast. Someone in front of me crashed and I hit the ground too. I'm well now, although very disappointed as I really was in great shape and hoped to make something good. Well, I'll try again next time ... I'm pleased with Cipo's victory anyway, as Mario is a great Champion; this is a well-deserved win he's been looking for so many times, and he got it at last".
FRANCO BALLERINI: The Italian National Team Coach was asked to commentate Cipollini's win from another point of view: the next World Championships to run in Zolder in October "I'm happy of course. This is a good omen for the Worlds, but also another significative victory for Italian cycling in this successful first part of the season. I'm happy for Mario, this triumph may represent the climax of his extraordinary career. No doubts that the Worlds route is appropriate to him, and he knows how to build-up for such an event, but the race is in October, there's a long way to go and we'd better talk about this subject later in the season". But "Ballero" was also quite satisfied with the behaviour of other Italian riders "We have been protagonists thanks to Bettini and Figueras. A pity that Di Luca had that crash instead".
PAOLO BETTINI (From Mapei's Press Release): “I tried in all possible ways to make a difference during the long up-hill Poggio section. Figueras and I tried right up to the last minute; I don’t think we could have done any better especially as the finish line was so far away from Poggio. If Di Luca had formed part of the breakaway, maybe things would have been different. Anyway, congratulations to the winner”.
OSCAR FREIRE (From Mapei's Press Release): “At the last kilometre I was in an excellent position right behind Cipollini. During the last corner Lanfranchi, probably involuntary, touched the front part of my bike which made me loose a few places; this jeopardised the final sprint for me. It’s a shame as I was in excellent form”.
DANIELE NARDELLO (From Mapei's Press Release): “Unfortunately I was victim of a fall before the Poggio. Thankfully I didn’t harm myself. Zanini was also caught up in the fall. Let’s hope that I am a bit luckier next time”.
LUCA PAOLINI (From Mapei's Press Release): “I am happy with how I rode my first Sanremo. I rode at the disposition of the team today, closing in on attempted breakaways and trying to keep Bettini at the head of the race before the Poggio. Unfortunately I fell during the Poggio section and that is where the race ended for me”.
IVAN BASSO: The young fassa-Bortolo rider was among the protagonists in both the Cipressa and Poggio climbs, in the latter in particular, where he moved up front and started leading the bunch while working for sprint sensation (but not today) Petacchi: "Petacchi was in good shape and we tried to bring him in the best possible places for the final sprint. Unfortunately things didn't go well, but it's over now. As for me, I'm not yet at the peak of my condition, so I couldn't do great things today"
ALESSANDRO PETACCHI: Fassa-Bortolo's fastest wheel, surprising multiple winner this year so far, was among the main favorites for the final win, but in the end he turned to be one of the big losers of the day, also due to a condition that was described by the man himself with quite different words from the ones teammate Basso used on his post race-statement "I never had good sensations during the day. I have to thank my team as they always believed in me; my teammates were exceptionally good, and I regret not having done more for them and for myself too.
It was a strange day, I never felt comfortable, but I gave everything in order to get to the finish line. As for the final sprint, it's matter of legs. Mine weren't strong enough, I was even struggling to stay on the best riders' wheels before, I don't know why. Maybe that's because I'm a little tired, maybe I didn't recover well after Paris-Nice. If you want to win such a long race as Milan-San Remo you gotta be still fresh when you get to the final sprint".
GIULIANO FIGUERAS: The Neapolitan was among the protagonists when he chased down Bettini on the Poggio descent. The duo could have made it to the finish line (with a likely win for Figueras, who is usually regarded as faster than the Tuscan), if the finish was located in Corso Cavallotti, namely about 1 km. before the current Via Roma finish. "When I caught Bettini in the last descent into Sanremo I really thought we could make it to the end, and I say "Go, Paolino, go !"., but unfortunately the headwind didn't help us, and the presence, in the chasing group, of several members of squads aiming for a final bunch sprint did the rest. I tried, anyway, and I'm quite satisfied with my performance. But it's not just a matter of where the finish line is. It's the Poggio too, as this climb is not as selective as it was some years ago. I was climbing even at 41-42 km/h. When you go so fast, it can't be a true climb. But it wasn't me only: everyone was going that fast".
PAOLO BETTINI (Interviewed by "Gazzetta dello Sport"): “I made my move. I tried to make the difference where I had to do it. But since when the finish line was moved to its current positionn it's harder end. When a group of 5-6 formed halfway up the Poggio I was hoping this was the right time for me ... But as there was a strong headwind, and a big control exerced by the pelotn, I simply couldn't. I didn't manage to bridge to Kivilev either, as when I tried to join him an heavy headwind didn't help. I did everything I had to. I said I was going to launch my attack on the Poggio, and that's what actually happened, but the sprinters teams were way too strong. Congrats to Aqua e Sapone and Cipollini anyway. As for me, I'll be trying again next year and every year as long as I'm racing"