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Live coverage

Milan-San Remo 2011


Hello and welcome to Cyclingnews’ live coverage from La Classicissima, Milan-San Remo. It’s the first Classic of the season and what a feast of racing we have in store for you today. Traditionally regarded as the true start of the Spring Classics. Here we go...

The riders are rolling out now with the official start around 7km away. As for the weather, we've got overcast conditions but the sun is starting to break through. A contrast to last year when we had rain. We're predicting dry conditions for the entire day.

The CN blimp is up and running and we're ready for a long but fascinating race. Our man on the ground, Stephen Farrand, was strolling around the team buses today and spent some time by the HTC-Highroad bus. They’re quietly confident about today and the chances of Mark Cavedish, who won this race back in 2009.

The Manx missile dearly cherishes this race and will be desperate to repeat that win but he's not been in the greatest of form so far this season. He's got a win to his name but in Tirreno he was slightly off the pace. HTC could have the perfect plan B in Matt Goss though. The Australian has had a great start to the 2011 season and is tipped by many, including Heinrich Haussler as the dark horse for victory today. That could just be Haussler playing mind games with Cav though...

And they're off, the neutralized zone completed and 198 riders begin the race down to San Remo. You can find a complete start list, right here.

By the way, a big hello to all our readers in Australia who are staying up late to follow the race. In Haussler, Goss, Michael Matthews, Renshaw, Hansen, Davis, Clarke, Cooke, Tanner, Rogers, Wilson, O'Grady, McEwen and Sulzberger you've got a lot of riders to cheer on. My, that GreenEdge team are going to be mighty powerful in a few years.

Milan-San Remo is one of most delicately balanced races on the calendar, and there is arguably no other Classic that has such a long list of potential victors. Ostensibly, the largely flat route and fast finale heavily favours the sprinters, but with after seven hours of racing, the famous capi on the approach to San Remo swell from mere ripples to severe obstacles that can be the graveyard of so many sprinters’ ambitions and the Classics stars will have their say too during the 298km race.

Every year, the final plunge to San Remo sees a thrilling pursuit match between the opportunists and the sprinters’ teams, and while that ending can vary year on year, the opening stages follow a set script. Soon after the race leaves Milan, an early break will take its chances in the chilly air on the flat Lombard plain, while the peloton rolls steadily behind.

The pace will only begin to rise once the bunch passes through Campo Ligure and tackles the Passo Turchino around the midway point. While exploits like that of Fausto Coppi in 1946 and Claudio Chiappucci in 1991 are now a distant memory, the climb will nonetheless begin to shuffle the pack. After the Turchino, the riders snake along the Ligurian coast, and after the stiff challenge of Le Manie (204km), the pace will ratchet up accordingly.

With 22km to go, the Cipressa will see the favourites begin to make their moves as they scramble for positions at the front ahead of the hallowed Poggio. Coming just 6km from the line, traditionally the first man to the top had every chance of tasting glory in San Remo, but with the sprinters and their teams growing ever stronger, the odds are increasingly stacked against him staying clear. After a breakneck plunge into the town below, there will be a grandstand finish on the promenade named in honour of San Remo’s most famous son, writer Italo Calvino.

News from the start is that Petacchi will be joining in the action today. There was concern that the Italian and 2005 winner wouldn't make it due to illness. But he's made a good enough recovery. The 37-year-old still has some gas in the tank and can go the distance so can't be ruled out today. If he can make it over the climbs and has a good position in the finale, he'll be hard to beat.

288km remaining from 298km

In case you didn't know, will be joining me later on today. I'll be swinging by a secret location at around 1ish and picking him up. I'd better make the blimp look a bit more respectable. I don't know what the previous occupants were doing in here but it's a mess. Oh wait, I think it was me.

While I tidy up the pizza boxes and empty beer cans dotted around the blimp I should probably tell you about today's first attack.

The weather has cleared up too. Not a cloud in the sky now. Lovely.

Let's take this chance to talk a bit about some of today's favourites. We'll start with last year's winner Oscar Freire. The Spaniard rode the perfect race last year, keeping out of trouble and the wind, positioning himself perfectly on the climbs and then coming through with the best-timed sprint.

282km remaining from 298km

Alessandro De Marchi (Androni), Nico Sijmens (Cofidis), Takashi Miyazawa (Farnese) and Mikhail Ignatiev (Katusha).

Looks like we've got our group for the day then. The gap is up to 4.20.

Miyazawa was the last rider to join today's move and I'm hoping he can have a good race. He's the Japanese national champion and he'll be riding for everyone back home.

Remember you can keep me busy in the first part of the race by tweeting in your thoughts and predictions for the race. Just prod me at

Ignatiev, from Katusha, is looking strong, he's probably the most dangerous rider here but he'll be working for the break today, knowing that the chances of making it to the finish are slim.

By the way, I hope you've all seen this article. It's a look back at some of the most iconic images from Milan-San Remo.

Our awesome foursome now have nine minutes on the bunch. We can expect the lead to hit around the 20 minute mark.

We've had a couple of you tweet in about the wind on the course and especially at the finish. Right now there's no wind, conditions are sunny and very still. There's a light breeze on the coast.

monki71 @dnlbenson Melbourne to warrnambool now shortened and is shorter in distance than MSR.

A few of you are picking Mark Cavendish for the win today. He's got a flash new bike so the win's in the bag.

toutneant @dnlbenson the @Ride_Argyle 's tactic?I think hushovd will stay on gilbert's wheels, having two sprinters is not too much? 1st hour 47,1km/h

Garmin-Cervelo has been labelled the strongest team in the Classics by many and they've certainly improved since last year but being strong on paper means very little. None of their riders have actually won a Monument so today's a big test for them. Potentially they've got everything they need to win but we've said that plenty of times before.

The gap is now up to 12.30 so they're working nicely together.

chestnut38 @dnlbenson Sky have started season strongly..EBH perhaps? Or GT as a surprise package

248km remaining from 298km

@davidlrhodes My Milan San Remo Prediction: (1) Edvald Boasson Hagen, (2) Mark Cavendish, (3) Thor Hushovd, (4) Tom Boonen, (5) Tyler Farrar

If it doesn't come down to a sprint today then the men most likely could come from Gilbert, Boom, Ballan, Visconti, Cobo (perhaps), Pozzato, Scarponi, Nibali, Sagan, Gasparotto, Nuyens (perhaps), Cancellara and Leukmans.

Back to last year's winner, Oscar Freire, for a second. I had a dig around on youtube and found this little gem. It's a montage of his three wins in the Worlds.

Haussler is a rider a lot of you are tipping for the win. He comes off the back of altitude training and Paris-Nice. He's confident of winning as shown in his recent blog for us.

Cancellara has been talking down his chances of victory. The Leopard Trek leader secured his first win of the season last week and is coming into some of his best form.

The Italian has been in the top ten on seven occasions this year but hasn't opened his account with a win. Yet. Could today be his chance?

Livestrong supporter, sergiruiz @dnlbenson I'd like McEwen to win. I bet for Petacchi or Freire, and I think Garmin will be a mess.

Back to the news and Sinkewitz returned an adverse analytical finding for Recombinant Human Growth Hormone at the GP di Lugano on February 27

I remember when Sinkewitz was struggling to find a team, he almost quit in 2009. I talked to him a few times and he told me that he was checking with the UCI to make sure his levels were okay and it sounded like he was making a fresh start. I really don't know all the facts but it's disappointing to see. Although it shows that progress on the testing front might be improving.

Our four leaders are still plugging away. They've got a lead of around 14 minutes but it's not growing at the rate it was.

By the way, at the start this morning there was a minute silence for the victims of the events in Japan. All our thoughts go out to everyone effected.

208km remaining from 298km

canobb @dnlbenson Do you think Sagan will handle it ?My fingers are crossed for him and Velits too!

Side stepping the race for a second, but here's a very interesting story regarding Contador, coming from Travis Tygart, the CEO of USADA.

194km remaining from 298km

A lot of you tweeting about  Gossy and Haussler this morning. Not much talk about Boonen though. The Belgian has been close on a few occasions and has all the attributes to win the race. He's been off the pace recently with illness - a bit like - Petacchi but can't be ruled out today.

PiesG @dnlbenson Pretty good - 7 pages of commentary before we touched on AC or peds.....reckon Thor or Farrar for the win - Cavs ride is flash

I've not even talked about Greipel yet. I've mentioned every other rider and his dog so far this morning so I'd best include the German too. There you go. Job done.

190km remaining from 298km

We're just uploading some images from the startline. They should be on the homepage in a few minutes.

@tourpro I think Boonen's could be sandbagging and flu-story attempt to prevent being marked. (I like intrigue).

For those of you who remember Mirko Celestino, he owns a cafe on the race route these days. In fact he opened it before he retired.

The leaders are outside Ovada and the lead still at ten minutes.

Factoid for the day: Today's the 102nd edition of the race. We've had 51 Italian winners and 50 non-Italians.

Ah go on, here's another one for you:

Our man on the ground, Stephen Farrand caught up with the current world champion, Thor Hushovd and the Norwegian had this to say:

Another favourite, Gilbert, told Gazzetta: "I felt good at Tirreno, so I'm ready for Milan-San Remo."

He continued:

Freire also spoke to Gazetta and said:

And here's what 2003 winner, Paolo Bettini had to say:

The boys from Rabobank and Sky are on the front at the moment, keeping the pace respectable and the gap between 9-10 minutes.

The leaders have just reached Turchino and it's time to welcome Inrng into the CN blimp.

DB: So welcome to the CN blimp. Hope it's to your satisfaction. What have you made of the race so far?

Inner ring: All of the favourites have been sheltering as much as they can. Laurent Jalabert told L'Equipe that when he won in 1995 he didn't "turn a pedal" before the last section of a race. An exaggeration of course but it shows how the aim for the main riders is to stay protected and conserve energy for what's about to come.

rightcoastrad @dnlbenson Gilbert. Teams might control (Leopard or Garmin), but Gilbert has the form and aggressive nature. He will be marked though.

Inner Ring: Yes, Cavendish finished off a great job by his team. I epecially remember George Hincapie on the Poggio itself and the tricky descent.

ACycling_fan @dnlbenson a dark horse for #msr is @RobbieHunter

142km remaining from 298km

Inner Ring: Yes, Cavendish famously bluffed prior to his win, apparently easing up on the climbs in Tirreno-Adriatico to fool others that he wasn't in great condition. This year, well he's either taking the acting to a whole new level or more likely, his season hasn't quite gone to plan and he's building for the classics like Gent-Wevelgem and the upcoming stage races.

Inner Ring: Even when the other teams want a sprint, only the guys in top condition make it to the finish, several sprinters will be shelled out. The fight for position is intense and the ability to sprint after 300km is hard. They say a "good sprinter can win when out of shape"... but probably not after 295km.

Meanwhile, Garmin has moved to the front of the race and are helping Rabo with the chase.

Inner Ring: Wind and rain can alter the chances of a breakaway. Too much wind can buffet the bunch but a breeze crosswind can mean that any gaps get even harder to close.

Inner Ring: Right now the conditions are very calm. Almost no wind, light cloud and mild temperatures. For me this doesn't favour the sprinters or the attackers, there's nothing to exploit.

Le Manie is about 50km away and there's a tailwind at the moment as the peloton head towads the climb.

Inner Ring: yes, it's incredibly hard to get a gap and then, with the legs on fire, to keep this advantage on the descent. But once the come off the descent into Sanremo then a moment's hesitation can see the bunch get back on. The portion between the descent and the finish line can be very tatical.

Inner Ring: Yes, Goss was cramping up in Paris-Nice, perhaps an off day but a sign the distance was taking its toll too

A bit of rain now on course. That could get interesting if it continues.

@dnlbenson my #msr tips: 1. Haussler 2. Freire 3. Bennati. Smokey: Van Avermaet My full preview here:

Daniel: So have to ask, hows the blog coming along? It's certainly one of the most talked about blogs in the cycling world.

Daniel: the whole world of journalism has been shifted because of twitter and blogs - certainly within the area we work in. It's such a useful tool and agregator or content. I mean as a tool for us social media has become so important both in terms of spreading our reach but also finding out news and insight.

Some action at the back of the bunch. Hushovd punctures but makes it back without too much trouble.

b and there's the fake pat mquaid account.

Inner Ring:
yes, I've covered a lot of the politics and business behind the sport and it can be heavy going so it's great to see some using satire and humour on the same topics.

Inner Ring: It's great to finally see some actual racing underway and the first "monument" of the season. The action we're going to get in the next couple of hours is the best antidote for all the scandals and off-stage activities

The lead meanwhile been hovering at around 5.30 - 5.50 for a while. It's currently at 5.45.

Inner Ring: Yes, I like that battle too as the race picks up. It's the way a single mistake can cost a rider a race but they are so tired after hours on the bike that the concentration has to be intense.

Daniel: We're closing in on Le Maine now, the next significant climb of the race. We saw the race split there last year but the conditions were a lot worse. Today I'd expect the pace to start increasing on the climb and possible a counter attack go clear.

107km remaining from 298km

Inner Ring: Of the four in the lead Mikhail Ignatiev is a real breakaway specialist, I expect him to keep on going, perhaps to attack the others as the bunch gets near.

Daniel: The gap is coming down steadily with Rabo, Sky and Garmin all doing the early work.

The four leaders aren't far off the lower slopes of climb.

Inner Ring: Sky are one to watch. They've not been touted as favourites but Flecha is a candidate for an attack on the Poggio and Boasson-Hagan is strong on any terrain

toutneant @dnlbenson the man in the echappée de marchi refused to race the track worldchampionship in appledoorn to be #msr

Inner Ring: A big crash at the foot of Le Manie, sounds like it's getting nervous now

Inner Ring: Hushovd was involved in the crash.

The gap is coming down. it's 1.38 now. So the leaders could be caught on the climb.

We're hearing that Rosseler is out of the race. He may have been involved in that crash.

95km remaining from 298km

Inner Ring: Radioshack might worry as Roessler is a powerful rider to help in the classics. He took their first win last year if I remember correctly.

A counter attack as we predicted has come and the leaders have broken up. Meanwhile Chavanel has crashed.

Inner Ring: Things don't sound good for Hushovd, he's chasing now after a crash. He apparently started all in white, white shorts to match his white jersey with the rainbow bands. With hindsight not the best idea.

That's not the start Garmin-Cervelo would have wanted when the real racing began. They're on the back foot.

Inner Ring: Garmin-Cervélo still have two aces to play in Farrar and Haussler

The Leopard Trek boys are now on the front. That's the first time we've seen the team come to the front.

Wet conditions on the descent and a number of riders are having problems. Freire is one of them and he's got a problem with his back wheel.

84km remaining from 298km

Inner Ring: In this area there's a local plant called Mimosa that flowers at this time of year. It leaves a fine dust on the roads that mixes with rain to make them even more slippery.

Freire is chasing now, a teammate waiting for him but this descent is very dangerous in the wet. He'll have to fight to get back on but he's got time on his side.

BMC join Leopard on the front of the bunch. Will they turn the screw on Freire and Hushovd?

82km remaining from 298km

Freire shouts at his teammate urging him to chase and bring him back to the main field. This is a huge moment in the race. Lotto move to the front now too. They must know that last year's winner is off the back and in trouble.

Inner Ring: it's meant to be dry near the finish. We can see Omega Pharma-Lotto driving now, they want to distance some of the rivals for Gilbert and Greipel. Leopard-Trek are working too.

Inner Ring: It's advantage Gilbert right now, especially as there are still 85km to remaining, that's plenty of time to soften up his rivals

The bunch split a fair bit on the climb but it's starting to come back together now. Freire could be out it now. He's not got many teammates with him either.

HTC all near the front so that would suggest that Cav is feeling good. Freire is slowly coming back now.

Huge crash.

76km remaining from 298km

Boonen is near the front, keeping tabs on Cancellara for now.

Inner Ring: Farrar is also in the second group with Hushovd

A lot of teams pushing on now and trying to distance some of the favourites who have been left behind.

Inner Ring: The front group is all in one long paceline as they drive hard to distance the second group.

66km remaining from 298km

The gap is now over two minutes. I'm going to make a call and suggest that it's going to be it for the chasers.BMC, QuickStep, Katusha, Lotto, and Leopard all seem happy and are driving the pace.

64km remaining from 298km

This is playing perfectly into Haussler hands. He wanted a hard race and he wanted the race to break up.

Peter Sagan is in the front group.

Sagan and Nibali could play a very important part in the finale.

Inner Ring and I were talking about the small margins within the race and saw that just a bit of water on the roads an totally change things. A number of favourites could be out. The gap is still over two minutes.

Inner Ring: The gap's between the first and second bunch is slowly going up. I can't see them getting back now.

55km remaining from 298km

Inner Ring: Petacchi, Bennati, Greipel all in the front group

Inner Ring: They'll want a sprint finish and possibly Boasson-Hagen, Sagan and Haussler too but these guys might watch the attacks from others.

Inner Ring: Amongst those likely to attack we've got Cancellara, Gilbert, Pozatto amongst others

We're heading that Freire has made it back to the leaders. We're looking for confirmation.

BMC, Quick Step and Lotto, driving the race on and setting the pace.

48km remaining from 298km

Ah Goss is in the front group. Apologies.

Australia, relax you still have two favourites in the lead group.

Inner Ring: Second group is coming back, now 1.45, but without much organisation.

Hoste setting a ferocious pace for Katusha on the front.

tourpro @dnlbenson @inrng Nibali was definitly worth a mention. #msr

inner Ring: Katusha and Omega-Lotto are driving the lead group. How long can they keep up this pace?

42km remaining from 298km

Daniel: It's perfect for Gilbert too. If they can keep this pace up until the Poggio he could blow the race apart

Inner Ring: Yes, his attack seemed inevitable but with so many rivals left behind his chances go up even more. But several riders will be marking him. Even better for him, his team sprinter Greipel stands ready as insurance, assuming he can cope with the Cipressa and Poggio

Inner Ring: When I saw the startsheet, FDJ's Canadian rider Dominique Rollin stood out. Not for any rational reason, just a feeling.

Hoste is losing contact. His work down for the day.

On to the Capo Berta

Inner Ring: Vladimir Gusev (Katusha) continues to drive the pace as the lead group heads over the Capo Berta

37km remaining from 298km

Peloton, including Heinrich Haussler (Garmin-Cervelo), Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto), Tom Boonen (Quick Step), Fabian Cancellara (Leopard-Trek), Filipoe Pozzato (Katusha) and Andre Greipel (Omega Pharma-Lotto)

The gap is coming down. It's less than a minute. Those in the second group aren't giving up without a fight.

Inner Ring: Katusha and Omega-Lotto are doing a lot of work but some teams are sitting back and saving their energy for later. Notably Leopard-Trek who are shepherding Cancellara

Who is doing all of the chasing? Farnese and Miyazawa is going like a train. He was in the break all day and is still working. Great ride.

32km remaining from 298km

Rabobank now driving the chase from the second group. Can I change my mind and say it's all going to come back together?  It's possible now.

Hoste has made it back to the leaders. Quick Step dig in and push the pace in the lead group again.

30km remaining from 298km

The gap is still just over 1.10 and we've got the Cipressa and Poggio still to come.

Inner Ring: Apparently it's raining on the Cipressa, a small rain shower to make the descent tricky

28km remaining from 298km

Liquigas launch an attack. Is that Agnoli?

Inner Ring: 28km to go, now the Cipressa. Will anyone attack, can anyone attack given the high pace from Katusha and BMC on the front group

That's Ballan who is bringing everyone back together.

26km remaining from 298km

All back together in the lead group now. Looks like Klier is hanging on. Agnoli on the front and setting the pace.

Inner Ring: Sky almost blocking the second group, remember Boasson-Hagen is up front

25km remaining from 298km

Scarponi launches out of the second group.

Scarponi is cutting through the riders who've been dropped from the lead group. Big ask for him to make it across and then attack again.

24km remaining from 298km

Popovych tries his counter attack now.

Actually Popo has attack from the lead group. he's leading the race.

That's a dangerous move. We've not talked about Popo at all in this race.

22km remaining from 298km

21km remaining from 298km

Popo has nearly 30 seconds on the group behind. Gilbert, what do you have in the tank because if you want to win this race you'll need to make a move.

18km remaining from 298km

Popo has been caught.

16km remaining from 298km

Now Offredo attacks and the lead group starts to splinter

Inner Ring:  Offredo, Chainel, O'Grady and Schar in the lead.

Klier and Greipel trying to bridge to the lead four

Scarponi is on the back of the main lead group.

FDJ have two men in this lead group and we're 5km from the Poggio.

14km remaining from 298km

Inner Ring: the lead group of four have 15 seconds as they speed towards the Poggio

Lotto are leading the chase behind.

Chainel, Van Avermaet, Offredo and Stuart O'Grady (Leopard Trek)

11km remaining from 298km

Lotto send all their men to the front.

It could all come back together. It's all or nothing on the Poggio for so many of these riders.

Goss is still in that group and he looks pretty good.

9km remaining from 298km

Inner Ring: It's almost a question of where Gilbert attacks now as they approach the Poggio

The leaders have 30 seconds. There has to be a move from behind.

o'Grady happy to follow wheels

Inner Ring: Chainel buries himself. O'Grady, Van Avermaet and Offredo are all very fast in a sprint

Van Avermaet attacks.

Nibali moves to the front , Gilbert follows.

Ballan just marks the moves.

7km remaining from 298km

Nibali attacks.

7km remaining from 298km

Nibali catches the remnants of the leaders, OG and Offredo and attacks them. Behind them Gilbert drives on as the lone leader carries on. What does he have left in the tank.

Greg Van Avermaet (BMC)

Over the top of the climb for Van Avermaet

Inner Ring : Last Belgian win was Fons de Wolf in 1981

How quickly can Greg Van Avermaet go downhill.

4km remaining from 298km

It's all coming back together behind Van Avermaet. Pippo, Gilbert and Goss all there. ballan too.

Caught. All back together.

offredo again.

Cancellara goes and goss marks him.

Gilbert goes and gives it 100%

Pippo is bringing him back with Ballan and the rest.

Goss looks so strong.

Nibali goes.

About seven riders.

Scarponi opens it up.

Matthew Goss wins!

Incredible finale. Goss was marking all the main moves, then as Gilbert was caught within the last km, Scarponi made a late bid. Gilbert tried to follow but Goss came through. Cancellara went for it in the inside and took second.

We weren't sure about Goss's experience and stamina for such a long race but we know just how strong he is now. Gilbert took third. Ballan 4th, Pippo 5th.

Goss picked Gilbert's wheel in the final km and pulled off a great move.

Daniel: what did you make of that finish?

1 Matthew Harley Goss (Aus) HTC-Highroad 6:51:10
2 Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Leopard Trek
3 Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto
4 Alessandro Ballan (Ita) BMC Racing Team
5 Filippo Pozzato (Ita) Katusha Team
6 Michele Scarponi (Ita) Lampre - ISD
7 Yoann Offredo (Fra) FDJ
8 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale 0:00:03

Daniel: he picked gilbert's wheel which was a bit of gamble as the Belgian had just been brought back but it really was a textbook sprint in the end.

Inner Ring: HTC-Highroad's 14th win of the year

From Inner Ring and myself, thanks for joining us today.

1 Matthew Harley Goss (Aus) HTC-Highroad 6:51:10
2 Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Leopard Trek
3 Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto
4 Alessandro Ballan (Ita) BMC Racing Team
5 Filippo Pozzato (Ita) Katusha Team
6 Michele Scarponi (Ita) Lampre - ISD
7 Yoann Offredo (Fra) FDJ
8 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale 0:00:03

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