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97th Milano-Sanremo Live Report
By Fabio
Date: 3/18/2006
97th Milano-Sanremo Live Report

1130 CET - Hi everyone, and welcome to our live coverage of the 2006 Milano-Sanremo, the "Classicissima di Primavera", as it's also known; a must for any true cycling fan, and an event that celebrates its 97th edition today and, despite its status of opening race of the Italian pro cycling calendar got irremediably lost, still keeps the status of first big one-day challenge of the season, and first Spring Classic of the year.

To nobody's surprise, the contest keeps living up to tradition, with no route changes om sight regardless of some recent criticisms: also in the sixth edition of the 21st century, the bike knights get in the saddle in Via della Chiesa Rossa, in the center of Italy's second largest city, early in the morning, just to reach the promised land - also known as Via Roma -, in the northwestern seaside town of Sanremo at the end of a long journey of 294 kilometres, with thingies like the Turchino Pass, located at the border between the Piedmont and Liguria regions, and notably the late difficulties of the Cipressa and Poggio, in between. For a more detailed description of the route, and of the (likely) main protagonists of the race, click our race preview link in the "Related Articles" section at the bottom of the page.

1200 CET - The action got started about a dozen minutes before 1000 AM local time (CET), on a sunny Saturday morning, but in what cannot be dubbed as hot weather conditions (unless 3°C means hot weather conditions to someone ...). Plus, the winds you can often find in this small corner of the planet at this time of the year made things even less pleasant for the guys in the saddle. In such circumstances, no wonder that we didn't see any of the very early - and significant - breakaway attempts of the kind featuring several editions of the "Classicissima": the riders chose to stay comfortably - and warmly - inside the bunch as it was winding through the flat roads of Southwestern Lombardy (the Milan and Pavia provinces).

1230 CET - But finally, about than 30 km. into the race, when crossing the city of Pavia, eight brave boys took the initiative and made the first thing worthy of mention. As worthy of mention as their names are: Italians Giampaolo Cheula (Team Barloworld-Valsir), Daniele Contrini (Team L.P.R) and Mirko Allegrini (Ceramica Panaria-Navigare) as well as Allegrini's Ukrainian teammate Sergiy Matveyev, plus Belgian Staf Scheirlinckx (Cofidis), Basque-Venezuelan Unai Etxebarria (Euskaltel-Euskadi), France's own Ludovic Auger (Française des Jeux) and Scandinavia's man in the break Kjell Carlström (Liquigas-Bianchi) of Finland. And they did make the gap, as their advantage ballooned to about eleven minutes with about 188k to go, in the outskirts of Novi Ligure (Fausto Coppi area, that is) with neither Petacchi's Team Milram nor Boonen's Quick Step looking too hungry to waste energies in order to bring them back too early.

1250 CET - It was their respective Italian teammates Davide Bramati (Quick Step) and Alessandro Cortinovis (Milram) who had a go at starting their own chase of the leading group, along with young and talented U.S. rider Saul Raisin (Credit Agricole), but the guys quickly realized they were not going to succeed like that anyway, and gave up the effort.

1310 CET - The eight escapees (Giampaolo Cheula, Daniele Contrini, Mirko Allegrini, Sergiy Matveyev, Staf Scheirlinckx, Unai Etxebarria, Ludovic Auger and Kjell Carlström the Finn) made it to the first slopes of the first difficulty of the day, the well-known Passo del Turchino: more than 10 kilometers in length, and an average gradient around 4.9%, with about 150k to the Via Roma line. Have fun over there, folks!

1320 CET - Update from the roads of Liguria: the escapees got to the halfway point of the event (e.g. 147 km. behind them, and 147 km. to go) and are about to meet the sea, something they will do at the end of the Turchino descent. Their lead over the not-that-chasing-so-far peloton hovers around nine minutes.

1345 CET - Cheula, Contrini, Allegrini, Matveyev, Scheirlinckx, (Unai) Etxebarria, Auger and Carlström made it to the Ligurian seaside, straight to the west of Genoa, and started their seaside ride to the west, on the way to Sanremo. The gap between the eight-strong breakaway group and the main bunch basically stayed the same over the last kilometres.

1400 CET - Some 110k to the line, and as fully predictable both AleJet Petacchi's Team Milram and Tom Boonen's Quick Step-Innergetic are starting to do some serious chasing work, consequently bringing the gap down to seven minutes. Riders are going faaaaaaaast anyway, with the average speed around 45 kph.

1420 CET - About 90 km. to go under the grey skies of Liguria. Giampaolo Cheula (Ita - Team Barloworld-Valsir), Daniele Contrini (Ita - Team L.P.R), Mirko Allegrini (Ita - Ceramiche Panaria-Navigare), Sergiy Matveyev (Ukr - Ceramiche Panaria-Navigare), Staf Scheirlinckx (Bel -Cofidis), Unai Etxebarria (Ven - Euskaltel-Euskadi), Ludovic Auger (Fra - Française des Jeux) and Kjell Carlström (Fin - Liquigas-Bianchi) stay up front riding alongisde the Ligurian sea, on the way to west of the region. But their chances to make it to the finish are close to zero.

1445 CET - 70K to go, with things taking a thoroughly expected turn: as the finish line gets (a bit) closer, the gap gets (a bit) smaller: the peloton, driven by the sprinter's teams, cut it down to five and a half minutes over the last twenty kilometres or so.

1500 CET - About 50k to go now, with the road getting hilly as the fugitives hit the (comparatively easy) Capo Mele ascent. And with the gap coming down and down and down, courtesy of the Milram, Quick Step and Credit Agricole (yes, there's a certain Thour Hushovd in the bunch too ...) chasing machines, that brought it to less than three minutes, regardless of the tailwind that should be a bit of help to the eight-strong front group.

1502 CET - In the meantime, Via Roma saw the end of another contest, the GP Apertura reserved for Junior riders, which ended in a bunch sprint of about 30 atheletes, and was won by France's Yannick Martinez of the Cote d'Azur team

Kudos to this possible future star of the international peloton .. and back to the big guns now.

1506 CET - The big guns are on the way to the second "Capo", the Capo Cervo. They just passed through the town of Andora, hometown of the well-known Mirko Celestino, who unfortunately is not in the saddle today, as he fell while racing the Paris-Nice last week and broke his collarbone.

1507 CEST - Team LPR's Ukrainian Mikhaylo Khalilov had a flat, but some of his teammates (starting from veteran Elio Aggiano) drove him back into the bunch.

1511 CET - Back to the Junior race for a moment, here's the top three results:
  1. Yannick Martinez (Fra - Cote d'Azur)
  2. Matteo Belli (Ita)
  3. Jean-Luc Fernandez (Fra)
 Perhaps we'll hear such names many a good times in years to come.

1513 CET - Leaders and chasers (with NickNuyens driving the chase) are on the way to the third Capo, the toughest of them all, the Capo Berta, able to make the gap several times in past editions of the race. But this used the happens decades ago.
  In today's cycling, such difficulties are basically harmless, whereas the Quick Step chasing efforts are not that harmless to the eight frontrunners, whose gap keeps coming down.

1515 CET - News from the front group itself: Panaria's Mirko Allegrini attacked his breakaway companions, with just Unai  Etxebarria countering.
Back in the bunch, some riders lost contact to the pelton on the Berta Cape. But none of them was among the main suspects to steal the show, so there's no big news around (thus far).

1518 CET - Giampaolo Cheula joined the leading duo. They are leading their closest chasers (on the descent into Imperia) by about fifty seconds.

In the meantime, a Naturino rider (Massimiliano Mori) hit the tarmac at a roundabout. Very very bad news for the brother of Saunier Duval's Manuele Mori: the tuscan rider is still lying on the asphalt. He might have had his collarbone broken. Thankfully his helmet prevented him form having further (and much worse) damages.

1522 CET - The front group is up to six riders now, but the pack is on their heels. And it's a clear fact that they're not working well together anymore.
Kudos to the eight brave guys that put in the "breakaway of the day", but it will be over veeeery soon.

1524 CET - Lampre is now helping Quick Step a the front of the bunch, though it's Nick  Nuyens (again) who's doing much of the job there.

On the Saunier Duval side of the matter: bad news for Brazilian sprinter Luciano Pagliraini, who got dropped on the Capi and will not be a protagonist in a (possible) final sprint. Good news for the other fastman in yellow instead: Francisco Ventoso is still in the main bunch. A bunch also containing a certain Alexandre Vinokourov. Watch out for that guy too!

1528 CET - Four previous escapees were caught , while Tom Boonen and Ale-Jet Petacchi are now riding neck to neck in the pack. It's Lampre, working for Alessandro Ballan (and - why not ? - Damiano Cunego, racing MSR for the first time) driving the pack now, at the foot of the Costa Rainera climb, better known as The Cipressa.

1530 CET - Here we go: the peloton is back together, and the Cipressa has started!
 And here comes the first attack, courtesy of Liquigas' Stefano Garzelli, Waterboy Wrolich (Aut) counters his move.

But Garzelli sped up the pace again, and the Australian couldn't follow this time. The Italian veteran is on a solo lead now!
  1531 CET - More skirmishes in the bunch. Barloworld's Efimkin tried to join Garzelli and Wrolich, but didn't succeed. Petacchi and Boonen and riding well in the climb in the meantime.

1532 CET - Another waterboy on the move: it's Italy's Andrea Moletta who rolled out of the bunch, caught and dropped Garzelli. Garzelli back into the pack, while Padua's own Moletta, working for Davide Rebellin, holds onto a lead of 30 meters or so.

1534 CET - Moletta gets caught by the bunch led by a CSC man and by Pippo Pozzato; it's Mazzanti's turn to make a move now! But what a ride is making a certain Tom Boonen! He's currently in second place, following the wheels of loyal domestique Pozzato
Petacchi's legs are looking fine too anyway ...

1536 CET - Bad news for Vinokourov instead: the Kazakh - as well as a dozen more guys  couldn't follow the tempo set by the Quick Step rouleurs. And among the Quick Step riding machines, here on the last (easiest) part of the climb, there's also Paolo Bettini, doing a GREAT race despite the fall he was victim of last week at Tirreno-Adriatico, and the consequent lack of training.

1539 CET - The bunch got to the top of the Cipressa. They covered the ascent in a time of 09'55", e.g. 30" more than the 2005 record. It looks like they didn't go that fast this time anyway ...

1541 CEST - The stretched peloton is taking on the Cipressa descent: not an easy one, with many dangerous turns looming ahead.

1543 CET - While the big names are busy controlling each other, the likes of Koos Moernhout and Franck Schleck have a go at breaking away.
Two more riders joined them: Spain's Vicente Reynés (Caisse d'Epairgne-I.Balears) and no less than Guido "L'Americano" Trenti of Quick Step. The quartet quickly took twenty secs out of the bunch.  Needless to say, the Italian - but racing with the US National Team Jersey at the World Champs - teammate of Tom Boonen's is not helping the breakaway at all.

But now it's up to Petacchi's Milram to put in some chasing efforts, and this could well take its toll on the legs of AleJet's  leadout machines at Via Roma. Getting Guido Trenti in the break was a very smart move by Quick Step indeed!

2 km to the Poggio
1545 CET - Schleck and Moerenhout are working hard in the front quartet, while the rain makes its appearance on the route, with 2k to the start of the Poggio climb. And with the four leaders keeping an advantage of 22 seconds.
Robbie McEwen is struggling off the back of the bunch. He's likely going to have a tough time on the Poggio.

 1552 CET - Here comes the Poggio! And here comes an attack by FDJ's Guesdon. The gap went down to 18" in the meantime

Rabo-boy Erik Dekker drives the peloton charge on the first slopes of the climb. The gap is down to a mere sixteen seconds. With Oscar Freire on the wheels of his Dutch teammate of course.
Unfit Robbie McEwen gets dropped, while Franck Schleck attacks the break! The CSC guy from Luxembourg is now on a solo lead, while there's still 100 riders in the main bunch. With Tom Boonen always in the top spots, and Petacchi a little further behind.

Igor Astarloa, Rinaldo Nocentini and Leonardo Bertagnolli moves to the front of the bunch too. Their gap to Schleck is 14".
Moerenhout is caught and dropped, and so is Schlrck, with 500m to the top of the Poggio.

Ballan continues in his action, with Pozzato obviously staying on his wheel, and Igor Astarloa within striking distance. They made it to the top of the podium. Pozzato and Ballan are leading their closet chasers by 10 seconds. And once more Milram are forced to chase hard! closest chasers

Despite Herculean efforts from Fabio Sacchi, the escapees keep a lead of six seconds in the final descent into Sanremo, while Rinaldo Nocentini, Euskaltel's Samuel Sanchez and CSC's Schleck are about to join Ballan and Pozzato! We're going to have a more solid leading group. That's a danger for Petacchi. Especially with only Fabio Sacchi working hard back in the pack. So no wonder that the gap is up to ten seconds again!
The descent is over. 2K TO GO. And the gap now back to 08". Zabel moves to the front of the bunch, he's giving everything he can to bring the break back. Some Credit Agricole guy helps him

No cooperation in the front group. Attacks and counter-attacks by Ballan and Sanchez. Pippo Pozzato always countering

1604 CET - 1K TO GO. THE GAP IS 06"
Are the front runners going to make it?

The Quick Step guy made a timely move with 300-400m to go, and held off the oncoming peloton, saving a smart lead over the bunch, that was lead home by Petacchi AleJet's sprint was impressive, but not enough for him to catch Pippo!

Tom Boonen finished behind them. But still celebrated his teammate's triumph. A true team victory by Quick Step. The whole squad, from Bettini to Bramati, is now cheering their winner! Boonen's celebrations over the line prolly cost him the podium, as Luca Paolini might have passed him.

1612 CET - And yes, he DID.
Here's the top 8 finishers of the 97th Milano-Sanremo:
All with the same time.

Thanks for joining us for the live ticker of the 97th Milan - San Remo.
Rider and team comments, photos and full results to follow.

Press the F5 Key to get the most recent updates from the Classicissima di Primavera roads.

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