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Cancellara fires to win Sanremo solo

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Cancellara crosses the line after his incredible solo attempt

Cancellara crosses the line after his incredible solo attempt (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Paolo Bettini gave it a go on the Cipressa

Paolo Bettini gave it a go on the Cipressa (Image credit: Cicloweb.it)
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Cancellara during the attack

Cancellara during the attack (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Filippo Pozzato (Liquigas) gasps as he is leading the chasers

Filippo Pozzato (Liquigas) gasps as he is leading the chasers (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Filippo Pozzato with his new hair style

Filippo Pozzato with his new hair style (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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George Hincapie (High Road) used the race as preparation for the upcoming northern classics

George Hincapie (High Road) used the race as preparation for the upcoming northern classics (Image credit: Cicloweb.it)
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A bird's eye view as the peloton snakes along the Ligurian coast.

A bird's eye view as the peloton snakes along the Ligurian coast. (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Quick Step's Gert Steegmans follows Saunier Duval's Angel Gomez up a climb.

Quick Step's Gert Steegmans follows Saunier Duval's Angel Gomez up a climb. (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Filippo Savini (CSF Group Navigare) was part of the day's main breakaway.

Filippo Savini (CSF Group Navigare) was part of the day's main breakaway. (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Savini leads Raivis Belohvosciks (Saunier Duval) and William Frischkorn (Slipstream Chipotle) in the break.

Savini leads Raivis Belohvosciks (Saunier Duval) and William Frischkorn (Slipstream Chipotle) in the break. (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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The break continues its long journey along the Italian coast to Sanremo.

The break continues its long journey along the Italian coast to Sanremo. (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Belohvosciks and his breakaway companions built up a maximum lead of 16 minutes before being hauled back.

Belohvosciks and his breakaway companions built up a maximum lead of 16 minutes before being hauled back. (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Marzio Bruseghin (Lampre) doing the hard yards to bring back the escape.

Marzio Bruseghin (Lampre) doing the hard yards to bring back the escape. (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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The peloton began to gather momentum in the final 100 kilometres.

The peloton began to gather momentum in the final 100 kilometres. (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Tom Boonen (Quick Step) checks his batphone is working at the start.

Tom Boonen (Quick Step) checks his batphone is working at the start. (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Riders contemplating the best part of 300 kilometres on the menu today.

Riders contemplating the best part of 300 kilometres on the menu today. (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Fabian Cancellara (Team CSC) celebrates of a stunning solo move late in the race.

Fabian Cancellara (Team CSC) celebrates of a stunning solo move late in the race. (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Another extremely prestigious trophy was added to Cancellara's cabinet today.

Another extremely prestigious trophy was added to Cancellara's cabinet today. (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Two down, one to go: Can Cancellara add the Tour of Flanders to his Paris-Roubaix and Milano-Sanremo triumphs?

Two down, one to go: Can Cancellara add the Tour of Flanders to his Paris-Roubaix and Milano-Sanremo triumphs? (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Cancellara savours the moment in Sanremo.

Cancellara savours the moment in Sanremo. (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Today's podium (l-r): Filippo Pozzato (Liquigas), Fabian Cancellara (Team CSC) and Philippe Gilbert (Française des Jeux).

Today's podium (l-r): Filippo Pozzato (Liquigas), Fabian Cancellara (Team CSC) and Philippe Gilbert (Française des Jeux). (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Ivan Rovny (Tinkoff Credit Systems) attacked late in the race but couldn't get away.

Ivan Rovny (Tinkoff Credit Systems) attacked late in the race but couldn't get away. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Alessandro Bertolini started things on the Poggio and his team-mate came up, too. Bertolini is taking a breather at the back here.

Alessandro Bertolini started things on the Poggio and his team-mate came up, too. Bertolini is taking a breather at the back here. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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The peloton rides through the hills that separate the Po area from the ocean.

The peloton rides through the hills that separate the Po area from the ocean. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Coming out of the tunnel of the Passo del Turchino, the 532m-high pass that often separates good from bad weather.

Coming out of the tunnel of the Passo del Turchino, the 532m-high pass that often separates good from bad weather. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Gasparotto was active in the end, but did not manage to get onto the podium.

Gasparotto was active in the end, but did not manage to get onto the podium. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Thomas Lövkvist (High Road) takes a pull in the break with Paolo Bettini.

Thomas Lövkvist (High Road) takes a pull in the break with Paolo Bettini. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Paolo Bettini attacked on the Cipressa dragging Lövkvist with him.

Paolo Bettini attacked on the Cipressa dragging Lövkvist with him. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Bertolini seems to smile but it was more a grimace as he tried to go solo on the Poggio.

Bertolini seems to smile but it was more a grimace as he tried to go solo on the Poggio. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Bertolini is being chased by Pozzato et al.

Bertolini is being chased by Pozzato et al. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Bertolini got caught close to the top of the Poggio.

Bertolini got caught close to the top of the Poggio. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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The peloton going up the Passo del Turchino.

The peloton going up the Passo del Turchino. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Cancellara raises his arms in a victory salute.

Cancellara raises his arms in a victory salute. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Barloworld is enjoying the sun before the start in Milano.

Barloworld is enjoying the sun before the start in Milano. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Alessandro Ballan (Lampre) looked confident before the start.

Alessandro Ballan (Lampre) looked confident before the start. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Tom Boonen (Quick Step) smiles but is not at his best yet.

Tom Boonen (Quick Step) smiles but is not at his best yet. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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The peloton left Milano in a cheerful mood.

The peloton left Milano in a cheerful mood. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Bettini cracks a joke with the organisers.

Bettini cracks a joke with the organisers. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Di Luca was happy that he was allowed into the race in the last minute.

Di Luca was happy that he was allowed into the race in the last minute. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Christian Murro (Lampre) at the start from the Piazza Castello.

Christian Murro (Lampre) at the start from the Piazza Castello. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Baden Cooke (Barloworld) is happy to race a monument like Milano-Sanremo.

Baden Cooke (Barloworld) is happy to race a monument like Milano-Sanremo. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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DANGER! Be careful when crossing street car tracks on tiny little road bike wheels. But all the pros demonstrate the correct technique.

DANGER! Be careful when crossing street car tracks on tiny little road bike wheels. But all the pros demonstrate the correct technique. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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The peloton passed a few billboards.

The peloton passed a few billboards. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Erik Zabel (Team Milram) is Mr. Sanremo and has won the race fourth times already.

Erik Zabel (Team Milram) is Mr. Sanremo and has won the race fourth times already. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Massimiliano Maisto (NGC Medical-OTC Industria Porte) en route to the coast.

Massimiliano Maisto (NGC Medical-OTC Industria Porte) en route to the coast. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Danilo Di Luca (LPR Brakes) bids farewell to Giorgio Albani, who is the race director for the last time.

Danilo Di Luca (LPR Brakes) bids farewell to Giorgio Albani, who is the race director for the last time. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Cancellara was eager to leave Milano and be the first to get to Sanremo.

Cancellara was eager to leave Milano and be the first to get to Sanremo. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Ariel Maximiliano Richeze at the start.

Ariel Maximiliano Richeze at the start. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Bettini smiles and enjoys the last quiet moments before the race.

Bettini smiles and enjoys the last quiet moments before the race. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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The official partenza at kilometre 0.

The official partenza at kilometre 0. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Rosella Bonfanti is the new race director and takes over from Giorgio Albani.

Rosella Bonfanti is the new race director and takes over from Giorgio Albani. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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The peloton enjoys the sun in northern Italy.

The peloton enjoys the sun in northern Italy. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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The break is going through a tunnel.

The break is going through a tunnel. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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The break of the day included American William Frischkorn (Slipstream Chipotle - H30), here in second wheel.

The break of the day included American William Frischkorn (Slipstream Chipotle - H30), here in second wheel. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Stefan Schumacher (Gerolsteiner) is not at his best yet, but will be looking forward to the Amstel Gold race.

Stefan Schumacher (Gerolsteiner) is not at his best yet, but will be looking forward to the Amstel Gold race. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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The beautiful peloton.

The beautiful peloton. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Shadow on the wall or maybe on the road.

Shadow on the wall or maybe on the road. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Where there are shadows there is also sun!

Where there are shadows there is also sun! (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Cancellara wins the race in one of the best ways and was able to cross the line solo.

Cancellara wins the race in one of the best ways and was able to cross the line solo. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Pozzato congratulates Cancellara to his stunning performance.

Pozzato congratulates Cancellara to his stunning performance. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Pozzato gets his hair ready to be put under the helmet

Pozzato gets his hair ready to be put under the helmet (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Filippo Pozzato with the new hair style that is supposed to be more aerodynamic

Filippo Pozzato with the new hair style that is supposed to be more aerodynamic (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Cancellara during the attack in the final two kilometres.

Cancellara during the attack in the final two kilometres. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Cancellara crosses the line ahead of everyone else.

Cancellara crosses the line ahead of everyone else. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Filippo Pozzato (Liquigas) gasps as he is leading the chasers home, but the effort fell short and Pozzato could only manage second.

Filippo Pozzato (Liquigas) gasps as he is leading the chasers home, but the effort fell short and Pozzato could only manage second. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Canellara celebrates with a team-mate after his outstanding performance.

Canellara celebrates with a team-mate after his outstanding performance. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner) follows world champion Paolo Bettini (Quick Step).

Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner) follows world champion Paolo Bettini (Quick Step). (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Alessandro Petacchi (Milram) didn't figure in the finale today.

Alessandro Petacchi (Milram) didn't figure in the finale today. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Pozzato after the race and looking kinda tired but happy.

Pozzato after the race and looking kinda tired but happy. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Paolo Savoldelli (LPR Brakes) used his descending skills on the Cipressa to catch up with a four-man group, including Rebellin.

Paolo Savoldelli (LPR Brakes) used his descending skills on the Cipressa to catch up with a four-man group, including Rebellin. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Cancellara on his way to victory. The picture shows the power the Swiss rider has.

Cancellara on his way to victory. The picture shows the power the Swiss rider has. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Raivis Belohvosciks (Saunier Duval-Scott) leads the break that was on the front for most of the day.

Raivis Belohvosciks (Saunier Duval-Scott) leads the break that was on the front for most of the day. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Bettini (r) has a chat with team-mate Carlos Barredo, while the two munch away on their food.

Bettini (r) has a chat with team-mate Carlos Barredo, while the two munch away on their food. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Pozzato on the descent with his new hair style hanging out.

Pozzato on the descent with his new hair style hanging out. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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The peloton in the final phase of the race.

The peloton in the final phase of the race. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Tom Boonen shows his bike skills as he makes his way down the Italian roads.

Tom Boonen shows his bike skills as he makes his way down the Italian roads. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Carlos Barredo (Quick Step) checks his back pocket for some food, as seeing his eating team-mate Paolo Bettini made him hungry, too.

Carlos Barredo (Quick Step) checks his back pocket for some food, as seeing his eating team-mate Paolo Bettini made him hungry, too. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Liquigas in formation.

Liquigas in formation. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Cancellara on the descent.

Cancellara on the descent. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Bettini negotiating a corner.

Bettini negotiating a corner. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Bettini was cautious so he wouldn't crash, as he has already done a few times this year.

Bettini was cautious so he wouldn't crash, as he has already done a few times this year. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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The peloton sees the light at the end of the tunnel.

The peloton sees the light at the end of the tunnel. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Some riders couldn't get out of the darkness fast enough.

Some riders couldn't get out of the darkness fast enough. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Riding up the pass.

Riding up the pass. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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The sun was out!

The sun was out! (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Lots of spectators watched as the riders entered the city through the arc.

Lots of spectators watched as the riders entered the city through the arc. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Raffaele Illiano (Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni-Androni Giocattoli) in the break on the Poggio.

Raffaele Illiano (Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni-Androni Giocattoli) in the break on the Poggio. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Oscar Freire (Rabobank) before the start and getting ready to defend his title.

Oscar Freire (Rabobank) before the start and getting ready to defend his title. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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The peloton is across the top of the Passo del Turchino.

The peloton is across the top of the Passo del Turchino. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Collective natural break.

Collective natural break. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Paolo Bettini was well bundled up to give the impression of a true classic about to start.

Paolo Bettini was well bundled up to give the impression of a true classic about to start. (Image credit: partenza)
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Look at those thighs!

Look at those thighs! (Image credit: partenza)
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Robbie McEwen is relaxed before the start and may not really think he'll be there at the end today.

Robbie McEwen is relaxed before the start and may not really think he'll be there at the end today. (Image credit: partenza)
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Ariel Maximiliano Richeze (l) and team-mate Tiziano dall'Antonia before the start.

Ariel Maximiliano Richeze (l) and team-mate Tiziano dall'Antonia before the start. (Image credit: partenza)
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Bettini soaks up the sun in Milano.

Bettini soaks up the sun in Milano. (Image credit: partenza)
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George Hincapie (High Road, l) chats with Belgian Gert Steegmans.

George Hincapie (High Road, l) chats with Belgian Gert Steegmans. (Image credit: partenza)
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Defending champion Oscar Freire thought before the start that it'd be hard for him to win, as "I will be watched."

Defending champion Oscar Freire thought before the start that it'd be hard for him to win, as "I will be watched." (Image credit: partenza)

99th Milano-Sanremo - HC

Italy, March 22, 2008

Elite group led home by 2006 winner Pozzato

Swiss Fabian Cancellara succeeded in fulfilling the pundits' prognostics leading up to Italy's grandest one-day race, Milano-Sanremo. The 27 year-old of Team CSC – recent winner of Monte Paschi Eroica and Tirreno-Adriatico – made the final move of around 15 riders that was formed on the Poggio and then bided his time for one powerful surge with 2000 metres remaining to the finish along the Ligurian coast in Sanremo. Cancellara won the 298-kilometre Monument after seven hours and 14 minutes of racing with four seconds ahead of the group led by Italian Filippo Pozzato (Liquigas) and Belgian Philippe Gilbert (Française des Jeux).

"I started as a big favourite" – admitted Cancellara – "but then I was able to give my most for the win. People thought I could do something. But the climbs are there and then the sprint is there. This race is full of stress, but I remained calm and tranquil.

"My attack came from the gut; It was similar to the one I made in Compiègne [to win the stage of the 2007 Tour]," Cancellara continued, following his win of the race's 99th edition.

The forcing of Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner) on the 3.7-kilometre Poggio helped form the winning move. When the winner of Paris-Nice accelerated at 600 metres to the summit he was immediately marked by Enrico Gasparotto (Barloworld) to form a gruppetto that included Alessandro Ballan (Lampre), 2006 winner Pozzato, Gilbert, Alessandro Bertolini (Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni-Androni Giocattoli), last year's winner Oscar Freire (Rabobank), Rinaldo Nocentini (AG2R La Mondiale) and Cancellara. Gilbert pushed the pace further to help thin the group over the summit, where it had six seconds, but he could not ditch two-time World Champion time trialist, Cancellara.

A final effort by 'Tintin' Rebellin and a surge by Spaniard Iñigo Landaluze (Euskaltel-Euskadi) did nothing to dampen Cancellara's desire to add another important win to his long list of palmarès. 'Spartacus' went into hyper-space time trialling mode along Corso Cavallotti to move solo, an action similar to which was seen when he won the 2006 Roubaix solo from a 19-kilometre effort. He made the left turn at the fountain onto the race's new finale with a gap that was near unapproachable even as 2007 Round van Vlaanderen winner, Ballan, led the charge. Behind, Milram unsuccessfully attempted to bring back its sprint captain, 2005 winner Alessandro Petacchi.

Already with four race wins this season, Cancellara had to measure his efforts. "If I had waited it would not have worked. I understood that there were the metres to make the difference when I looked back. To win a Sanremo, like I did, I think the last rider to do that was Andrea Tchmil [in 1999]. He did 800 metres, whereas I rode two kilometres."

Gasparotto, who celebrated his 26 birthday today, was upset with the lack of cooperation. "I knew that Cancellara would do that, but damn it, I think that Liquigas and Lampre, with two riders each, did not do well to close the gap. I was forced to wait for the others, but..." commented the former Italian Champion. Gasparotto battled the same rider for Tirreno-Adriatico's overall victory, but there too he lost out to an all-mighty Cancellara by 16 seconds.

Freire was the one rider that none of the 15 others wanted to battle in the sprint and he felt the heat of the others' attacks. "I think I was always in a good position, but the final was very crazy," he noted. "The most important and strongest guy attacked. When Cancellara attacked everyone waited and did nothing, the race was over then. Liquigas waited for the sprint, Cancellara got away and no one was pulling."

The day did not pass without World Champion Paolo Bettini (Quick Step) making his mark. Though the Italian is slightly off form, he attacked at the foot of the Cipressa (27 kilometres remaining) to try his luck and weaken the opposition for his team-mates. He was marked by Thomas Lövkvist (High Road), and the duo were later joined by Rebellin and Niklas Axelsson (Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni-Androni Giocattoli).

"I was happy with the move," said Lövkvist. "We needed a bit of luck and some representation from other teams, like a Liquigas guy or one from Rabobank." Liquigas helped close the move, which eventually contained Paolo Savoldelli (LPR Brakes), before the start of the Poggio. "If I made it to the Poggio I would have nothing to do. I would probably make it with the first guys over, but if it came to a sprint I would have nothing."

Axelsson shared the same sentiments as Lövkvist. "I was happy with the move and my legs were not so bad," the Swede noted modestly. "It was a good break-away, with good riders. I am not fast in the sprint, I would have to attack. I tried the best as I could, but the peloton was too strong."

How it unfolded

The day got off to an early start at 9:45 for 199 riders in Milano, who set out under sunny skies in temperatures which were warmer than expected. The only one missing at the start was Tinkoff's Alberto Loddo, who overnight came down with the tummy nasties that have played havoc with the peloton this year.

Four riders jumped out early and quickly built up a big lead. Filippo Savini (CSF Group Navigare), Nicola D'Andrea (Miche-Silver Cross), Raivis Belohvosciks (Saunier Duval-Scott) and William Frischkorn (Slipstream Chipotle - H30) sought their chances for fame and fortune, building up a lead of over 16 minutes along the way. The peloton didn't seem terribly worried about the four, but calmly kept on going and slowly brought the lead down, minute by minute.

That was the story of the race for about the first 200 kilometres. In fact, if this had been a normal race, those four underdogs may have had a chance to stay away and go for the win. But Milano-Sanremo is anything other than a normal race.

With 94 kilometres to go, Gerolsteiner's 'Berni' Bernhard Kohl attacked on le Mànie climb. He wasn't successful in getting away, but he was successful in introducing the final stage of the race, or at least in waking up the peloton. They dropped the leaders' advantage to under nine minutes on the way up, and by the time everybody was on the way down the other side, it was less than five minutes. D'Andrea could not longer keep up and was quickly gobbled up by the peloton, which had by then cut the lead to 2.30. Frischkorn was showing the stress of the day's activities, as he seemed to be having cramps in his left thigh.

Things started really picking up with a little more than 50 kilometres to go. The first attacks out of the field were made, with Ivan Rovny of Team Tinkoff the most successful, getting away and maintaining a slight lead over the peloton. Capo Berto, after 250 kilometres, really got to the riders, but didn't prove to be decisive. It was tough enough to drop some of the less-talented climbers off the back, though.

With about 30 kilometres to go, the three who had been ahead for so long were finally caught. The next attack came on the Cipressa, from none other than World Champion Paolo Bettini (Quick Step), who took long-haired High Road youngster Thomas Lövkvist with him. The two were soon caught by Niklas Axelsson (Diquigiovanni) and Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner). Egoi Martinez (Euskaltel) and Carlos Barredo (Quick Step) touched wheels and went down, but were able to get back and keep on.

On the descent, Tristan Valentin of Cofidis crashed into the guard rail, which ended his day. Paolo Savoldelli (LPR) showed better skills and used the downbound slope to catch up to the quartet in the front. The five worked well together, but were never able to pull far enough away from the determined peloton.

For the rest of the bunch, the Cipressa blasted the peloton into little groups, all furiously trying to get to the front. The group of five around Rebellin was overtaken before the Poggio, as Liquigas led the charge of an increasingly larger group.

Things went fast and furious in the final kilometres. Alessandro Bertolini (Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni-Androni Giocattoli) was the first to give it a go on the Poggio. Several of the favourites went after him and on the descent a group of around 15 riders formed, including Fabian Cancellara (Team CSC), Enrico Gasparotto (Barloworld), Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner), Filippo Pozzato (Liquigas), Iñigo Landaluze (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Oscar Freire (Rabobank), Philippe Gilbert (Française des Jeux) and Thor Hushovd (Crédit Agricole).

Rebellin and Pozzato had a slight lead when the road leveled, but the group came back together. After an attempt by Landaluze, that also didn't go anywhere, it was World Time Trial Champion Fabian Cancellara who put on the show. He took off at 2 kilometres to go and showed what he had – and what he had was a lot. He powered his way across the finish line after 298 kilometres some five seconds ahead of Pozzato and Gilbert.

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