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Picture gallery: The early action from Milan-San Remo 2011

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Peter Sagan: the big outsider

Peter Sagan: the big outsider
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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Thor Hushovd stood out in his all-white kit.

Thor Hushovd stood out in his all-white kit.
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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Tom Boonen looked relaxed and confident.

Tom Boonen looked relaxed and confident.
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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Philippe Gilbert talks to Sporza television.

Philippe Gilbert talks to Sporza television.
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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Ballan gives a final interview.

Ballan gives a final interview.
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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Alessandro Ballan was showing off his new Fizik shoes.

Alessandro Ballan was showing off his new Fizik shoes.
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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Tyler Farrar: one of Garmin-Cervelo's three cards for the finale.

Tyler Farrar: one of Garmin-Cervelo's three cards for the finale.
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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Mark Cavendish was serious but relaxed at the start in Milan.

Mark Cavendish was serious but relaxed at the start in Milan.
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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Bradley Wiggins and Mark Cavendish were best buddies before the start.

Bradley Wiggins and Mark Cavendish were best buddies before the start.
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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Filippo Pozzato (Katusha)

Filippo Pozzato (Katusha)
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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British national champion Geraint Thomas (Team Sky)

British national champion Geraint Thomas (Team Sky)
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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Robbie McEwen (RadioShack)

Robbie McEwen (RadioShack)
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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Mark Cavendish's Specialized Venge bike awaits.

Mark Cavendish's Specialized Venge bike awaits.
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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World champion Thor Hushovd (Garmin-Cervelo) was one of the favourites.

World champion Thor Hushovd (Garmin-Cervelo) was one of the favourites.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Anything Leopard Trek can do, Androni Giocattoli can do too. Gianni Savio and co. in Italy's style capital, Milan.

Anything Leopard Trek can do, Androni Giocattoli can do too. Gianni Savio and co. in Italy's style capital, Milan.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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The tifosi were out in force in Milan.

The tifosi were out in force in Milan.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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The bunch leaves the famed stronghold of the Sforza family.

The bunch leaves the famed stronghold of the Sforza family.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Japanese champion Takashi Miyazawa (Farnese Vini-Neri Sottoli) on the start line of Milan-San Remo.

Japanese champion Takashi Miyazawa (Farnese Vini-Neri Sottoli) on the start line of Milan-San Remo.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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The riders signed on in the shadow of the splendid Castello Sforzesco.

The riders signed on in the shadow of the splendid Castello Sforzesco.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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The Castello Sforzesco was the backdrop for the start of the race.

The Castello Sforzesco was the backdrop for the start of the race.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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The peloton leaves Milan behind on the long road to San Remo.

The peloton leaves Milan behind on the long road to San Remo.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Takashi Miyazawa (Farnese Vini-Neri Sottoli), Giovanni Visconti (Farnese Vini-Neri Sottoli) and Thor Hushovd (Garmin-Cervelo) honour the victims of the Japanese disaster.

Takashi Miyazawa (Farnese Vini-Neri Sottoli), Giovanni Visconti (Farnese Vini-Neri Sottoli) and Thor Hushovd (Garmin-Cervelo) honour the victims of the Japanese disaster.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Japanese champion Takashi Miyazawa (Farnese Vini-Neri Sottoli) put in an emotion-drive performance.

Japanese champion Takashi Miyazawa (Farnese Vini-Neri Sottoli) put in an emotion-drive performance.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Alessandro De Marchi (Androni), Nico Sijmens (Cofidis), Takashi Miyazawa (Farnese) and Mikhail Ignatiev (Katusha) were the riders in the day's early break.

Alessandro De Marchi (Androni), Nico Sijmens (Cofidis), Takashi Miyazawa (Farnese) and Mikhail Ignatiev (Katusha) were the riders in the day's early break.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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The imposing Castello Sforzesco.

The imposing Castello Sforzesco.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Takashi Miyazawa (Farnese Vini-Neri Sottoli) before the start.

Takashi Miyazawa (Farnese Vini-Neri Sottoli) before the start.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Lars Boom (Rabobank) lined up as a dark horse in Milan.

Lars Boom (Rabobank) lined up as a dark horse in Milan.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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The banned Franco Pellizotti still has his admirers.

The banned Franco Pellizotti still has his admirers.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Roberto Ferrari (Androni Giocattoli) was one of the riders paying tribute to the Japanese victims.

Roberto Ferrari (Androni Giocattoli) was one of the riders paying tribute to the Japanese victims.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Riders, press and fans gather in Milan.

Riders, press and fans gather in Milan.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Filippo Pozzato (Katusha) won Milan-San Remo in 2006.

Filippo Pozzato (Katusha) won Milan-San Remo in 2006.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Takashi Miyazawa (Farnese Vini-Neri Sottoli), Giovanni Visconti (Farnese Vini-Neri Sottoli) and Thor Hushovd (Garmin-Cervelo) led the tributes to the victims of the Japanese earthquake.

Takashi Miyazawa (Farnese Vini-Neri Sottoli), Giovanni Visconti (Farnese Vini-Neri Sottoli) and Thor Hushovd (Garmin-Cervelo) led the tributes to the victims of the Japanese earthquake.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Simone Stortoni (Colnago-CSF) contemplates 300km in the saddle.

Simone Stortoni (Colnago-CSF) contemplates 300km in the saddle.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Giovanni Visconti comforts his Farnese Vini-Neri Sottoli teammate Takashi Miyazawa at the start in Milan.

Giovanni Visconti comforts his Farnese Vini-Neri Sottoli teammate Takashi Miyazawa at the start in Milan.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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The veteran Marzio Bruseghin (Movistar) signs the Japanese flag.

The veteran Marzio Bruseghin (Movistar) signs the Japanese flag.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Thor Hushovd (Garmin-Cervelo) signs on.

Thor Hushovd (Garmin-Cervelo) signs on.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Thor Hushovd (Garmin-Cervelo) rolls out of Milan.

Thor Hushovd (Garmin-Cervelo) rolls out of Milan.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)

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.