Freire gives Oscar-winning performance in Milan - San Remo

Spaniard takes his third Milan - San Remo victory

Oscar Freire (Rabobank) claimed his third and most emphatic victory in the Italian Classic, Milan-San Remo, on Saturday afternoon. The Spaniard positioned himself perfectly for a sprint finish from a select group of 25 riders to defeat race favourite Tom Boonen (Quick Step) and Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre-Farnese Vini).

Despite several spirited attempts by riders to get away on the ever-decisive Poggio, the favourites all regrouped in the three-kilometre dash towards the finish. Liquigas entered the final kilometre at the front, but it was a cagey Freire who benefited most from the lime green lead-out as he leapt out from third wheel to finish a bike length clear of Boonen.

"I think I deserved to win my first win Milan-San Remo because Zabel wasn't the same rider he had been," said Freire, as he compared his 2004 and 2007 wins with his latest title. "The second Milan-San Remo went really went and I did a great sprint. This year it was the same. I think I had good form. I was scared of the finish because it wasn't on the Via Roma, which I prefer. Fortunately it went well."

Snap, crackle and pop on the Poggio

The sprint finish defied pre-race predictions of late attackers being able to stay away, though, it was not for lack of trying. A nervous-looking peloton appeared willing to delay hostilities on the Cipressa, and despite a move by Alexandr Kolobnev (Katusha) towards the top of the penultimate climb, it wasn't until the Poggio that all-out war commenced.

A bold move by Yoann Offredo (Francaise des Jeux) on the descent off the Cipressa was met just kilometres later, on the Poggio, with a stampede from a Stefano Garzelli-led peloton. As the Acqua & Sapone man swung off, Michael Rogers (HTC-Columbia) tore off the front of the race, with Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) and Filippo Pozzato (Katusha) launching their own counter-attacks.

Pozzato led the race over the summit, but as he began the descent, the proximity of his rivals made it clear that a sizable group was going to make it to the finish. Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas) led a hair-raising descent into San Remo and although he took Pozzato, Gilbert, Thor Hushovd (Cervelo TestTeam) and Matti Breschel (Saxo Bank) with him, the race once again came back together as the terrain flattened out for the final kilometres.

Freire admitted afterwards that this regrouping was key to his eventual victory. "The most difficult moment for me was on the descent of Poggio," he said. "Pozzato got a gap with five or six others. I was scared they'd stay away. Then when he attacked I knew I had to just find a good wheel because I couldn't chase him. That was the only way I could win was in a sprint."

A final flourish from Nibali was answered by Pozzato, who went clear with two kilometres to go. After a moment's hesitation by the pack, Liquigas took responsibility for drawing the Italian Champion back once more as its team led the way into the final kilometre. Around a minute later, Freire slid out of their slipstream and sprinted across the line for yet another famous victory at La Classicisma.

"The statistics say that Milan-San Remo finishes more often than not in a sprint and so the sprinters have to wait for the sprint. There are always attacks, for sure, but there always are a lot of sprinters who want a sprint finish. A team like Liquigas could have done everything, go on the attack or wait for the sprint. They opted for a sprint but we all took advantage of that.

"When I started the sprint I knew I was in a good position and had good legs for it," he said. "I'd been worried about being blocked in like two years ago but this time the right people were up there for the sprint and I found the right wheel. Bennati went, but I don't think he had the legs today."

And so it begins

Just under seven hours earlier, the peloton had left a drizzly Milan for their journey to the coast. With the flag pulled in, the customary early attack followed just three kilometres down the road. Unsurprisingly, it was an all Italian affair as Fabrice Piemontesi (Androni Giocatolli), Aristide Ratti (Carmiooro NGC) and Diego Caccia (ISD-Neri) used the outskirts of Milan to make good their escape.

With almost 300 kilometres on the day's agenda, the trio were given a wide berth. Lampre-Farnese Vini, Liquigas-Doimo, Katusha and HTC-Columbia were the teams patrolling the front of the peloton behind, but their tempo was tranquil enough to allow the leaders to push out to over 22 minutes. However, as they approached the Passo del Turchino the leaders' time gap commenced its gradual retreat.

Quick Step now making themselves visible at the front of the main group, the time gap began to drop. The leaders began the climb with 16:25 and they finished it with a little over 12 minutes. There was no rush to shrink that gap further, and the leaders were still out in front on the slopes of Le Mànie, with 100 kilometres to go. But their advantage was now a meagre two minutes.

While the leaders had been making their way between the Turchino and Le Mànie, the race behind had split after a crash on the descent of the Turchino, with reigning champion Mark Cavendish caught in the latter selection. The Briton's HTC-Columbia squad immediately came to the front in order to limit the damage. While Cavendish's men set to work, Murilo Fischer (Garmin-Transitions), who had also crashed in the incident, left the race with a broken collarbone.

As attention focussed on the gap between the pelotons, the leaders were brought back by the front section of the grim-coated group at 81 kilometres-to-go. Caccia, who had spent more than 200 kilometres out in front, had clearly developed a penchant for that position in the race. The Italian took point duty at the front and controlled the tempo of the 30-strong group for another five kilometres.

With no-one in the mood to push the pace in the front group, the two halves of the peloton reformed. But at 60 kilometres to go AG2R-La Mondiale's Maxime Bouet decided to attempt mission impossible as he fired off the front. The young Frenchman quickly built a 20-second buffer, which he gradually stretched out towards 40 seconds. Dimitri Grabovskyy (ISD-Neri) was one of the first to answer the move as seven riders attempted to bridge across to the lone leader.

Grabovskyy was the only one able to catch Bouet. He made brief contact before storming past the AG2R rider on the Capo Berta. Unfortunately for the Ukrainian, the peloton had started to sharpen the pencil and it wasn't long before he too was recouped after the town of Imperia, with 37 kilometres to go.

With Grabovskyy caught and the peloton once again back to status quo, Milram led onto the Cipressa and into what would be a fantastic finale for Freire.

Full Results

#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Oscar Freire Gomez (Spa) Rabobank6:57:28 
2Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick Step  
3Alessandro Petacchi (Ita) Lampre-Farnese Vini  
4Sacha Modolo (Ita) Colnago - CSF Inox  
5Daniele Bennati (Ita) Liquigas-Doimo  
6Thor Hushovd (Nor) Cervelo Test Team  
7Francesco Ginanni (Ita) Androni Giocattoli  
8Maxim Iglinsky (Kaz) Astana  
9Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto  
10Luca Paolini (Ita) Acqua & Sapone  
11Matti Breschel (Den) Team Saxo Bank  
12Anthony Geslin (Fra) Française Des Jeux  
13Enrico Gasparotto (Ita) Astana  
14Geoffroy Lequatre (Fra) Team Radioshack  
15Paul Martens (Ger) Rabobank  
16Yoann Offredo (Fra) Française Des Jeux  
17Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Team Saxo Bank  
18Juan Antonio Flecha Giannoni (Spa) Sky Professional Cycling Team  
19Linus Gerdemann (Ger) Team Milram  
20Pablo Lastras Garcia (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne  
21Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Quick Step  
22Marcus Burghardt (Ger) BMC Racing Team  
23Daniel Oss (Ita) Liquigas-Doimo  
24Xavier Florencio Cabre (Spa) Cervelo Test Team  
25Michael Rogers (Aus) Team HTC - Columbia  
26Andriy Grivko (Ukr) Astana0:00:09 
27Thomas Lövkvist (Swe) Sky Professional Cycling Team  
28Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas-Doimo  
29Filippo Pozzato (Ita) Team Katusha0:00:18 
30Michele Scarponi (Ita) Androni Giocattoli0:00:21 
31Serguei Ivanov (Rus) Team Katusha0:00:39 
32Simon Clarke (Aus) ISD - Neri0:01:35 
33Lorenzo Bernucci (Ita) Lampre-Farnese Vini  
34Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre-Farnese Vini  
35Andreas Klier (Ger) Cervelo Test Team  
36Alan Perez Lezaun (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi0:01:40 
37Dmitriy Muravyev (Kaz) Team Radioshack  
38Lloyd Mondory (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale  
39Jose Joaquin Rojas Gil (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne  
40Francisco José Ventoso Alberdi (Spa) Carmiooro NGC  
41Niki Terpstra (Ned) Team Milram  
42Tyler Farrar (USA) Garmin - Transitions  
43Juan Jose Oroz Ugalde (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi  
44Bernhard Eisel (Aut) Team HTC - Columbia  
45Ruben Perez Moreno (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi  
46Alexandr Kolobnev (Rus) Team Katusha  
47Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto  
48Eduard Vorganov (Rus) Team Katusha  
49Rui Alberto Faria Da Costa (Por) Caisse d'Epargne  
50Christian Knees (Ger) Team Milram  
51Markus Fothen (Ger) Team Milram  
52Karsten Kroon (Ned) BMC Racing Team  
53Wesley Sulzberger (Aus) Française Des Jeux  
54Michael Barry (Can) Sky Professional Cycling Team  
55George Hincapie (USA) BMC Racing Team  
56Markel Irizar Aranburu (Spa) Team Radioshack  
57Sébastien Rosseler (Bel) Team Radioshack  
58Jackson Rodriguez (Ven) Androni Giocattoli  
59Gabriel Rasch (Nor) Cervelo Test Team  
60Bram Tankink (Ned) Rabobank  
61Nick Nuyens (Bel) Rabobank  
62Sebastian Langeveld (Ned) Rabobank  
63Oscar Gatto (Ita) ISD - Neri  
64Alessandro Ballan (Ita) BMC Racing Team  
65Sébastien Hinault (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale  
66Rene Mandri (Est) AG2R La Mondiale  
67William Bonnet (Fra) BBox Bouygues Telecom  
68Matteo Tosatto (Ita) Quick Step  
69Emanuele Sella (Ita) Carmiooro NGC  
70Francesco Gavazzi (Ita) Lampre-Farnese Vini  
71Jérôme Pineau (Fra) Quick Step  
72Inaki Isasi Flores (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi  
73Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) Colnago - CSF Inox  
74Mirco Lorenzetto (Ita) Lampre-Farnese Vini  
75Dries Devenyns (Bel) Quick Step  
76Jose Rodolfo Serpa Perez (Col) Androni Giocattoli  
77Manuele Mori (Ita) Lampre-Farnese Vini  
78Assan Bazayev (Kaz) Astana  
79Manuel Quinziato (Ita) Liquigas-Doimo  
80Benoît Vaugrenard (Fra) Française Des Jeux  
81Rigoberto Uran Uran (Col) Caisse d'Epargne  
82Franco Pellizotti (Ita) Liquigas-Doimo0:01:49 
83Stefano Garzelli (Ita) Acqua & Sapone  
84Dimitri Champion (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale0:01:54 
85Francesco Failli (Ita) Acqua & Sapone0:03:04 
86Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Liquigas-Doimo0:03:13 
87Vasili Kiryienka (Blr) Caisse d'Epargne  
88Steve Chainel (Fra) BBox Bouygues Telecom0:05:29 
89Mark Cavendish (GBr) Team HTC - Columbia0:06:12 
90Mirko Selvaggi (Ita) Astana  
91Giovanni Visconti (Ita) ISD - Neri  
92Grégory Rast (Swi) Team Radioshack  
93Thomas Leezer (Ned) Rabobank  
94Lars Boom (Ned) Rabobank  
95Maarten Tjallingii (Ned) Rabobank  
96Greg Henderson (NZl) Sky Professional Cycling Team  
97Brett Lancaster (Aus) Cervelo Test Team  
98Johan Van Summeren (Bel) Garmin - Transitions  
99Christopher Sutton (Aus) Sky Professional Cycling Team  
100Cameron Wurf (Aus) Androni Giocattoli  
101Jurgen Roelandts (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto  
102Frédéric Guesdon (Fra) Française Des Jeux  
103Mickael Delage (Fra) Omega Pharma-Lotto  
104Anders Lund (Den) Team Saxo Bank  
105David Millar (GBr) Garmin - Transitions  
106Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Sky Professional Cycling Team  
107Marco Velo (Ita) Quick Step  
108Xabier Zandio Echaide (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne  
109Sébastien Turgot (Fra) BBox Bouygues Telecom0:10:07 
110Biel Kadri (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale  
111Luca Mazzanti (Ita) Team Katusha  
112Daryl Impey (RSA) Team Radioshack  
113Fumiyuki Beppu (Jpn) Team Radioshack  
114Michael Schär (Swi) BMC Racing Team  
115Peter Wrolich (Aut) Team Milram  
116Alan Marangoni (Ita) Colnago - CSF Inox  
117Marco Frapporti (Ita) Colnago - CSF Inox  
118Vladimir Efimkin (Rus) AG2R La Mondiale  
119Mathieu Claude (Fra) BBox Bouygues Telecom  
120Stuart O'grady (Aus) Team Saxo Bank  
121Lars Ytting Bak (Den) Team HTC - Columbia  
122Matthew Wilson (Aus) Garmin - Transitions  
123Paul Voss (Ger) Team Milram  
124Danilo Hondo (Ger) Lampre-Farnese Vini  
125Staf Scheirlinckx (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto  
126Allan Davis (Aus) Astana  
127Frank Hoj (Den) Team Saxo Bank  
128Gustav Larsson (Swe) Team Saxo Bank  
129Mathew Hayman (Aus) Sky Professional Cycling Team  
130Dmytro Grabovskyy (Ukr) ISD - Neri  
131Paolo Longo Borghini (Ita) ISD - Neri  
132Aristide Ratti (Ita) Carmiooro NGC  
133Jure Kocjan (Slo) Carmiooro NGC  
134Vladimir Miholjevic (Cro) Acqua & Sapone  
135Alessandro Fantini (Ita) Acqua & Sapone  
136Pablo Urtasun Perez (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi  
137Jorge Azanza Soto (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi  
138Laurent Beuret (Swi) Carmiooro NGC  
139Rubens Bertogliati (Swi) Androni Giocattoli  
140Eric Berthou (Fra) Carmiooro NGC  
141Luke Roberts (Aus) Team Milram0:10:18 
142Jeremy Hunt (GBr) Cervelo Test Team0:14:24 
143Olivier Bonnaire (Fra) Française Des Jeux  
144Alessandro Donati (Ita) Acqua & Sapone  
145Valeriy Dmitriyev (Kaz) Astana0:17:17 
146Danilo Wyss (Swi) BMC Racing Team  
147Roy Sentjens (Bel) Team Milram  
148Valerio Agnoli (Ita) Liquigas-Doimo  
149Yauheni Hutarovich (Blr) Française Des Jeux  
150Diego Caccia (Ita) ISD - Neri  
151Daniele Ratto (Ita) Carmiooro NGC  
152Maxime Bouet (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale  
153Fabrice Piemontesi (Ita) Androni Giocattoli  
DNFMichael Albasini (Swi) Team HTC - Columbia  
DNFMatthew Harley Goss (Aus) Team HTC - Columbia  
DNFMaxime Monfort (Bel) Team HTC - Columbia  
DNFPeter Velits (Svk) Team HTC - Columbia  
DNFDario Andriotto (Ita) Acqua & Sapone  
DNFMassimo Codol (Ita) Acqua & Sapone  
DNFAlexander Efimkin (Rus) AG2R La Mondiale  
DNFDamiano Margutti (Ita) Androni Giocattoli  
DNFSergey Renev (Kaz) Astana  
DNFYukiya Arashiro (Jpn) BBox Bouygues Telecom  
DNFSaïd Haddou (Fra) BBox Bouygues Telecom  
DNFAlexandre Pichot (Fra) BBox Bouygues Telecom  
DNFDamien Gaudin (Fra) BBox Bouygues Telecom  
DNFJeffry Louder (USA) BMC Racing Team  
DNFBrent Bookwalter (USA) BMC Racing Team  
DNFMarzio Bruseghin (Ita) Caisse d'Epargne  
DNFArnaud Coyot (Fra) Caisse d'Epargne  
DNFRaffaele Ferrara (Ita) Carmiooro NGC  
DNFRoger Hammond (GBr) Cervelo Test Team  
DNFDominique Rollin (Can) Cervelo Test Team  
DNFMattia Gavazzi (Ita) Colnago - CSF Inox  
DNFManuel Belletti (Ita) Colnago - CSF Inox  
DNFFederico Canuti (Ita) Colnago - CSF Inox  
DNFSimone Stortoni (Ita) Colnago - CSF Inox  
DNFKoldo Fernandez (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi  
DNFAmets Txurruka (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi  
DNFJulian Dean (NZl) Garmin - Transitions  
DNFMurilo Antonio Fischer (Bra) Garmin - Transitions  
DNFSvein Tuft (Can) Garmin - Transitions  
DNFMartijn Maaskant (Ned) Garmin - Transitions  
DNFCarlo Scognamiglio (Ita) ISD - Neri  
DNFBartosz Huzarski (Pol) ISD - Neri  
DNFMauro Da Dalto (Ita) Lampre-Farnese Vini  
DNFFabio Sabatini (Ita) Liquigas-Doimo  
DNFWilfried Cretskens (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto  
DNFMichiel Elijzen (Ned) Omega Pharma-Lotto  
DNFSebastian Lang (Ger) Omega Pharma-Lotto  
DNFCarlos Barredo Llamazales (Spa) Quick Step  
DNFMaarten Wynants (Bel) Quick Step  
DNFIan Stannard (GBr) Sky Professional Cycling Team  
DNFMarco Bandiera (Ita) Team Katusha  
DNFMikhail Ignatiev (Rus) Team Katusha  
DNFKim Kirchen (Lux) Team Katusha  
DNFTomas Vaitkus (Ltu) Team Radioshack  
DNFAndy Schleck (Lux) Team Saxo Bank  
DNFBaden Cooke (Aus) Team Saxo Bank  

Full Specifications

Nico Mattan on Milan-San Remo:

Some people were surprised that Oscar Freire won Milan-San Remo but I wasn't. The riders went so easy on the Poggio, that it was going to be a bunch sprint and he knows how to win after 298km.

I know Gilbert gave it a go but you could see he was not at 100% and was never going to get away. Pozzato was probably the strongest but there wasn't much he could, with everybody else wanting a sprint finish. Anyway, cycling is not like 15 years ago when riders attacked on the Poggio and stayed away. Now everyone is at a similar level and so Milan-San Remo is not as spectacular. It will probably always end in a group sprint now unless they add an extra climb or move the finish to the top of the Poggio.

In races over 250km, Freire is the best sprinter out there, that's why he won three world titles and now three Milan-San Remo. Boonen was there but he's not really a sprinter like Freire, Cavendish or Petacchi, he's a cobbled classics rider who has a fast finish.

Freire also wanted it more. He'll never win on the cobbles, he doesn't like them, and so he put everything on winning Milan-San Remo. Now it's up to Boonen to prove he's as hungry for another win at the Ronde van Vlaanderen and Paris-Roubaix.

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