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Milan-San Remo: 298km

Complete Live Report

Live commentary by:
Daniel Benson

Hello and welcome to Cyclingnews’ live coverage from La Classicissima, Milan-San Remo. It’s the first Classic of the season and what a feast of racing we have in store for you today. Traditionally regarded as the true start of the Spring Classics. Here we go...

  1. 08:46:15 GMT

    The riders are rolling out now with the official start around 7km away. As for the weather, we've got overcast conditions but the sun is starting to break through. A contrast to last year when we had rain. We're predicting dry conditions for the entire day.

  2. 08:53:58 GMT

    The CN blimp is up and running and we're ready for a long but fascinating race. Our man on the ground, Stephen Farrand, was strolling around the team buses today and spent some time by the HTC-Highroad bus. They’re quietly confident about today and the chances of Mark Cavedish, who won this race back in 2009.

  3. 08:58:16 GMT

    The Manx missile dearly cherishes this race and will be desperate to repeat that win but he's not been in the greatest of form so far this season. He's got a win to his name but in Tirreno he was slightly off the pace. HTC could have the perfect plan B in Matt Goss though. The Australian has had a great start to the 2011 season and is tipped by many, including Heinrich Haussler as the dark horse for victory today. That could just be Haussler playing mind games with Cav though...

  4. 08:59:41 GMT

    And they're off, the neutralized zone completed and 198 riders begin the race down to San Remo. You can find a complete start list, right here.

  5. 09:06:29 GMT

    By the way, a big hello to all our readers in Australia who are staying up late to follow the race. In Haussler, Goss, Michael Matthews, Renshaw, Hansen, Davis, Clarke, Cooke, Tanner, Rogers, Wilson, O'Grady, McEwen and Sulzberger you've got a lot of riders to cheer on. My, that GreenEdge team are going to be mighty powerful in a few years.

  6. 09:08:16 GMT

    Milan-San Remo is one of most delicately balanced races on the calendar, and there is arguably no other Classic that has such a long list of potential victors. Ostensibly, the largely flat route and fast finale heavily favours the sprinters, but with after seven hours of racing, the famous capi on the approach to San Remo swell from mere ripples to severe obstacles that can be the graveyard of so many sprinters’ ambitions and the Classics stars will have their say too during the 298km race.

  7. 09:08:35 GMT

    Every year, the final plunge to San Remo sees a thrilling pursuit match between the opportunists and the sprinters’ teams, and while that ending can vary year on year, the opening stages follow a set script. Soon after the race leaves Milan, an early break will take its chances in the chilly air on the flat Lombard plain, while the peloton rolls steadily behind.

  8. 09:08:51 GMT

    The pace will only begin to rise once the bunch passes through Campo Ligure and tackles the Passo Turchino around the midway point. While exploits like that of Fausto Coppi in 1946 and Claudio Chiappucci in 1991 are now a distant memory, the climb will nonetheless begin to shuffle the pack. After the Turchino, the riders snake along the Ligurian coast, and after the stiff challenge of Le Manie (204km), the pace will ratchet up accordingly.

    It is in the final 50km where the race explodes into life, however, as the capi make their presence felt. Hostilities begin on the Capo Mele, and the Capo Cervo and Capo Berta follow in quick succession. They may only be undulations in the grand scheme of things, but with little time to recover and the pace rising ever higher, more and more riders and deposited out the back.

  9. 09:09:10 GMT

    With 22km to go, the Cipressa will see the favourites begin to make their moves as they scramble for positions at the front ahead of the hallowed Poggio. Coming just 6km from the line, traditionally the first man to the top had every chance of tasting glory in San Remo, but with the sprinters and their teams growing ever stronger, the odds are increasingly stacked against him staying clear. After a breakneck plunge into the town below, there will be a grandstand finish on the promenade named in honour of San Remo’s most famous son, writer Italo Calvino.

  10. 09:12:49 GMT

    News from the start is that Petacchi will be joining in the action today. There was concern that the Italian and 2005 winner wouldn't make it due to illness. But he's made a good enough recovery. The 37-year-old still has some gas in the tank and can go the distance so can't be ruled out today. If he can make it over the climbs and has a good position in the finale, he'll be hard to beat.

  11. 288km remaining from 298km

    09:13:39 GMT

    So far the riders have covered 10km of the route but they're still together. No attacks.

  12. 09:17:16 GMT

    In case you didn't know, http://twitter.com/inrng will be joining me later on today. I'll be swinging by a secret location at around 1ish and picking him up. I'd better make the blimp look a bit more respectable. I don't know what the previous occupants were doing in here but it's a mess. Oh wait, I think it was me.

    Anyway, Inrng has just pinged me a message: "A note for the Aussie fans staying up late, Milan - San Remo is the world's second longest UCI race... after Melbourne Warrnambool which is 1km longer."

  13. 09:19:48 GMT

    While I tidy up the pizza boxes and empty beer cans dotted around the blimp I should probably tell you about today's first attack.

    Two riders have jumped, Ramunas Navardauskas and Vladimir Isiachev. The peloton are chasing..

  14. 09:21:14 GMT

    The weather has cleared up too. Not a cloud in the sky now. Lovely.

  15. 09:24:57 GMT

    Let's take this chance to talk a bit about some of today's favourites. We'll start with last year's winner Oscar Freire. The Spaniard rode the perfect race last year, keeping out of trouble and the wind, positioning himself perfectly on the climbs and then coming through with the best-timed sprint.

    His first two wins were followed by two year gaps so he'll be looking to make it back-to-back wins in San Remo for the first time since 2000/01 - Erik Zabel.

    Freire certainly has the team to back him up. Rabo have been in exceptional form so far this season.

  16. 282km remaining from 298km

    09:26:12 GMT

    Our two leaders have been caught by the way and we now have a group of four up the road and they've quickly established a gap of 1.40

  17. 09:29:53 GMT

    Alessandro De Marchi (Androni), Nico Sijmens (Cofidis), Takashi Miyazawa (Farnese) and Mikhail Ignatiev (Katusha).

    Katusha has been involved in both moves so far today. Actually, looking at their roster for today they're a deceptively strong team. Paolini, Pozzato, Hoste, Kuschynski and Gusev are all here.

  18. 09:30:57 GMT

    Looks like we've got our group for the day then. The gap is up to 4.20.

  19. 09:41:30 GMT

    Miyazawa was the last rider to join today's move and I'm hoping he can have a good race. He's the Japanese national champion and he'll be riding for everyone back home.

    The 33-year-old is racing for Farnese this season and has a few top-ten placings already this season. His only European pro win came last season at the Vuelta Ciclista a Leon, where he pushed Ed Clancy into second spot.

  20. 09:42:50 GMT

    Remember you can keep me busy in the first part of the race by tweeting in your thoughts and predictions for the race. Just prod me at http://twitter.com/dnlbenson

  21. 09:46:13 GMT

    Ignatiev, from Katusha, is looking strong, he's probably the most dangerous rider here but he'll be working for the break today, knowing that the chances of making it to the finish are slim.

  22. 09:49:08 GMT

    By the way, I hope you've all seen this article. It's a look back at some of the most iconic images from Milan-San Remo.

    There's an image from the 1997 race - the first San Remo I watched. What was your first San Remo and what made it special for you? Send your tweets in.

  23. 09:50:59 GMT

    Our awesome foursome now have nine minutes on the bunch. We can expect the lead to hit around the 20 minute mark.

  24. 09:57:58 GMT

    We've had a couple of you tweet in about the wind on the course and especially at the finish. Right now there's no wind, conditions are sunny and very still. There's a light breeze on the coast.

    First hour of racing has been completed at an average of 47km/h.

  25. 09:58:41 GMT

    monki71 @dnlbenson Melbourne to warrnambool now shortened and is shorter in distance than MSR.

    Thanks for that!

  26. 10:01:57 GMT

    A few of you are picking Mark Cavendish for the win today. He's got a flash new bike so the win's in the bag.

  27. 10:03:21 GMT

    toutneant @dnlbenson the @Ride_Argyle 's tactic?I think hushovd will stay on gilbert's wheels, having two sprinters is not too much? 1st hour 47,1km/h

    I don't know their tactics for today but they've certainly got plenty of options with Haussler, Hushov and Farrar. The question is how they'll work together.

  28. 10:05:40 GMT

    Garmin-Cervelo has been labelled the strongest team in the Classics by many and they've certainly improved since last year but being strong on paper means very little. None of their riders have actually won a Monument so today's a big test for them. Potentially they've got everything they need to win but we've said that plenty of times before.

  29. 10:07:03 GMT

    The gap is now up to 12.30 so they're working nicely together.

  30. 10:10:21 GMT

    chestnut38 @dnlbenson Sky have started season strongly..EBH perhaps? Or GT as a surprise package

    Eddy B could be in with a chance. He's started the race a couple of time now, I think, and come up short but he's getting stronger and stronger and there's no doubt that if he's injury free he's a big favourite for a race like this. As for Thomas, sure, he's a dark horse and was strong in Paris-Nice. Last time a winner came from Paris-Nice was back in the 90s. Tchmil.

  31. 248km remaining from 298km

    10:11:49 GMT

    Around 50km covered already and the break now has 13 minutes on the bunch.

  32. 10:12:51 GMT

    @davidlrhodes My Milan San Remo Prediction: (1) Edvald Boasson Hagen, (2) Mark Cavendish, (3) Thor Hushovd, (4) Tom Boonen, (5) Tyler Farrar

  33. 10:16:41 GMT

    If it doesn't come down to a sprint today then the men most likely could come from Gilbert, Boom, Ballan, Visconti, Cobo (perhaps), Pozzato, Scarponi, Nibali, Sagan, Gasparotto, Nuyens (perhaps), Cancellara and Leukmans.

  34. 10:20:15 GMT

    Back to last year's winner, Oscar Freire, for a second. I had a dig around on youtube and found this little gem. It's a montage of his three wins in the Worlds.

  35. 10:31:09 GMT

    Haussler is a rider a lot of you are tipping for the win. He comes off the back of altitude training and Paris-Nice. He's confident of winning as shown in his recent blog for us.

  36. 10:39:53 GMT

    Cancellara has been talking down his chances of victory. The Leopard Trek leader secured his first win of the season last week and is coming into some of his best form.

    He won the race in 2008 with a late attack but that year he was in truly immense form. He's said a repeat of that win will be difficult today but I'm sure that if he's present in the finale he'll either make a move or act as a leadout man for Daniele Bennati.

  37. 10:42:04 GMT

    The Italian has been in the top ten on seven occasions this year but hasn't opened his account with a win. Yet. Could today be his chance?

  38. 10:44:16 GMT

    Livestrong supporter, sergiruiz @dnlbenson I'd like McEwen to win. I bet for Petacchi or Freire, and I think Garmin will be a mess.

  39. 10:46:40 GMT

    Back to the news and Sinkewitz returned an adverse analytical finding for Recombinant Human Growth Hormone at the GP di Lugano on February 27

    The German is the first cyclist to be suspended after providing a blood sample positive for HGH. UCI press officer Enrico Carpani explained that the validated test for human growth hormone had not been publicised as the UCI wanted to retain an element of surprise in its testing.

    “The UCI has always said human growth hormones were being tested but we didn't want to officially announce the date of scientific validation of the test in order to allow an element of surprise,” Carpani said. “Without making a pronouncement about Patrik Sinkewitz's case, who still can ask for a B sample analysis, we can say that the validation of the human growth hormone test is a major new step in the fight against doping."

  40. 10:50:43 GMT

    I remember when Sinkewitz was struggling to find a team, he almost quit in 2009. I talked to him a few times and he told me that he was checking with the UCI to make sure his levels were okay and it sounded like he was making a fresh start. I really don't know all the facts but it's disappointing to see. Although it shows that progress on the testing front might be improving.

    The German is suspended pending the result of his B sample.

  41. 10:51:41 GMT

    Our four leaders are still plugging away. They've got a lead of around 14 minutes but it's not growing at the rate it was.

  42. 10:55:22 GMT

    By the way, at the start this morning there was a minute silence for the victims of the events in Japan. All our thoughts go out to everyone effected.

  43. 208km remaining from 298km

    11:06:27 GMT

    Just over 200km to go and the lead is starting to come down. It's just over 11 minutes.

  44. 11:09:15 GMT

    canobb @dnlbenson Do you think Sagan will handle it ?My fingers are crossed for him and Velits too!

    Velits result and chances really depend on what happens with Cavendish and Goss. If both men are still in the mix then Velits might be asked to work on the front and keep things together.

    Sagan, huge, huge talent but not much experience when it comes to fighting it out in San Remo. Then again you could have said the same about Cav in 2009 and look what happened then.

  45. 11:13:01 GMT

    Side stepping the race for a second, but here's a very interesting story regarding Contador, coming from Travis Tygart, the CEO of USADA.

  46. 194km remaining from 298km

    11:19:58 GMT

    104km covered and the foursome are holding a lead of 11 minutes on the bunch. Little activity behind the leaders and the race is following the Milan-San Remo blueprint to perfection.

  47. 11:22:12 GMT

    A lot of you tweeting about  Gossy and Haussler this morning. Not much talk about Boonen though. The Belgian has been close on a few occasions and has all the attributes to win the race. He's been off the pace recently with illness - a bit like - Petacchi but can't be ruled out today.

  48. 11:23:33 GMT

    PiesG @dnlbenson Pretty good - 7 pages of commentary before we touched on AC or peds.....reckon Thor or Farrar for the win - Cavs ride is flash

    Thanks. I'm actually more impressed with the fact I've not mentioned race radios. Doh!

  49. 11:28:21 GMT

    I've not even talked about Greipel yet. I've mentioned every other rider and his dog so far this morning so I'd best include the German too. There you go. Job done.

  50. 190km remaining from 298km

    11:32:30 GMT

    The gap is coming down again and it's under ten minutes for the first time. 9.57 to be exact.

  51. 11:38:17 GMT

    We're just uploading some images from the startline. They should be on the homepage in a few minutes.

  52. 11:41:04 GMT

    @tourpro I think Boonen's could be sandbagging and flu-story attempt to prevent being marked. (I like intrigue).

    Yeah, I'm sandbagging when it comes to the Pulitzer Prize.

  53. 11:52:03 GMT

    For those of you who remember Mirko Celestino, he owns a cafe on the race route these days. In fact he opened it before he retired.

    Milan-San Remo was his race. He never won - the best he managed was second to Bettini in 2003 - but he rode it ten times. In fact the Italian was born very close to the route, just as Felice Gimondi won in 1974.

  54. 11:53:27 GMT

    The leaders are outside Ovada and the lead still at ten minutes.

  55. 11:57:58 GMT

    Factoid for the day: Today's the 102nd edition of the race. We've had 51 Italian winners and 50 non-Italians.

  56. 11:58:31 GMT

    Ah go on, here's another one for you:

    Only 4 riders have won MSR in rainbow jersey: Alfredo Binda (1931), Eddy Merckx (1972 and 1975), Felice Gimondi (1974) and last one Giuseppe Saronni (1983).

  57. 11:59:58 GMT

    Our man on the ground, Stephen Farrand caught up with the current world champion, Thor Hushovd and the Norwegian had this to say:

    "I think I'm one of the favourites but I'm not the only one."

    "Since moving to Monaco it feels closer for me and I've ridden the Cipressa and the Poggio 15 or 20 times this year, so I know the finale and I often have a coffee stop in San Remo so I know the town too."
     

  58. 12:00:47 GMT

    Another favourite, Gilbert, told Gazzetta: "I felt good at Tirreno, so I'm ready for Milan-San Remo."

    "It's the easiest race but also the most complicated, the longest and the fastest. It's unique and so you have to be fascinated by it."

    "I know the course pretty well but then you discover an further little detail. You've got to ride carefully until the Turchino and then after the descent, you realise which way the wind is blowing along the coast. That's the secret: if it's a tailwind, you can attack when you want, if it's a headwind, you can attack only when you have too."

  59. 12:01:37 GMT

    He continued:

    "I know that the other riders will be watching me on the Poggio. That's not a problem because there, if you've got it, you can do something. Maybe it'd be better to go with someone but who can hold my wheel? Scarponi? But then he'd lose the sprint. I don't know if anyone will come with me."

    "I did the race with a heart rate monitor one year and discovered the beats were the same on the descent as on the climb because you give it everything, taking huge risks."


  60. 12:04:30 GMT

    Freire also spoke to Gazetta and said:

    "My second win in 2007 was the best win of my whole career and was the only time I cried after a win. Everyone thinks I'm always relaxed but it's not true. I'm always nervous during a race."

    "San Remo is decided in an instant but you've got to know the right one. To win sometimes you've got to be prepared to risk losing. For example if Cancellara attacks, I can't go with him. I've got to hope he gets caught."

    "I don't honestly think the Poggio can make a big difference anymore. Nobody has the strength to get away and stay away anymore."


     

  61. 12:05:14 GMT

    And here's what 2003 winner, Paolo Bettini had to say:

    "At San Remo you've got to come up with something if you're not a sprinter. I studied my plan in every detail."

    "I think someone like Gilbert can go away on the Poggio but then you've got to beat him in the sprint. I'm curious to see what Pozzato does. I think he can be good."
     

  62. 12:13:59 GMT

    The boys from Rabobank and Sky are on the front at the moment, keeping the pace respectable and the gap between 9-10 minutes.

  63. 12:20:02 GMT

    The leaders have just reached Turchino and it's time to welcome Inrng into the CN blimp.

  64. 12:26:13 GMT

    DB: So welcome to the CN blimp. Hope it's to your satisfaction. What have you made of the race so far?

    Inner Ring: it looks like the classic format with a breakaway taking a substantial lead which is now melting as the bunch picks up speed on the Passo Turchino.

    DB: That's right the gap is starting to come down now. It's below  8 minutes.

  65. 12:30:40 GMT

    Inner ring: All of the favourites have been sheltering as much as they can. Laurent Jalabert told L'Equipe that when he won in 1995 he didn't "turn a pedal" before the last section of a race. An exaggeration of course but it shows how the aim for the main riders is to stay protected and conserve energy for what's about to come.

    DB: That's right, a lot comes down to positioning, especially in the final 50K or so. I believe Cav had a man to take him to the front before each climb when he won in 2009, meaning he could ride without too much pressure before the sprint.

  66. 12:32:22 GMT

    rightcoastrad @dnlbenson Gilbert. Teams might control (Leopard or Garmin), but Gilbert has the form and aggressive nature. He will be marked though.

  67. 12:35:30 GMT

    Inner Ring: Yes, Cavendish finished off a great job by his team. I epecially remember George Hincapie on the Poggio itself and the tricky descent.

    DB: The question for Cav today isn't about whether he has the team but really whether he has the legs himself. Enough teams will want a sprint at the end so he can probably assume a team like Garmin or Rabobank will help keep things together. By San Remo is a perfect example of a race that hangs on a knife edge, from teams having more than one option to the fact that the final two climbs come in such quick succession.

  68. 12:36:40 GMT

    ACycling_fan @dnlbenson a dark horse for #msr is @RobbieHunter

  69. 142km remaining from 298km

    12:37:57 GMT

    The gap is continuing to dip and it's down to 5.55

  70. 12:38:40 GMT

    Inner Ring: Yes, Cavendish famously bluffed prior to his win, apparently easing up on the climbs in Tirreno-Adriatico to fool others that he wasn't in great condition. This year, well he's either taking the acting to a whole new level or more likely, his season hasn't quite gone to plan and he's building for the classics like Gent-Wevelgem and the upcoming stage races.

  71. 12:41:09 GMT

    Inner Ring: Even when the other teams want a sprint, only the guys in top condition make it to the finish, several sprinters will be shelled out. The fight for position is intense and the ability to sprint after 300km is hard. They say a "good sprinter can win when out of shape"... but probably not after 295km.

    DB: Lets talk about the chances of this not coming down the sprint. We know from history that the sprinters usually have their way and solos and breaks are rare. Not much wind in the finale today so it could increase the opportunity for someone like Gilbert or Scarponi.

  72. 12:41:49 GMT

    Meanwhile, Garmin has moved to the front of the race and are helping Rabo with the chase.

  73. 12:43:10 GMT

    Inner Ring: Wind and rain can alter the chances of a breakaway. Too much wind can buffet the bunch but a breeze crosswind can mean that any gaps get even harder to close.

  74. 12:46:44 GMT

    Inner Ring: Right now the conditions are very calm. Almost no wind, light cloud and mild temperatures. For me this doesn't favour the sprinters or the attackers, there's nothing to exploit.

    DB: It comes down to whether you can get a gap at the top of the Poggio. There's still time to bring things back after that but then it all comes down the mix of the break. one leader, not much chance of staying away, two or three riders from the strongest teams and it might work. They just can't hesitate though.

  75. 12:49:03 GMT

    Le Manie is about 50km away and there's a tailwind at the moment as the peloton head towads the climb.

  76. 12:52:40 GMT

    Inner Ring: yes, it's incredibly hard to get a gap and then, with the legs on fire, to keep this advantage on the descent. But once the come off the descent into Sanremo then a moment's hesitation can see the bunch get back on. The portion between the descent and the finish line can be very tatical.

    In reponse to @PiesG via twitter, I suspect Renshaw will be working for Goss given the Aussie's recent wins and results. But if Cavendish is up there then it'll be interesting to see whether Goss or Cav gets the most help. But Renshaw's no slouch and knows the finish very well. There's a tiny chance he's there in the finish without Goss or Cav.

    DB: I imagine that Cav is plan A but that if Goss has the legs they'll quickly turn to him and Renshaw will swtich duties and become the Australian's lead out man. I'm still not 100 per cent sure that Goss has the legs to race and win at this distance but I said the same about Cav in 2009. Either way, today is a huge opportunity for him.
     

  77. 12:53:21 GMT

    Inner Ring: Yes, Goss was cramping up in Paris-Nice, perhaps an off day but a sign the distance was taking its toll too

    Daniel: He's also been racing full since January.

  78. 12:54:56 GMT

    A bit of rain now on course. That could get interesting if it continues.

  79. 12:56:35 GMT

    @dnlbenson my #msr tips: 1. Haussler 2. Freire 3. Bennati. Smokey: Van Avermaet My full preview here: http://t.co/FNxKHHo

  80. 12:58:29 GMT

    Daniel: So have to ask, hows the blog coming along? It's certainly one of the most talked about blogs in the cycling world.

    Inner Ring: Thanks, it's good fun. People keep asking "where do you get the time" but it's quite simple as I'm not doing interviews or travelling to races, it's just done in my spare time. The best bit is hearing from other fans via email, reading their comments in the blog and interaction via twitter.

    Daniel: Here's a link to it.

  81. 13:02:19 GMT

    Daniel: the whole world of journalism has been shifted because of twitter and blogs - certainly within the area we work in. It's such a useful tool and agregator or content. I mean as a tool for us social media has become so important both in terms of spreading our reach but also finding out news and insight.

    Inner Ring: Yes, twitter is a great way to follow the riders for news, updates and sometimes fun, nonsense and jokes they get up to in their spare time, plus there are many fans around the world who share their interests online.

  82. 13:03:38 GMT

    Some action at the back of the bunch. Hushovd punctures but makes it back without too much trouble.

    Straight after that, Cavendish punctures.

    The rain shower has stopped and the sun is out again.

  83. 13:04:40 GMT

    b and there's the fake pat mquaid account.

    Inner Ring:
    yes, I've covered a lot of the politics and business behind the sport and it can be heavy going so it's great to see some using satire and humour on the same topics.

  84. 13:09:05 GMT

    Inner Ring: It's great to finally see some actual racing underway and the first "monument" of the season. The action we're going to get in the next couple of hours is the best antidote for all the scandals and off-stage activities

    Daniel: Couldnt agree more. MSR, on a personal level, is my favourite Classic. It's just the whole way it builds up to this amazing crescendo with the final two climbs, the balance of power between the sprinters and the climbers/breakaway artists.

  85. 13:10:16 GMT

    The lead meanwhile been hovering at around 5.30 - 5.50 for a while. It's currently at 5.45.

  86. 13:14:30 GMT

    Inner Ring: Yes, I like that battle too as the race picks up. It's the way a single mistake can cost a rider a race but they are so tired after hours on the bike that the concentration has to be intense.

    The same is true in Flanders or Roubaix but I sense you can get a second chance in those races. Here the strategic points come right at the end and any errors in placing or handling mean it's game over.

    Plus it's a beautiful race with a glamourous finish. Spring has arrived on the Italian coastline and Sanremo is a holiday town famous for its music festival.

  87. 13:19:45 GMT

    Daniel: We're closing in on Le Maine now, the next significant climb of the race. We saw the race split there last year but the conditions were a lot worse. Today I'd expect the pace to start increasing on the climb and possible a counter attack go clear.

    From now on the pace is going to get faster and faster. None of these climbs are particularly brutal but it's just that the pace is so high on them, of course the final two come in such quick succession that recovery is almost impossible

    Inner Ring: Yes. Last year the race split in half with Cavendish caught in a chasing group. No favourite can afford to be at the back of the bunch from now on.

  88. 107km remaining from 298km

    13:22:57 GMT

    Nearly 200km of racing and the bunch are closing. The gap is five minutes. The leaders had over 13 minutes at one stage.

  89. 13:32:01 GMT

    Inner Ring: Of the four in the lead Mikhail Ignatiev is a real breakaway specialist, I expect him to keep on going, perhaps to attack the others as the bunch gets near.

    Daniel: he's ceratinly the most experienced too. We've seen him do this a few times but always (well nearly always) come up short.

  90. 13:33:19 GMT

    Daniel: The gap is coming down steadily with Rabo, Sky and Garmin all doing the early work.

    Inner Ring: He's still in his mid-20s but has a long reputation for die-hard riding.

  91. 13:34:13 GMT

    The four leaders aren't far off the lower slopes of climb.

  92. 13:36:23 GMT

    Inner Ring: Sky are one to watch. They've not been touted as favourites but Flecha is a candidate for an attack on the Poggio and Boasson-Hagan is strong on any terrain

    Daniel: Without doubt. Flecha looked leaner than ever when I saw him at the Sky camp in Mallorca back in January. He's got Bobby J offering him extra coaching advice this year too and the pair seemed to have some rapport at the camp. As for EBH, if he can get over the climbs intact then he's a contender. I just worry about his fitness.

  93. 13:37:29 GMT

    toutneant @dnlbenson the man in the echappée de marchi refused to race the track worldchampionship in appledoorn to be #msr

  94. 13:38:39 GMT

    Inner Ring: A big crash at the foot of Le Manie, sounds like it's getting nervous now

  95. 13:39:43 GMT

    Inner Ring: Hushovd was involved in the crash.

  96. 13:43:11 GMT

    The gap is coming down. it's 1.38 now. So the leaders could be caught on the climb.

  97. 13:44:10 GMT

    We're hearing that Rosseler is out of the race. He may have been involved in that crash.

  98. 95km remaining from 298km

    13:45:43 GMT

    Hushovd is off the back now. he's chasing but he's 12 seconds down on the main field. he has time to get back on but he's wasting energy.

  99. 13:46:42 GMT

    Inner Ring: Radioshack might worry as Roessler is a powerful rider to help in the classics. He took their first win last year if I remember correctly.

    Daniel: I think I was there. Somewhere in Belgium. Last spring all blurs into one big beer/frites combo

  100. 13:49:01 GMT

    A counter attack as we predicted has come and the leaders have broken up. Meanwhile Chavanel has crashed.

    The race is coming alive and guess what, it's raining.

  101. 13:50:00 GMT

    Inner Ring: Things don't sound good for Hushovd, he's chasing now after a crash. He apparently started all in white, white shorts to match his white jersey with the rainbow bands. With hindsight not the best idea.

  102. 13:51:01 GMT

    That's not the start Garmin-Cervelo would have wanted when the real racing began. They're on the back foot.

  103. 13:54:06 GMT

    Inner Ring: Garmin-Cervélo still have two aces to play in Farrar and Haussler

     

  104. 13:54:36 GMT

    The Leopard Trek boys are now on the front. That's the first time we've seen the team come to the front.

  105. 13:56:09 GMT

    Wet conditions on the descent and a number of riders are having problems. Freire is one of them and he's got a problem with his back wheel.

    Two team mates try and help him but they're having a nightmare.

    Meanwhile an Astana rider almost runs into them.

  106. 84km remaining from 298km

    13:57:17 GMT

    Nightmare for the Spaniard. Here's a good joke, how many Rabo riders does it take to change a back wheel?

    More than three.

    Freire is finally on his way.

  107. 13:57:41 GMT

    Inner Ring: In this area there's a local plant called Mimosa that flowers at this time of year. It leaves a fine dust on the roads that mixes with rain to make them even more slippery.

  108. 13:58:47 GMT

    Freire is chasing now, a teammate waiting for him but this descent is very dangerous in the wet. He'll have to fight to get back on but he's got time on his side.

  109. 13:59:53 GMT

    BMC join Leopard on the front of the bunch. Will they turn the screw on Freire and Hushovd?

  110. 82km remaining from 298km

    14:00:34 GMT

    Inner Ring: Will the bunch drive hard now to distance some of the favourites who have crashed?

  111. 14:01:52 GMT

    Freire shouts at his teammate urging him to chase and bring him back to the main field. This is a huge moment in the race. Lotto move to the front now too. They must know that last year's winner is off the back and in trouble.

  112. 14:03:20 GMT

    Inner Ring: it's meant to be dry near the finish. We can see Omega Pharma-Lotto driving now, they want to distance some of the rivals for Gilbert and Greipel. Leopard-Trek are working too.

  113. 14:04:32 GMT

    Inner Ring: It's advantage Gilbert right now, especially as there are still 85km to remaining, that's plenty of time to soften up his rivals

  114. 14:05:53 GMT

    The bunch split a fair bit on the climb but it's starting to come back together now. Freire could be out it now. He's not got many teammates with him either.

  115. 14:06:34 GMT

    HTC all near the front so that would suggest that Cav is feeling good. Freire is slowly coming back now.

  116. 14:07:36 GMT

    Huge crash.


  117. 76km remaining from 298km

    14:09:22 GMT

    Katusha and BMC doing a lot of the work now with the likes of Hushovd, Freire and we're hearing Cav all off the back.

  118. 14:11:00 GMT

    Boonen is near the front, keeping tabs on Cancellara for now.

  119. 14:13:11 GMT

    Inner Ring: Farrar is also in the second group with Hushovd

  120. 14:15:48 GMT

    A lot of teams pushing on now and trying to distance some of the favourites who have been left behind.

  121. 14:16:48 GMT

    Inner Ring: The front group is all in one long paceline as they drive hard to distance the second group.

  122. 66km remaining from 298km

    14:20:35 GMT

    Less than 70km to go and we've got two groups out on the road. The first containing Gilbert, Boonen, Nibali, Cancellara and the second with Cav, Hushovd, Freire and Farrar.

    Inner Ring: A decisive moment in the race now, can the second group begin to claw back the 50 or so riders up front or are they finished?

     

  123. 14:21:30 GMT

    The gap is now over two minutes. I'm going to make a call and suggest that it's going to be it for the chasers.BMC, QuickStep, Katusha, Lotto, and Leopard all seem happy and are driving the pace.

  124. 64km remaining from 298km

    14:23:47 GMT

    Inner Ring: Haussler is in the front group, with team mate Andreas Klier. Getting a free ride and this perhaps explains why Hushovd and Farrar are not chasing behind.

  125. 14:24:31 GMT

    This is playing perfectly into Haussler hands. He wanted a hard race and he wanted the race to break up.

  126. 14:24:54 GMT

    Peter Sagan is in the front group.

  127. 14:25:53 GMT

    Sagan and Nibali could play a very important part in the finale.

  128. 14:27:01 GMT

    Inner Ring and I were talking about the small margins within the race and saw that just a bit of water on the roads an totally change things. A number of favourites could be out. The gap is still over two minutes.

  129. 14:28:46 GMT

    Inner Ring: The gap's between the first and second bunch is slowly going up. I can't see them getting back now.

  130. 55km remaining from 298km

    14:33:43 GMT

    Pozzato is also in the front group, Davis and Goss all in the second group. The gap at 2.15

  131. 14:34:06 GMT

    Inner Ring: Petacchi, Bennati, Greipel all in the front group

  132. 14:35:19 GMT

    Inner Ring: They'll want a sprint finish and possibly Boasson-Hagen, Sagan and Haussler too but these guys might watch the attacks from others.

  133. 14:36:21 GMT

    Inner Ring: Amongst those likely to attack we've got Cancellara, Gilbert, Pozatto amongst others

  134. 14:38:54 GMT

    We're heading that Freire has made it back to the leaders. We're looking for confirmation.

  135. 14:39:54 GMT

    BMC, Quick Step and Lotto, driving the race on and setting the pace.

  136. 48km remaining from 298km

    14:42:15 GMT

    Less than 50km to go. So many riders look dead and buried now. The gap still around 2 minutes. Freire is not back with leaders, he's still with Hushovd, Farrar, Cav and Goss.

  137. 14:42:49 GMT

    Ah Goss is in the front group. Apologies.

  138. 14:43:10 GMT

    Australia, relax you still have two favourites in the lead group.

  139. 14:44:00 GMT

    Inner Ring: Second group is coming back, now 1.45, but without much organisation.
     

  140. 14:45:15 GMT

    Hoste setting a ferocious pace for Katusha on the front.

  141. 14:46:42 GMT

    tourpro @dnlbenson @inrng Nibali was definitly worth a mention. #msr

  142. 14:47:41 GMT

    inner Ring: Katusha and Omega-Lotto are driving the lead group. How long can they keep up this pace?

    Daniel: Good question. right now Liquigas and Haussler are  just sitting in and following the wheels.

  143. 42km remaining from 298km

    14:48:10 GMT

    Inner Ring: Precisely 44 riders in the front group

  144. 14:49:03 GMT

    Daniel: It's perfect for Gilbert too. If they can keep this pace up until the Poggio he could blow the race apart

  145. 14:50:24 GMT

    Inner Ring: Yes, his attack seemed inevitable but with so many rivals left behind his chances go up even more. But several riders will be marking him. Even better for him, his team sprinter Greipel stands ready as insurance, assuming he can cope with the Cipressa and Poggio

    Daniel: FDJ are also up there. They can't be ruled out either.

  146. 14:52:18 GMT

    Inner Ring: When I saw the startsheet, FDJ's Canadian rider Dominique Rollin stood out. Not for any rational reason, just a feeling.

    Daniel: Really? I had him down for KBK. If he's in the lead group then he's in with a chance. He can sprint after a long hard race.

  147. 14:54:17 GMT

    Hoste is losing contact. His work down for the day.

  148. 14:55:28 GMT

    On to the Capo Berta

  149. 14:56:42 GMT

    Inner Ring: Vladimir Gusev (Katusha) continues to drive the pace as the lead group heads over the Capo Berta

  150. 37km remaining from 298km

    14:57:10 GMT

    And as they hit the descent Nibali moves closer to the front.

  151. 14:57:43 GMT

    Peloton, including Heinrich Haussler (Garmin-Cervelo), Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto), Tom Boonen (Quick Step), Fabian Cancellara (Leopard-Trek), Filipoe Pozzato (Katusha) and Andre Greipel (Omega Pharma-Lotto)

    Chase group including Oscar Freire (Rabobank), Thor Hushovd (Garmin-Cervelo) and Mark Cavendish (HTC-Highroad) at 1:40

  152. 14:58:34 GMT

    The gap is coming down. It's less than a minute. Those in the second group aren't giving up without a fight.

  153. 14:59:35 GMT

    Inner Ring: Katusha and Omega-Lotto are doing a lot of work but some teams are sitting back and saving their energy for later. Notably Leopard-Trek who are shepherding Cancellara

  154. 15:01:37 GMT

    Who is doing all of the chasing? Farnese and Miyazawa is going like a train. He was in the break all day and is still working. Great ride.

  155. 32km remaining from 298km

    15:02:05 GMT

    Inner Ring: never say never! the second group clawed back over 30 seconds on the Capo Berta

  156. 15:03:39 GMT

    Rabobank now driving the chase from the second group. Can I change my mind and say it's all going to come back together?  It's possible now.

  157. 15:04:16 GMT

    Hoste has made it back to the leaders. Quick Step dig in and push the pace in the lead group again.

  158. 30km remaining from 298km

    15:05:31 GMT

    30km to go.

  159. 15:06:37 GMT

    The gap is still just over 1.10 and we've got the Cipressa and Poggio still to come.

  160. 15:06:56 GMT

    Inner Ring: Apparently it's raining on the Cipressa, a small rain shower to make the descent tricky

  161. 28km remaining from 298km

    15:07:33 GMT

    The pace is incredibly high now. 28km to. No respite between now and the finish.

  162. 15:08:37 GMT

    Liquigas launch an attack. Is that Agnoli?

  163. 15:09:18 GMT

    Inner Ring: 28km to go, now the Cipressa. Will anyone attack, can anyone attack given the high pace from Katusha and BMC on the front group

    BMCattack too.

  164. 15:09:44 GMT

    That's Ballan who is bringing everyone back together.

  165. 26km remaining from 298km

    15:10:08 GMT

    Inner Ring: Gap is one minute now betwen the groups

  166. 15:10:54 GMT

    All back together in the lead group now. Looks like Klier is hanging on. Agnoli on the front and setting the pace.

  167. 15:11:15 GMT

    Inner Ring: Sky almost blocking the second group, remember Boasson-Hagen is up front

  168. 25km remaining from 298km

    15:12:38 GMT

    Still Liquigas set the pace. Visconti is trying to counter from the second group.

  169. 15:13:28 GMT

    Scarponi launches out of the second group.

  170. 15:14:21 GMT

    Scarponi is cutting through the riders who've been dropped from the lead group. Big ask for him to make it across and then attack again.

  171. 24km remaining from 298km

    15:14:49 GMT

    Inner Ring: Several riders trying to attack the second group. Perhaps it's pure frustration, if they use up energy now they won't have it on the Poggio

  172. 15:16:05 GMT

    Popovych tries his counter attack now.

  173. 15:16:43 GMT

    Actually Popo has attack from the lead group. he's leading the race.

  174. 15:17:22 GMT

    That's a dangerous move. We've not talked about Popo at all in this race.

  175. 22km remaining from 298km

    15:18:20 GMT

    BMC now leading the chase behind. They have three men on the front. Lotto moving up too.

  176. 21km remaining from 298km

    15:19:00 GMT

    Inner Ring: Lead group has lost its shape now, riders spread across the road as the head up the Cipressa

  177. 15:21:26 GMT

    Popo has nearly 30 seconds on the group behind. Gilbert, what do you have in the tank because if you want to win this race you'll need to make a move.

  178. 18km remaining from 298km

    15:21:40 GMT

    Just 18km to go.

  179. 15:23:14 GMT

    Popo has been caught.

    Inner Ring: FDJ's Steve Chainel now leads with a small lead on the descet of the Cipressa

  180. 16km remaining from 298km

    15:24:39 GMT

    O'Grady in a small group that's behind the leader but attacks are coming thick and fast now.

  181. 15:25:01 GMT

    Now Offredo attacks and the lead group starts to splinter

  182. 15:25:22 GMT

    Inner Ring:  Offredo, Chainel, O'Grady and Schar in the lead.

  183. 15:25:34 GMT

    Klier and Greipel trying to bridge to the lead four

  184. 15:26:07 GMT

    Scarponi is on the back of the main lead group.

  185. 15:26:40 GMT

    FDJ have two men in this lead group and we're 5km from the Poggio.

  186. 14km remaining from 298km

    15:27:47 GMT

    it's Van Avermaet in the lead group. That's a huge danger.

  187. 15:28:12 GMT

    Inner Ring: the lead group of four have 15 seconds as they speed towards the Poggio

  188. 15:29:39 GMT

    Lotto are leading the chase behind.

  189. 15:29:58 GMT

    Chainel, Van Avermaet, Offredo and Stuart O'Grady (Leopard Trek)

    Peloton, including Heinrich Haussler (Garmin-Cervelo), Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto), Tom Boonen (Quick Step), Fabian Cancellara (Leopard-Trek), Filipo Pozzato (Katusha), Andre Greipel (Omega Pharma-Lotto) and Michele Scarponi (Lampre) at ??

    Chase group including Oscar Freire (Rabobank), Thor Hushovd (Garmin-Cervelo) and Mark Cavendish (HTC-Highroad) at 0:51

  190. 11km remaining from 298km

    15:30:31 GMT

    Closing in the final climb and it's make or break for Gilbert in the next few km.

  191. 15:30:48 GMT

    Lotto send all their men to the front.

  192. 15:31:44 GMT

    It could all come back together. It's all or nothing on the Poggio for so many of these riders.

  193. 15:32:14 GMT

    Goss is still in that group and he looks pretty good.

  194. 9km remaining from 298km

    15:32:44 GMT

    Steve Chainel (FdJ), Greg Van Avermaet (BMC), Yohan Offredo (FdJ) and Stuart O'Grady (Leopard Trek)

    Peloton, including Heinrich Haussler (Garmin-Cervelo), Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto), Tom Boonen (Quick Step), Fabian Cancellara (Leopard-Trek), Filipo Pozzato (Katusha), Andre Greipel (Omega Pharma-Lotto) and Michele Scarponi (Lampre) at 0:22

    Chase group including Oscar Freire (Rabobank), Thor Hushovd (Garmin-Cervelo) and Mark Cavendish (HTC-Highroad) at 1:45

  195. 15:33:06 GMT

    Inner Ring: It's almost a question of where Gilbert attacks now as they approach the Poggio

  196. 15:33:30 GMT

    The leaders have 30 seconds. There has to be a move from behind.

  197. 15:33:57 GMT

    o'Grady happy to follow wheels

  198. 15:34:14 GMT

    Inner Ring: Chainel buries himself. O'Grady, Van Avermaet and Offredo are all very fast in a sprint

  199. 15:34:58 GMT

    Van Avermaet attacks.

  200. 15:35:27 GMT

    Nibali moves to the front , Gilbert follows.

  201. 15:35:56 GMT

    Ballan just marks the moves.

  202. 7km remaining from 298km

    15:36:45 GMT

    The Belgian is burying himself.

    But now Gilbert moves to the front.

  203. 15:37:00 GMT

    Nibali attacks.

  204. 7km remaining from 298km

    15:37:59 GMT

    The Italian opens up a gap. This looks good but van Avermaet is still leading.

  205. 15:39:11 GMT

    Nibali catches the remnants of the leaders, OG and Offredo and attacks them. Behind them Gilbert drives on as the lone leader carries on. What does he have left in the tank.

  206. 15:39:38 GMT

    Greg Van Avermaet (BMC)

    Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas), Yohan Offredo (FdJ) and Stuart O'Grady (Leopard Trek) at 0:15

    Peloton, including Heinrich Haussler (Garmin-Cervelo), Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto), Tom Boonen (Quick Step), Fabian Cancellara (Leopard-Trek), Filipo Pozzato (Katusha), Andre Greipel (Omega Pharma-Lotto) and Michele Scarponi (Lampre) at 0:30

    Chase group including Oscar Freire (Rabobank), Thor Hushovd (Garmin-Cervelo) and Mark Cavendish (HTC-Highroad) at 1:45
    Susan Westemeyer

  207. 15:40:00 GMT

    Over the top of the climb for Van Avermaet

  208. 15:40:45 GMT

    Inner Ring : Last Belgian win was Fons de Wolf in 1981

  209. 15:41:21 GMT

    How quickly can Greg Van Avermaet go downhill.

    Cancellara has attacked.

  210. 4km remaining from 298km

    15:41:55 GMT

    4km to go.  Greg Van Avermaet is giving it everything but he only has five seconds.

  211. 15:43:17 GMT

    It's all coming back together behind Van Avermaet. Pippo, Gilbert and Goss all there. ballan too.

  212. 15:43:34 GMT

    Caught. All back together.

  213. 15:43:50 GMT

    offredo again.

  214. 15:44:13 GMT

    Cancellara goes and goss marks him.

  215. 15:44:31 GMT

    Gilbert goes and gives it 100%

  216. 15:44:54 GMT

    Pippo is bringing him back with Ballan and the rest.

  217. 15:45:18 GMT

    Goss looks so strong.

  218. 15:45:34 GMT

    Nibali goes.

  219. 15:45:48 GMT

    About seven riders.

  220. 15:46:21 GMT

    Scarponi opens it up.

  221. 15:46:40 GMT

    Matthew Goss wins!

  222. 15:47:51 GMT

    Incredible finale. Goss was marking all the main moves, then as Gilbert was caught within the last km, Scarponi made a late bid. Gilbert tried to follow but Goss came through. Cancellara went for it in the inside and took second.

  223. 15:49:00 GMT

    We weren't sure about Goss's experience and stamina for such a long race but we know just how strong he is now. Gilbert took third. Ballan 4th, Pippo 5th.

  224. 15:51:26 GMT

    Goss picked Gilbert's wheel in the final km and pulled off a great move.

  225. 15:52:26 GMT

    Daniel: what did you make of that finish?

    Inner Ring: Great. Powerful ride by Goss, not just the sprint but staying out of trouble all day and the being able to stay up there on the Poggio before finally blasting his way to the line. Goss rode Paris-Nice, ending the run of riders who win after using Tirreno-Adriatico as preparation

  226. 15:54:13 GMT

    1 Matthew Harley Goss (Aus) HTC-Highroad 6:51:10
    2 Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Leopard Trek
    3 Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto
    4 Alessandro Ballan (Ita) BMC Racing Team
    5 Filippo Pozzato (Ita) Katusha Team
    6 Michele Scarponi (Ita) Lampre - ISD
    7 Yoann Offredo (Fra) FDJ
    8 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale 0:00:03

  227. 15:55:15 GMT

    Daniel: he picked gilbert's wheel which was a bit of gamble as the Belgian had just been brought back but it really was a textbook sprint in the end.

    Inner Ring: His biggest win was probably GP Plouay, a win which hinted he's more than a sprinter, he's able to cope with hills and changes of pace and go with the moves before unleashing the sprint

  228. 15:56:26 GMT

    Inner Ring: HTC-Highroad's 14th win of the year

  229. 16:00:33 GMT

    From Inner Ring and myself, thanks for joining us today.