Skip to main content

Oscar the Cat takes his second Sanremo win

Image 1 of 108

Freire wins

Freire wins (Image credit: Sirotti)
Image 2 of 108

Bettini leads Ballan

Bettini leads Ballan (Image credit: Sirotti)
Image 3 of 108

TV Time

TV Time (Image credit: Sirotti)
Image 4 of 108

The chase

The chase (Image credit: Sirotti)
Image 5 of 108

The top three

The top three (Image credit: Sirotti)
Image 6 of 108

Axel Merckx (T-Mobile) at the start in Milano.

Axel Merckx (T-Mobile) at the start in Milano. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 7 of 108

Oscar Freire (Rabobank) with Colnago the man behind the famous machine that the 2007 Sanremo was won on.

Oscar Freire (Rabobank) with Colnago the man behind the famous machine that the 2007 Sanremo was won on. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 8 of 108

Erik Zabel (Milram) at the start in Milano.

Erik Zabel (Milram) at the start in Milano. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 9 of 108

Riders gather at the start in Milano, Castello Sforzesco.

Riders gather at the start in Milano, Castello Sforzesco. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 10 of 108

Saturday morning at Castello Sforzesco, the riders wait to race.

Saturday morning at Castello Sforzesco, the riders wait to race. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 11 of 108

La Partenza of the 98th Milano-Sanremo.

La Partenza of the 98th Milano-Sanremo. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 12 of 108

The riders roll out to start the 294 kilometre journey.

The riders roll out to start the 294 kilometre journey. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 13 of 108

Tom Boonen (Quickstep-Innergetic) looks ready to race.

Tom Boonen (Quickstep-Innergetic) looks ready to race. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 14 of 108

Tom Boonen thinking about the sprint on the Via Roma.

Tom Boonen thinking about the sprint on the Via Roma. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 15 of 108

Belgian Tom Boonen (Quickstep-Innergetic) is always very polite, even when the camera is on him all day.

Belgian Tom Boonen (Quickstep-Innergetic) is always very polite, even when the camera is on him all day. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 16 of 108

Tom Boonen (Quickstep-Innergetic) rolls on.

Tom Boonen (Quickstep-Innergetic) rolls on. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 17 of 108

David Millar (Saunier Duval-Prodir).

David Millar (Saunier Duval-Prodir). (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 18 of 108

David Millar (Saunier Duval-Prodir) looks happy to be racing (he finished 23 seconds down).

David Millar (Saunier Duval-Prodir) looks happy to be racing (he finished 23 seconds down). (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 19 of 108

The trees of Lombardy form a beautiful backdrop for a beautiful race.

The trees of Lombardy form a beautiful backdrop for a beautiful race. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 20 of 108

Many round-abouts dot this country.

Many round-abouts dot this country. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 21 of 108

2005 Sanremo winner Alessandro Petacchi (Milram)

2005 Sanremo winner Alessandro Petacchi (Milram) (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 22 of 108

Cofidis control affairs.

Cofidis control affairs. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 23 of 108

Riding along the Ligurian coast.

Riding along the Ligurian coast. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 24 of 108

The Ligurian coast offers stunning scenery.

The Ligurian coast offers stunning scenery. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 25 of 108

Riders are streaming along the parcours of the Milano-Sanremo (Descending the Poggio).

Riders are streaming along the parcours of the Milano-Sanremo (Descending the Poggio). (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 26 of 108

The peloton rolls along.

The peloton rolls along. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 27 of 108

The early escape of Pavel Brutt (Tinkoff Credit Systems), Andrei Kunitski (Acqua & Sapone-Caffè Mokambo), Koen De Kort (Astana), Emanuele Sella (Ceramica Panaria-Navigare), Roberto Traficante (Team LPR) and Aitor Hernández (Euskaltel-Euskadi).

The early escape of Pavel Brutt (Tinkoff Credit Systems), Andrei Kunitski (Acqua & Sapone-Caffè Mokambo), Koen De Kort (Astana), Emanuele Sella (Ceramica Panaria-Navigare), Roberto Traficante (Team LPR) and Aitor Hernández (Euskaltel-Euskadi). (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 28 of 108

The day's escape led by Aitor Hernández (Euskaltel-Euskadi).

The day's escape led by Aitor Hernández (Euskaltel-Euskadi). (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 29 of 108

The last minute escape of Riccardo Riccò (Saunier Duval-Prodir) and Philippe Gilbert (Française Des Jeux)

The last minute escape of Riccardo Riccò (Saunier Duval-Prodir) and Philippe Gilbert (Française Des Jeux) (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 30 of 108

Riccardo Riccò (Saunier Duval-Prodir) and Philippe Gilbert (Française Des Jeux) descend the Poggio.

Riccardo Riccò (Saunier Duval-Prodir) and Philippe Gilbert (Française Des Jeux) descend the Poggio. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 31 of 108

Riccò lived up to his word of attacking in the race

Riccò lived up to his word of attacking in the race (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 32 of 108

Bettini leads Ballan on the descent of Poggio

Bettini leads Ballan on the descent of Poggio (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 33 of 108

Freire corners on the Poggio

Freire corners on the Poggio (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 34 of 108

Alessandro Petacchi (Milram) corners on the downhill to Sanremo

Alessandro Petacchi (Milram) corners on the downhill to Sanremo (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 35 of 108

Tom Boonen (Quickstep-Innergetic) on the Poggio

Tom Boonen (Quickstep-Innergetic) on the Poggio (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 36 of 108

2006 Winner Filippo Pozzato (Liquigas) on the run down to Sanremo

2006 Winner Filippo Pozzato (Liquigas) on the run down to Sanremo (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 37 of 108

Robbie McEwen (Predictor-Lotto) followed by Manuele Mori (Saunier Duval-Prodir)

Robbie McEwen (Predictor-Lotto) followed by Manuele Mori (Saunier Duval-Prodir) (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 38 of 108

TV Time for Riccardo Riccò (Saunier Duval-Prodir) and Philippe Gilbert (Française Des Jeux)

TV Time for Riccardo Riccò (Saunier Duval-Prodir) and Philippe Gilbert (Française Des Jeux) (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 39 of 108

Paolo Bettini (Quickstep-Innergetic) did not have great day

Paolo Bettini (Quickstep-Innergetic) did not have great day (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 40 of 108

Paolo Bettini (Quickstep-Innergetic) followed by Alessandro Ballan (Lampre-Fondital)

Paolo Bettini (Quickstep-Innergetic) followed by Alessandro Ballan (Lampre-Fondital) (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 41 of 108

The chase is on.

The chase is on. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 42 of 108

Welcome to Sanremo.

Welcome to Sanremo. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 43 of 108

Freire wins his second Milano-Sanremo

Freire wins his second Milano-Sanremo (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 44 of 108

Oscar Freire (Rabobank) takes the sprint.

Oscar Freire (Rabobank) takes the sprint. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 45 of 108

Fists are pumping! Oscar Freire (Rabobank) wins the 98th Milano-Sanremo.

Fists are pumping! Oscar Freire (Rabobank) wins the 98th Milano-Sanremo. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 46 of 108

Spaniard Oscar Freire (Rabobank) wins Sanremo.

Spaniard Oscar Freire (Rabobank) wins Sanremo. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 47 of 108

Freire punches the air.

Freire punches the air. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 48 of 108

Arms raised... Oscar Freire (Rabobank) confirms he has won his second Sanremo.

Arms raised... Oscar Freire (Rabobank) confirms he has won his second Sanremo. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 49 of 108

Freire conquered Tom Boonen (Quickstep-Innergetic) and Allan Davis (Discovery Channel).

Freire conquered Tom Boonen (Quickstep-Innergetic) and Allan Davis (Discovery Channel). (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 50 of 108

2X Sanremo and 3X World Champion Oscar Freire (Rabobank)

2X Sanremo and 3X World Champion Oscar Freire (Rabobank) (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 51 of 108

Oscar Freire (Rabobank) awarded.

Oscar Freire (Rabobank) awarded. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 52 of 108

Oscar Freire (Rabobank) opening the bubbly.

Oscar Freire (Rabobank) opening the bubbly. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 53 of 108

Oscar Freire (Rabobank) on the podium.

Oscar Freire (Rabobank) on the podium. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 54 of 108

Freire with the Trophy.

Freire with the Trophy. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 55 of 108

Flowers and Trophy for Spaniard Oscar Freire (Rabobank)

Flowers and Trophy for Spaniard Oscar Freire (Rabobank) (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 56 of 108

Kisses ... Oscar Freire (Rabobank) kissed the trophy

Kisses ... Oscar Freire (Rabobank) kissed the trophy (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 57 of 108

The top three Allan Davis (Discovery Channel), Oscar Freire (Rabobank) and Tom Boonen (Quickstep-Innergetic) (l-r)

The top three Allan Davis (Discovery Channel), Oscar Freire (Rabobank) and Tom Boonen (Quickstep-Innergetic) (l-r) (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 58 of 108

Davis, Freire and Boonen (l-r) on the podium.

Davis, Freire and Boonen (l-r) on the podium. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 59 of 108

Davis, Freire and Boonen (l-r) on the podium.

Davis, Freire and Boonen (l-r) on the podium. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 60 of 108

Alessandro Petacchi (Milram) is well wrapped up at the start.

Alessandro Petacchi (Milram) is well wrapped up at the start. (Image credit: La Partenza)
Image 61 of 108

Pettachi rolls out for the start in Castello Sforzesco.

Pettachi rolls out for the start in Castello Sforzesco. (Image credit: La Partenza)
Image 62 of 108

The ceremonial start in Castello Sforzesco.

The ceremonial start in Castello Sforzesco. (Image credit: La Partenza)
Image 63 of 108

The peloton cruising in the early stages.

The peloton cruising in the early stages. (Image credit: La Partenza)
Image 64 of 108

The day's breakaway group negotiate a railway crossing.

The day's breakaway group negotiate a railway crossing. (Image credit: La Partenza)
Image 65 of 108

Warning: Staring at this photograph may have serious side-effects.

Warning: Staring at this photograph may have serious side-effects. (Image credit: La Partenza)
Image 66 of 108

Frédéric Guesdon (Française Des Jeux) and José Enrique Gutierrez (Team LPR) got tangled up midway through the race but both managed to re-join.

Frédéric Guesdon (Française Des Jeux) and José Enrique Gutierrez (Team LPR) got tangled up midway through the race but both managed to re-join. (Image credit: La Partenza)
Image 67 of 108

David Kopp (Gerolsteiner) had a nasty crash on Capo Cervo.

David Kopp (Gerolsteiner) had a nasty crash on Capo Cervo. (Image credit: La Partenza)
Image 68 of 108

Kopp sustained a broken nose in the crash but was fortunate to avoid more serious injury.

Kopp sustained a broken nose in the crash but was fortunate to avoid more serious injury. (Image credit: La Partenza)
Image 69 of 108

Yaroslav Popovych (Discovery) goes for it on the Cipressa.

Yaroslav Popovych (Discovery) goes for it on the Cipressa. (Image credit: La Partenza)
Image 70 of 108

Andrea Moletta (Gerolsteiner) crashed on the Cipressa and broke his thigh.

Andrea Moletta (Gerolsteiner) crashed on the Cipressa and broke his thigh. (Image credit: La Partenza)
Image 71 of 108

Paolo Bettini (QuickStep) picks himself up after a fall on the Cipressa.

Paolo Bettini (QuickStep) picks himself up after a fall on the Cipressa. (Image credit: La Partenza)
Image 72 of 108

The World Champion climbs back into the race.

The World Champion climbs back into the race. (Image credit: La Partenza)
Image 73 of 108

Freire sits comfortably behind Boonen on the Poggio.

Freire sits comfortably behind Boonen on the Poggio. (Image credit: La Partenza)
Image 74 of 108

QuickStep set a ferocious tempo on the Poggio to bring things together for Tom Boonen.

QuickStep set a ferocious tempo on the Poggio to bring things together for Tom Boonen. (Image credit: La Partenza)
Image 75 of 108

Philippe Gilbert (Francaise des Jeux) tried his luck with a huge attack on the Poggio.

Philippe Gilbert (Francaise des Jeux) tried his luck with a huge attack on the Poggio. (Image credit: La Partenza)
Image 76 of 108

Gilbert flies away with Matthias Kessler (Astana) and Riccardo Riccò (Saunier Duval) glued to his wheel.

Gilbert flies away with Matthias Kessler (Astana) and Riccardo Riccò (Saunier Duval) glued to his wheel. (Image credit: La Partenza)
Image 77 of 108

Gilbert leads Kessler and Ricco near the Poggio summit.

Gilbert leads Kessler and Ricco near the Poggio summit. (Image credit: La Partenza)
Image 78 of 108

Riccò drives it up the Poggio as Gilbert checks the gap.

Riccò drives it up the Poggio as Gilbert checks the gap. (Image credit: La Partenza)
Image 79 of 108

Riccò was super strong today but couldn't break the sprinters' teams.

Riccò was super strong today but couldn't break the sprinters' teams. (Image credit: La Partenza)
Image 80 of 108

Riccò and Gilbert fly down the Poggio.

Riccò and Gilbert fly down the Poggio. (Image credit: La Partenza)
Image 81 of 108

Milram gave Petacchi a great lead-out but the Italian couldn't seal the deal.

Milram gave Petacchi a great lead-out but the Italian couldn't seal the deal. (Image credit: La Partenza)
Image 82 of 108

Oscar Freire (Rabobank) wins the 89th Milan - San Remo.

Oscar Freire (Rabobank) wins the 89th Milan - San Remo. (Image credit: La Partenza)
Image 83 of 108

Freire celebrates as Allan Davis (Discovery) and Tom Boonen (QuickStep) lunge for second and third places.

Freire celebrates as Allan Davis (Discovery) and Tom Boonen (QuickStep) lunge for second and third places. (Image credit: La Partenza)
Image 84 of 108

A delighted Freire was mobbed by journalists and photographers at the finish.

A delighted Freire was mobbed by journalists and photographers at the finish. (Image credit: La Partenza)
Image 85 of 108

Filippo Pozatto (Liquigas) didn't figure in the finale today, placing a disappointing 19th.

Filippo Pozatto (Liquigas) didn't figure in the finale today, placing a disappointing 19th. (Image credit: La Partenza)
Image 86 of 108

Riccardo Riccò (Saunier Duval) interviewed by Italian TV station RAI at the finish.

Riccardo Riccò (Saunier Duval) interviewed by Italian TV station RAI at the finish. (Image credit: La Partenza)
Image 87 of 108

The podium (l-r): Allan Davis (Discovery), Oscar Freire (Rabobank) and Tom Boonen (QuickStep).

The podium (l-r): Allan Davis (Discovery), Oscar Freire (Rabobank) and Tom Boonen (QuickStep). (Image credit: La Partenza)
Image 88 of 108

Oscar Freire now has two victories in Milan - San Remo, his first coming in 2004.

Oscar Freire now has two victories in Milan - San Remo, his first coming in 2004. (Image credit: La Partenza)
Image 89 of 108

Freire lets loose with the champagne.

Freire lets loose with the champagne. (Image credit: La Partenza)
Image 90 of 108

A beautiful castle and landscape to start Milano-Sanremo

A beautiful castle and landscape to start Milano-Sanremo (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
Image 91 of 108

Axel Merckx (T-Mobile) at the start

Axel Merckx (T-Mobile) at the start (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
Image 92 of 108

David Kopp (Gerolsteiner) ended his day in the hospital.

David Kopp (Gerolsteiner) ended his day in the hospital. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
Image 93 of 108

Erki Pütsep (Bouygues Telecom) is the Estonian champ

Erki Pütsep (Bouygues Telecom) is the Estonian champ (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
Image 94 of 108

Stefano Garzelli (Acqua & Sapone) will try to escape on Poggio?

Stefano Garzelli (Acqua & Sapone) will try to escape on Poggio? (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
Image 95 of 108

Erik Zabel (Milram) dedicated himself to teammate Petacchi

Erik Zabel (Milram) dedicated himself to teammate Petacchi (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
Image 96 of 108

Tom Boonen (Quickstep-Innergetic) gives an autograph.

Tom Boonen (Quickstep-Innergetic) gives an autograph. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
Image 97 of 108

A smiling Oscar Freire (Rabobank) at the start.

A smiling Oscar Freire (Rabobank) at the start. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
Image 98 of 108

Robbie McEwen (Predictor-Lotto) finished in the top-ten.

Robbie McEwen (Predictor-Lotto) finished in the top-ten. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
Image 99 of 108

Laszlo Bodrogi (Crédit Agricole) is the Hungarian champ

Laszlo Bodrogi (Crédit Agricole) is the Hungarian champ (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
Image 100 of 108

Marco Fertonani (Caisse d'Epargne) will ride on home roads.

Marco Fertonani (Caisse d'Epargne) will ride on home roads. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
Image 101 of 108

Gregory Rast (Astana) is the Swiss champ

Gregory Rast (Astana) is the Swiss champ (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
Image 102 of 108

The riders are relaxing under the sun before the start

The riders are relaxing under the sun before the start (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
Image 103 of 108

The New Zealand Champ Julian Dean (Crédit Agricole) at the start.

The New Zealand Champ Julian Dean (Crédit Agricole) at the start. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
Image 104 of 108

CSC is talking tactics for the day

CSC is talking tactics for the day (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
Image 105 of 108

Matthias Kessler (Astana) would be a wild card for his team

Matthias Kessler (Astana) would be a wild card for his team (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
Image 106 of 108

Two Italian World Champs, Paolo Bettini (Quickstep-Innergetic) and Gianni Bugno, chatting about the race

Two Italian World Champs, Paolo Bettini (Quickstep-Innergetic) and Gianni Bugno, chatting about the race (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
Image 107 of 108

The start of the 98th Milano-Sanremo

The start of the 98th Milano-Sanremo (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
Image 108 of 108

Paolo Bettini (Quickstep-Innergetic) on the roads of La Classicissima

Paolo Bettini (Quickstep-Innergetic) on the roads of La Classicissima (Image credit: Bettini Photo)

98th Milano-Sanremo - PT

Italy, March 24, 2007

ProTour standings

Freire's feline instinct brings victory in 100th anniversary edition of Milano-Sanremo

Like a hungry orange cat pouncing on a tasty mouse, Rabobank's Oscar Freire jumped at just the right moment in the final sprint of the 98th edition of Milano-Sanremo to beat the best sprinters in the world, taking his second career win in the most prestigious of Italian one day races. And this time, it wasn't close like his 2004 victory, as Freire swooped the other speedsters to win by a bike length.

With a huge smile like the cat that ate the canary, a clearly delighted Freire told RAI-TV's Alessandra Di Stefano in a post-race interview: "I was really good today and I didn't have any problems to find the right wheel. I wanted to win and this time, my win was different from the last one (in 2004)". Three years ago, Freire snuck by an exultant Erik Zabel on the right, who celebrated his fifth Milano-Sanremo win too soon and the Spaniard won by 3cm with a brilliant bike throw. Today, the Rabobank man positioned himself perfectly on Petacchi's wheel behind the Milram leadout and made his move with a blistering jump on the left side of the road to comfortably beat Discovery Channel's Alan Davis.

Davis made a brilliant kamikaze move from behind with 150 metres to go, reaching Freire's wheel just as the Spaniard jumped and following him to the line with a perfect bike throw to snatch second from Tom Boonen, with his fellow Aussies Robbie McEwen (Predictor-Lotto) 4th and Stuart O'Grady (CSC) in 5th. With his runner-up spot in La Classicissima, Davis continues Discovery Channel's series of excellent results this Spring. Quick.Step's Tom Boonen had a good race to make the podium at Milano-Sanremo, while Milram's Alessandro Petacchi was a disappointing 8th. And although he had a royal lead-out today with Ongarato, Velo and Erik Zabel in the last kilometre, Petacchi seemed to lack the explosive action in his jump; the Italian even stopped pedaling in the last 50 metres and was passed by Zabel who ended up 7th. Petacchi's loyal Milram teammate Marco Velo seemed to rationalize Petacchi's poor performance today when he said post-race that, "we did a great job today and after all he's been through, Petacchi's ride today was like a victory."

Fresh from back-to-back stage wins at Tirreno-Adriatico, Saunier-Duval's Ricardo Ricco made a brilliant attack on the Poggio as he promised. Ricco took off with Francaise des Jeux's Phillipe Gilbert and got what looked like a race winning gap. At the summit of the Poggio ascent, the duo had a 10" lead, but just couldn't hold off the determined chase of the sprinters' teams and were reeled in with 1200 metres to go. "There were only two of us," explained Ricco, "and if we had been three or four away, we might have stayed away. In the last kilometre of the Poggio, Gilbert went and I followed, then counter-attacked. After that, I was tapped out and didn't have anything left. I had really great legs today and showed something, so I'll be back next year for another try."

World Champion Paolo Bettini (Quick.Step) had an unlucky Milano-Sanremo, as he was caught behind a crash before the Cipressa with 30km to go and had to chase hard to get back in the race.

But the tough little Tuscan showed why he is wearing those rainbow stripes and came back to have an important impact in the finale of this year's race. "I wasn't too good today but I have to thank my teammate Tosatto who encouraged me today," said Bettini. "I wanted to abandon at the second feed zone but he told me to keep going. I had to come back before the Cipressa and it was hard but I was there on the Poggio, working for Tom (Boonen)." Although his team rode an excellent race, last year's winner Filippo Pozatto (Liquigas) was never a factor in this year's edition of Milano-Sanremo.

How it unfolded

197 riders rolled out from Castello Sforzesco at 9.15am for the ceremonial start, and at 9.30am in via Chiesa Rossa on the southern outskirts of Milan, the race was officially started and the hostilities began right away with attack after attack. In the first hour, 46.1km were covered on the flat roads south of Milan into a headwind. The high speed and constant attacking continued for another hour, and after two hours of Milano-Sanremo, the average speed was 46.2km/h.

After 86km of racing near Pozzolo Formigaro, the right combination of six riders got away from the main gruppo and the escape consisted of Pavel Brutt (Tinkoff), Andrei Kunitski (Aqua & Sapone), Emmanuele Sella (Panaria), Aitor Hernandez (Euskaltel), Koen De Koert (Rabobank) and Roberto Trafficante (LPR).

After 120km in Ovada at the foot of the Paso Turchino, the six riders had a maximum advantage of 7'51". At the first feed zone in Campo Ligure after 135km, there was a crash with Frédéric Guesdon (Francaise des Jeux) and José Ivan Gutierrez (Caisse d'Epargne), who both abandoned. As the riders approached the coastal mountain range that divides the Po River valley from the sea coast of Liguria, the snowy north slopes of the Passo Turchino and the cold mountain air made for difficult conditions. At the top of the Passo Turchino, it was Sella who passed first with the gruppo at 7'05".

On the long descent of the Passo Turchino, Daniele Contrini (Tinkoff) and Marco Fertonani (Caisse d'Epargne) hit a guardrail causing the Tinkoff rider to abandon. As the gruppo headed down the descent and rode on to the via Aurelia coast road, light intermittent rain began to fall along the Rivera Ligure, making the road slippery and provoking numerous crashes. Up front, Trafficante was dropped from the break in Piani di Invrea as Brutt and Kunitski were riding hard to stay away. After the second feed zone in Ceriale, there was a crash near Alassio, where Sébastien Hinault (Credit Agricole) and Riccardo Riccò (Saunier Duval) hit the deck.

In Pietra Ligure after 215km, the now five-strong break's lead had dropped to 4'52", with the average speed after five hours of racing a speedy 43.84km/h.

By Laigueglia, the break had a 3'00" lead with Milram, Quick.Step, Lampre and Rabobank chasing on the front. The front riders hit the first of the coastal climbs, Capo Mele and Brutt rode hard, gapping the other riders in the break.

On Capo Cervo with 48km to go, Sella and De Koert were dropped from the break and swallowed up by the fast moving gruppo. The four breakaway riders' lead was falling and at the conclusion of Capo Cervo, the break's gap was now down to one minute. At this point there was a crash in the gruppo that took Gerolsteiner's David Kopp out of the race.

Brutt continued to power the break through Diana Marina and into Imperia with 40km to race, but the gap was now down to 40". There were 10km between the base of Capo Cervo and the beginning of the penultimate ascent of the day, the Cipressa, and the wet slippery roads were causing more crashes, as Marco Zanotti (Unibet) and two Barloworld riders hit the deck. World Champion Bettini was caught behind the crash and was delayed, re-injuring his broken rib and having to chase hard to get back on the tail of the main gruppo.

With 27km to go in San Lorenzo a Mare, the 5.7km ascent of the Cipressa began. The front trio still had a 30" lead as the riders maneuvered for position behind. Hernandez attacked the break as Brutt chased hard but the gruppo sucked up the break with 26km to race on the first ramps of the Cipressa. Meanwhile, Thomas Voeckler (Bouyges) attacked off the front of the gruppo but his move was covered by Manuel Quinziato (Liquigas) as Bettini was trying to work his way back through the group to the front. Quick.Step brought back the attack and it was gruppo compatto halfway up the Cipressa.

Franco Pellizotti was next to attack from Liquigas to keep the pressure on and Andrea Moletta (Gerolsteiner) bridged across to him as some splits were created behind. Next up was a big attack from Yaroslav Popovych (Discovery) who came across to the front duo as Lampre chased behind. At the summit, the asphalt of the tricky, twisting descent back to via Aurelia was fortunately dry.

The time for the ascent was 9'57", while the record for the Cipressa is 9'28", an average speed of 34km/h.

Local lad Mirko Celestino (Milram) dove down the twisty road with 20km remaing to try and get across to the break with Patxi Vila (Lampre), as Moletta then crashed hard out of the lead break when he lost control on a tight curve and hit a light pole on the left side of the road, smashing his left side hard. Now on the via Aurelia, Popovych and Pellizotti were 10" ahead of Celestino and Vila, with the gruppo at 20". In Arma di Taggia, the gruppo, led by Boonen's Quick.Step boys was closing in on the Milram and Lampre riders as Celestino wasn't pulling through under team orders.

Popovych and Pellizotti had gained time up front and with 12km to race through the Gastaletti tunnel, the duo had 28" on the Quick.Step led gruppo. Bettini had come back and was tucked in just behind his team. As the final climb of the Poggio began with 9km to go, the dynamic duo had lost ground to the now CSC led peloton and were just 8" behind. After 500m of the Poggio, it was gruppo compatto as Carlos Baredo (Quick.Step) was on the front. The pace was fast but not all out while Popovych attacked again before the first hairpin curve. He was chased by Alexander Efimkin (Barloworld) who never got across, but then Ricardo Serrano (Tinkoff) went after Popovych. As the attackers hit the false flat near the Madonna della Guardia chapel, Popovych was caught and Philippe Gilbert (Française des Jeux ) then attacked on the steepest part of the Poggio. Ricco took off after him with Matthias Kessler (Astana) and the Saunier Duval rider then counter-attacked, ascending the Poggio like an elevator with just 6.5km to go.

Behind, Kim Kirchen (T-Mobile), Bettini, Fränk Schleck (CSC) and Freire were chasing hard and over the top of the Poggio with 5.7km to race, Ricco and Gilbert had a 10" lead on the chasing group. But World Champion Bettini was still working hard, chasing all out to bring the two escapees back with Lampre's Ballan and Vila and Kirchen behind. As the front duo came back on the via Aurelia after the Poggio descent with 2.3km to go, they still had a lead of 100m on the chasers, but the sprinters' teams like Lampre and Milram were setting up behind and they brought the two fugitives to heal with 1.2km left to race. It would be a mass sprint again on via Roma and Milram rode a great leadout for their man Petacchi, but an opportunistic Oscar Freire came off Petacchi's wheel with perfect timing as the 31 year-old Spaniard from Torrelavega who lives in Switzerland has won three World Road Championships. If Freire can keep his health this year, he may make it four this coming September in Stuttgart.

Latest on Cyclingnews