The peloton assembled in the shadow of Milan’s magnificent Castello Sforzesco for the start of Milan-San Remo on Saturday, and after rolling through the streets of the city as far as Via della Chiesa Rossa, the race got underway.
With almost 300km ahead of them on the road to the Riviera, the riders had plenty to ponder as they signed on in Milan this morning, but the peloton took the time to honour the victims of the recent tragic events in Japan, with each rider signing a Japanese flag, which will be auctioned to raise money for the recovery effort there.
Japanese champion Takashi Miyazawa (Farnese Vini-Neri Sottoli) was visibly moved on the start line, and as soon as the flag dropped, he set about trying to infiltrate the break of the day.
The move came 10km into the race, when the classy Mikhail Ignatiev (Katusha) powered clear, bringing Alessandro De Marchi (Androni Giocattoli) and Nico Sijmens (Cofidis) with him, but Miyazawa refused to give up, and the Japanese rider managed to jump across to join the escape.
As the race trundled through the Lombard plain and into Piedmont, the escapees were building up a sizeable advantage, but the chase will begin in earnest when the bunch hits the Turchino pass and the Ligurian coast.
For a gallery of the opening stages of the race, and pictures of favourites such as Thor Hushovd (Garmin-Cervélo) and Filippo Pozzato (Katusha) signing on in Milan, click here.