Favourites' reactions to Primavera

On the day after the 97th Primavera Milano-Sanremo, reactions to the unusual race outcome have been plenty. The Belgian Quick.Step squad was of course very happy to have outsmarted the rest of the sprinter's teams, especially Alessandro Petacchi's Milram outfit, which missed out on the victory by just a couple of metres: the crucial question of timing to bridge the gap to victorious breakaway Filippo Pozzato was raised, as well as the firepower of the Milram train questioned - but not by the Italo-German sprint protagonists themselves, who were satisfied with their performance.

But first of all, the world champion Tom Boonen said that he was relieved he had not won the race, but instead finished fourth behind his own Quick.Step teammate. "For me, only the first place counts, and it went to a teammate that really deserved it," he told Belgian Sportwereld. "I'm really happy that it wasn't me this time. Boonen all the time can't be good for anybody - not for me, not for the media, not for my fans. Because in time, everybody will feel it is normal [for Boonen to win]. Cipo had to wait 12 to 14 years before he won (sic), Bettini one year out of seven. If you win everything, the fun is gone too.

"Today, I was again able to see that I have a Primavera win in my legs, and our rivals could experience that Quick.Step-Innergetic wasn't eliminated even if they didn't play the Boonen-card. With Bettini, Pozzato, Nuyens and myself we have four leaders, which also makes it easier on me."

Boonen also explained that a small mechanical in the final sprint prevented him from obtaining a higher placing, possibly outsprinting Alessandro Petacchi. "I couldn't get the chain on the 11," he recalled, speaking of the moment when he was on Petacchi's wheel in the last few hundred metres of the Via Roma. "It's the third time this has happened this year. But for me it was better that Pozzato won. I could sense that Milram was losing, as the panic was so great that Zabel went to the front 1500 metres from the finish and drove himself right out of it."

Meanwhile, Petacchi's high-profile domestique Erik Zabel - himself a four times winner of the event - viewed that last bit of the famous Italian spring classic as a perfect moment of teamwork instead of insisting on the defeat. "Three kilometres before the line [Petacchi] said that he felt super," Zabel told German Radsportnews. "So we rode for him immediately. It worked out really well between us, except for the fact that Pozzato went off the front..."

His teammate and last year's winner Alessandro Petacchi would have liked more Milram men around him on the last climb, the Poggio. "Cortinovis and Den Bakker were gone before the finale," he told Belgian Sportwereld. "I had counted on them in the Poggio nonetheless." But then, 'Ale-Jet' was very satisfied with the work that had been done for him, even though it did not result in victory. "I think the squad did an excellent job; we pulled the race all the way from Milan," Petacchi told tuttobiciweb. "We were really strong; we had the responsibility on our shoulders and did everything to win. Before the Poggio, I tried to save Sacchi, Velo and Zabel for the finale, but had to sacrifice Sacchi and Velo. In the finale, Sacchi and Zabel gave their all again for me, but just couldn't do more. I was stronger than last year; I felt really well, but missed that little bit of luck to win. But to see Zabel work for my victory is the greatest satisfaction."

And the man who made the most out of the supposed bunch sprint situation in Sanremo, Filippo Pozzato, also had some meaningful words to sum up the greatest of his victories as a professional so far: "The most beautiful thing about it was that Boonen hugged me with his eyes wet, while three other teammates celebrated with me," the only 24 year-old winner told Telegraaf. "That made me feel important as a man - the rider only comes second."

His team director Wilfried Peeters also knew what to say about his young prodigy: "Pozzato is a diamond, but one that you have to cut now and again. He can have stardom attitudes, but last year he started out his season with an huge setback in his form. Maybe it was better this way, as he now has both feet firmly on the ground."

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