Hello and welcome to our live coverage from Milan-San Remo 2014.
Good morning and welcome to Cyclingnews' live coverage from the first major Classic of the season. We're about an hour away from the start but already riders and teams are gathering at the start. Light showers at the moment but the sign-in will start in the next few minutes. The official roll out is at 9:50 CET.
Here's the most recent weather predictions for today with a full story from Stephen Farrand, right here.
Milan (race start, 10.00 hours CET): rain, 10.6°C. Wind: weak - W 9 kph.
Passo del Turchino (km 143,5, 13.30 CET): rain, 9.2°C. Wind: weak - SE 8 - 10 kph.
Cipressa (16.00 hours CET): rain, 13.7°C. Wind: Weak - NNE 8 - 13 kph.
Sanremo (race finish: 17.00 hours CET): scattered showers, 14.8°C. Wind: moderate - WNW 15 kph.
So luckily for the riders we'll not have any snow this year.
But all the teams are now here and gathering by the Arco della Pace here in Milan. Trek with their new bus, with Fabian Cancellara docked inside, while the MTN team with defending champion Gerald Ciolek are close by too. There's a real sense of anticipation building as we approach the start, of arguably the best one day race on the planet.
That's outside the Cannondale bus where crowds are already gathering to catch a glimpse of pre-race favourite Peter Sagan. More on him later, but he's certainly capable of winning today, whether it's alone, from a small group or in a 'bunch' sprint.
And that's where the riders will sign-in. With the showers coming down they're leaving it to the last possible moment before venturing out from the team buses. The roll out is in roughly 30 minutes though, and there are a few riders starting to approach the stage.
On the far end of the square the Omega Pharma QuickStep bus sits with the curtains drawn. Onboard Wilfried Peeters will be handing out his final instructions to the nine riders racing today. The team have a number of options but Mark Cavendish is their standout leader for today. He's won here before - 2009 - and if he can make it over the two final climbs with the leaders he has an excellent chance of claiming his second title here.
In the build up to the race, inCycle sat down with Cavendish and you can watch the exclusive video, right here.
Lampre are the team to arrive at the sign in next. The premiere Italian team have a former winner in the line up in Filippo Pozzato but his form hasn't been anything to write home about so far this year. Instead, Sacha Modolo stands a much better chance. He's beaten the likes of Cavendish and Sagan before, albeit not in major races that stretch out to almost 300km.
You can find our complete start list for the race, right here.
Who are you tipping for victory today? Let me know via Twitter.
Cheers for Mark Cavendish as the British champion signs on. Behind him is Peter Sagan. Could the victory come down to a sprint between these two men today?
Most of the riders have now signed on, including Fabian Cancellara, the winner here in 2008 thanks to a late solo move. The start is just over ten minutes away.
And here we are. Right on the start line of Milan-San Remo. 298km of racing to come and you can follow it all here on Cyclingnews.com.
It will take a good 15-20 minutes as the riders navigate through the neutralized zone but they're off!
Richard Blanckensee @richblanckensee 9m
@dnlbenson Hi - gone on a long shot Haussler - cavendish - cancellara
Cannnondale are currently on the front of the peloton with MTN riders also close by. Ciolek wears dossard number 1 as the defending champion and he's at the front chatting to his rivals as the peloton gently ticks through the neutralized zone.
If this is your first San Remo, typically a group will jump clear in the opening stages of the race. Sometimes it can be quite a large group but more often than not, it's a handful of riders. It all depends on the make-up of the attack and whether the major teams are happy to let certain riders go up the road. One thing is for certain, there will be plenty of riders hoping to make it into the break.
As an example, and as unique as last year's race was, the early break went away shortly beyond the city limits, with Diego Rosa (Androni-Venezuela), Pablo Lastras (Movistar), Lars Bak (Lotto Belisol), Matteo Montaguti (Ag2r-La Mondiale), Maxim Belkov (Katusha) and Francesco Fortin (Bardiani-CSF Inox). After just 15km of racing they had a lead of over five minutes.
The roads are drying up as the riders head out from the city. It's still quite cloudy but the peloton will welcome these conditions.
Still through the neutralized zone, so no attacks at present. Some riders are already drifting back to the cars to change clothing and grab a few words with the passangers in the team cars but so far there's no action from the bunch. That will soon change.
Back to early breaks, and in 2012 we saw a nine man move of Cheng Ji (Project 1t4i), Juan Pablo Suarez (Colombia-Coldeportes), Dmitriy Gruzdev (Astana), Angelo Pagani (Colnago-CSF), Vergard Stake Laengen (Team Type 1), Juan Jose Oroz (Euskaltel), Pierpaolo De Negri (Farnese Vini), Michael Mørkøv (Saxo Bank) and Oleg Berdos (UtensilNord) slip clear. Their advantage ran out to 13 minutes.
From that break only Mørkøv finds himself on the start this morning.
Back in 2000 it was a solo move that went clear in the early stages with Michele Gobbi of Mobilvetta - great kit incidentally - going alone after just a few kms. He stayed away until the 170km point and at one point he had 30 minutes on the peloton. 30 whole minutes. He didn't finish the race.
He was a first year pro, if you were interested and went onto win Giro del Friuli in 2004. After that chipped away at smaller teams, even went to Milram for a season, but quit in 2008.
And that's it, the riders have passed through the neutralized zone, and are now officially racing.
Already there have been several attempts to break clear of the peloton, with the speed already high. So far none of the attacks have stuck and we're all together in the opening 4km of racing.
284km remaining from 299km
It's early days but we have a break with Tjallingii and Barta going clear. They've got a gap of 12 seconds over the peloton but there are several riders trying to bridge over, including Boem, De Maar and Parrinello. 15km into the race and we're starting to see the early stages of the break form.
There's a Garmin rider in the mix somewhere in the attacks but there's some confusion as to whether it's Haas or Millar. They look nothing alike but from our position we can't tell either.
The bunch are now 30 seconds down but we've still not seen the riders up the road merge into one collective. They'll need to either get organised or sit up.
Now we have seven leaders, all in one group and a gap of over a minute.
So our magnificent seven are Matteo Bono (Lampre Merida), Nathan Haas (Garmin-Sharp), Nicola Boem (Bardiani), Antonio Parrinello (Androni Giocattoli), Maarten Tjallingii (Belkin), Jan Barta (Netapp-Endura), Marc de Maar (UnitedHealthCare).
A far cry from Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, and Eli Wallach but they'll do for us.
Chris Brown @bobleponge216 25m
@dnlbenson No telly so your coverage will keep me company in the Sahara. Cav wont get over last 2 climbs, tailor made 4 Sagan I think. #MSR
Freddie van Heerden @fredvanheerden 30m
Surely Peter Sagan won't miss out again. Pipping him for a solo victory. Modolo winning the bunch sprint behind him.
Well look at that, the peloton have let the gap draw out to 5;30. This group could easily double that in the next phase of racing as the peloton sit up and take stock.
264km remaining from 299km
And the lead creeps out to 7'45 with all seven riders committed to the move after 35km of racing.
We asked former pro rider Daniel Lloyd who he was backing for today's race:
"I have money on Impey, Ciolek, Greipel, Clarke, Slagter. I tend to go for very long odds though, so they're not necessarily my favourites for the win. I think it could be Sagans time to win his first monument."
So a wide spread of options for the former Cervelo, Garmin and of course Cyclingnews rider. We backed a team way-back-when but Sagan, according to the majority of the European press is the lead favourite. He was on the podium here last year but led out the sprint from too far out and was beaten by the savvy Ciolek to the line. Sagan might not be as strong as he was this time last year but importantly he a year older and a year wiser.
260km remaining from 299km
39km into the race and the gap to the peloton is at 8'20 so it's still climbing steadily as the riders continue to head south towards the coast. There's very little wind out there at the moment.
The seven leaders now have close to ten minutes on the peloton with Omega and Cannondale setting a relaxed pace back in the bunch. Up ahead Bono takes a turn on the front, the 30-year-old a former winner of a stage in Tirreno. He's been with Lampre since turning pro in 2006 and is seen as one of their most reliable domestiques.
It really is a beautiful day for the Lampre man. Although in an Alan Partridge sense he's probably also thinking 'Sunday, bloody, Sunday'. Today's break will certainly help his elevation within the Lampre team though. Wining today really would be the sweetest thing for him.
249km remaining from 299km
50km down and the gap is at 7'58.
Reports are in that Jose Joaquin Rojas has abandoned the race. He's the first high profile rider out of the race, although it was of course confirmed that 2012 race winner Simon Gerrans wouldn't start due to illness.
246km remaining from 299km
53km into the race and the seven leaders have 9'15 over the peloton.
Matteo Bono (Lampre Merida), Nathan Haas (Garmin-Sharp), Nicola Boem (Bardiani), Antonio Parrinello (Androni Giocattoli), Maarten Tjallingii (Belkin), Jan Barta (Netapp-Endura), Marc de Maar (UnitedHealthCare)
This year's race course sees a shift back to the pre-2009 days with just the Cipressa and Poggio featuring in the finale after the Pompeiana climb was taken out due to concerns over safety. The switch saw Mark Cavendish and Andre Greipel, who had both stated that they wouldn't ride, change their minds.
It's certainly not a guaranteed sprint finish but the fast men will fancy their chances this time around. The trick is to control the peloton over the final two climbs, and then position your sprinter near the front in the final run-in. There are always attacks on the final two climbs, and very often last-ditch moves inside the final 1,000 meters so it's all about control and timing. All easier said than done, and that's partly what makes Milan-San Remo such a tense and open race. So many riders can potentially win today. We've picked ten in this video but of course there are more.
231km remaining from 299km
Almost 70km into the race and the gap to the leaders is at 8'56.
One element that hasn't been talked about that much is over how many riders will have actually raced over this route at Milan-San Remo. We've not seen it used since 2008, so teams won't have too many riders who will have raced over the same parcours. In the build up to the race we talked to Matt White, who intially made the point that only Gerrans, from his team, raced the old route.
So the likes of Gilbert, Cancellara will be looking to exploit any hesitation or mistakes from the peloton on the final two climbs, or the final run-into the finish.
The rain has been falling on the bunch for the last few minutes and the gap to the leaders has gone out slightly to 9'12.
Still over 200km of racing though, and we're stil in the early phases of this race. Each km will draw a little bit more energy out of the legs though. There are number of riders who can compete at races around 250km but once you move into the bracket of around 270-290 it becomes a different picture.
Near the front of the peloton John Degenkolb (Giant-Shimano) takes shelter behind his teammates. He's a decent bet for a result today. He can match the best sprinters, he can handle the final two climbs and he can race well over a long distance, as proved by his fourth place in the 2012 Worlds.
Meanwhile we hope you enjoy these images from the start line this morning.
Up ahead Nathan Haas takes a pull on the front of the break. He's already had a win and string of top ten placings this year, but this is a big moment for him as he leads Milan-San Remo. Former teammate Robbie Hunter, also a sprinter, went on the attack a few times in this race too but that was many moons ago in his Lampre days. Hunter is now a DS with the American team.
Two hours of racing have passed, and the speed has averaged over 44kph. The break and the peloton have gone through Tortona.
Ruiz Mørkøv @Ruiz_X14 1h
@dnlbenson Cancellara won't make the same mistake as last year to carry a sprinter in his wheels. Chavanel and Bakelants with Fabian in top3
Tjallingii comes through and takes a pull on the front of the break. Last year's winner of stage 2 in the World Port Classic has finished on the podium in Paris-Roubaix before so he can certainly go the distance in these races. Today Belkin come into the race as relative underdogs but in Mollema they have a rider who can certainly make things happen on either the Cipressa or Poggio. Neither climb are hard enough for him to really break free from the peloton perhaps.
205km remaining from 299km
94km into the race and the gap to the bunch is holding around the 9'40 mark.
So the main field will be pretty happy with how things stand as Katusha, Trek, Sky, Omega, Cannondale all have men waiting in the wings. Lotto too, with Greipel here looking for his first win in the race.
200km remaining from 299km
Nearly 100km completed, so just another 200km to go as the leaders, and the bunch, continue to heads south towards the coast line.
It's competition time. We're giving away two signed copies of The Monuments: the grit and glory of cycling's greatest one-day races by author and CN contributor Peter Cossins.
Two lucky winners will pick up a copy and to win all you need to do is subscribe to our Cyclingnews video channel.
Back to the action and the rain is coming down a lot harder now. Still it's no where near as bad as the conditions we saw last year. You can have a look back at last year's race action, right here.
We've not really touched on BMC so far this morning. The US registered team lost Taylor Phinney to illness but in Gilbert they have a potential favourite for the race. He's finished on the podium twice here (2008 and 2010) and certainly has a strong enough team to help. He'll need to escape and either win alone or from a small group because up against the likes of Cavendish and Greipel he won't stand much of a chance.
The Belgian is still without a win this season but he's shown flashes of form in Roma Maxima and Tirreno. If he can pull things together today he can certainly play a hand in the finale.
The gap to the leaders has gone out to 10'30. That's the biggest margin we've seen so far today.
Maybe we spoke to soon with regards to the weather as it's starting to hail.
MeridaProRoadRacing @MeridaProRoad 44s
5 degrees on top of the #Turchino, today's #MSR will be a test of will and toughness. @lampre_merida has @Lebow83 in the lead group of 7.
175km remaining from 299km
124km raced, and the leaders have 10'30 over the chasing peloton. The rain has caused the peloton to sit up slightly but there's still a long, long way to go.
The closer the riders move to the coast the more the wind picks up. It's early days but this San Remo has all the makings of another epic edition.
In 2008, the last time we used roughly 100 per cent of this course, Fabian Cancellara broke clear in the final stages to win alone. He followed a few key moves, one of them from Rebellin and Pozatto before noticing a gap and kicking for home. The same could happen again today. The Swiss rider can certainly follow the moves on the final climbs. It just depends on circumstances and when/if he can time his attack.
A reminder of who we have in the break:
Matteo Bono (Lampre Merida), Nathan Haas (Garmin-Sharp), Nicola Boem (Bardiani), Antonio Parrinello (Androni Giocattoli), Maarten Tjallingii (Belkin), Jan Barta (Netapp-Endura), Marc de Maar (UnitedHealthCare)
The leaders are coming up the feedzone. They've been on the attack since almost the start of the race but with 165km still to go, there's a lot of racing to play out. The leaders in the peloton will be happy with how things have gone so far - weather aside - but once we hit the coast the chase will gradually begin.
Away from the race, the main bit of news today is that Garate is going to take legal action against Team Belkin. You can read the story here.
And we're very lucky to have with us in the CN commentary box Giant-Shimano's Marijn De Vries. She has just come in from a training ride to join us.
CN: So welcome to CN's live coverage, how are you?
Marijn: Thanks for having me! I'm fine. Waiting for the race coverage on Dutch tv.
CN: you've just got back from a training ride, tells us about your season so far.
Marijn: It started really well in Qatar: we won all four stages (three by Kirsten Wild, one by Amy Pieters), the overall, the points jersey and the young riders jersey. But in Omloop het Nieuwsblad, three weeks ago, I broke my collarbone. So since then, no racing for me. The rest of the Giant-Shimano women's team is doing awesome, by the way.
CN: you're already back on the bike and recovering well from that fall. What was the race like aside from the break we heard about conditions being really rough in terms of both the route and road furniture and cars.
By the way, out on the road, the seven man break have 7 minutes on the field.
Marijn: The Belgian roads are always a big challenge, with a lot of potholes and bumpy parts. I've only been in the race for 40k - that's where I crashed out, just before the Cote de Trieu. But we found ourselves back on roads with a lot of cars, it was pretty dangerous at some points. This is not something new in women's races: in lots of races there are still cars on the road. Normally it's pretty safe in Belgium, but where always aware on things like this during the race. We warn each other.
CN: So what do you make of San-Remo as a fan as a rider, and who are you tipping for today's win. Outside of John of course
The peloton have come off the Turchino pass, with Cannondale setting the pace. Already there are groups in trouble with around 30 riders off the back of the field.
Marijn: First of all I would LOVE to have a MSR women's race again! There used to be one, if I'm correct the last edition was in 2005, won by Trixi Worrack. To me, it's an awesome race. Two reasons: the weather is always unpredictable - like today, it suddenly started to hail, whereas the forecast was pretty okay. Always interesting to see races where the weather can play an important role. Also, I love the course. It's pretty hard to predict the winner, cause it's not always a sprint and if it's a sprint, normally the group is not so big anymore. In other words: always excitement!
Marijn: I put all my money in John Degenkolb for today, he's in a great shape - apart from cheering for him as a teammate I just think he's got a big chance to win. To me, other favorites are Cavendish, Greipel, Ciolek and of course Sagan. And last but not least Cancellara.
IAM Cycling @IAMcyclingFans 1m
#IAMcycling is sad to announce that @stefandenifl had to abandon
CN: Back to women's racing, it's come on in stages over the last couple of years. Have you noticed an improvement in coverage and stature, and what do you think is the key next step needed?
Marijn de Vries: Yes, absolutely! I think things are changing pretty rapidly now. The ASO has announced a women's race on the Champs Elysees at the last day of the Tour de France; I think that's the best sign ever. A commercial organization who decides to do this means there is money to be made out of women's cycling; finally!
Also, I've got a lot of faith in Brian Cookson, the new UCI-president. He promised a lot of things in favor of women's cycling during his election campaign and it seems like he's living up to his promises. The UCI started to cover all the World Cups, and offers the footage to whatever broadcaster who wants to show it on TV. In the Netherlands it means, for example, that our national sports programs are finally showing summaries of our World Cups - which is a first!
Marijn: Next step for me would be: organizing more women's races along side the men's classics. We race Flanders and Flèche Wallonne alongside the men's race. I really wish something like it would be organized for the other spring classics. I mean: we have a World Cup in Italy next weekend (Trofeo Alfredo Binda); why not have a women's MSR instead? Everything is there: closed roads, tv cameras, barriers. Just a small step to have a women's race as well.
CN: They're all fair points. Do you think it's important to have men's and women's squads together under one sponsor?
Marijn: Yes - but only if the women have the same equipment as the men. In my team, Giant-Shimano, this is arranged perfectly. We really benefit from all the knowledge in the men's team and we share in it. Last year, I raced for Lotto-Belisol, but actually it was only the name which was the same. That's a pity. Not just for us, women, but also for the men, I think. It's been really surprising to see how much respect the men of our team, like Kittel and Degenkolb (and all the others too, of course) have for us. I think normally the pro men never see what we so, that we train as hard and live as much for our sport as they do.
The men in our team really support us, I think the prejudices a lot of men have towards women's cycling really disappear once they get to work with us.
In the race, the blue skies have gone from the finish and have been replaced by clouds and the threat of race. The leaders, they have 6;50 over the peloton.
CN: Back to john for a second. what do you think of the idea not to bring Marcel here to the race? Are two sprinters not better than one?
Marijn de Vries: Tricky question! Of course this is a sprinter's race, but it happens lots of times only a small group comes to the finish line. I think this suits John more. I don't doubt Marcel would make it to the finish line - I just think is race is more a race for John. I think for a team it's always better to have just one sprinter, because of you have two, you have to leave a supporting rider back home. It's a clear choice, you don't have to choose during the race who will do the sprint. So if Marcel would also have been there, one of them would have had to play a supporting role - and I think there are other riders in the team who are better in doing that.
Gianni Bugno won the race in 1990, heralding the beginning of a long period of Italian domination in the spring classics. “The beauty of San Remo is that it makes you dream,” Bugno told La Repubblica. “There isn’t a rider out there who doesn’t dream the night before of winning it, even the most obscure gregario. And that’s what makes it exceptional.”
Filippo Pozzato (Lampre-Merida) was the last home winner of Milan-San Remo, when he held off the sprinters on the run-in to the finish in 2006, denying Alessandro Petacchi his second successive win.
“I know how you win this race – by working hard all winter, by knowing every metre of the course by heart and by being able to read it quickly, without hesitating,” Pozzato told Corriere dello Sport on the eve of the race.
Pozzato had spent the winter preparing for the Pompeiana, but for the man from Sandrigo, La Classicissima remains La Classicissima.
“I had studied the Pompeiana carefully but it’s not there and there’s no point mulling over how it would have changed the race. Everything has its importance, including the weather.”
First bit of action for the favourites, with Sagan suffering a mechanical. He's back with the bunch within just a couple of minutes though.
The Pompeiana may ultimately be absent from this year’s race but Astana manager Giuseppe Martinelli reckons that its potential inclusion marked mindsets over the winter months. He hinted, too, that Vincenzo Nibali would be on the offensive on the race’s penultimate climb and descent.
“I think that on the Cipressa something more important than normal will happen,” Martinelli told Gazzetta dello Sport. “There are a lot of guys with an interest in avoiding the bunch sprint. And at that point, it’s better that Vincenzo is in front instead of behind.”
Marijn: About Marc de Maar who is in the break. He's been training the whole winter on Curaçao, which is a small island in the Carribean Sea, close to - a former Dutch colony. There are only two roads there, altogether maybe 45k, so he's been doing the same loop over and over and over again. You can see it on his Strava. I think it really tells how motivated he his: he doesn't mind to do the same lap three times a day.
Vincenzo Nibali went on the offensive on the Poggio in 2011 and 2012, but he was circumspect about his chances at the start in Milan this morning. The Astana man does not have quite the same spring form of the past two seasons as he builds towards July and the Tour de France.
“This Milan-San Remo on the classic course is obviously better suited to the sprinters, but I hope I can do something, we’ll see,” Nibali said in Milan. “I’ll just have to see how my legs are in the finale but it’s a race for the fast finishers. Trying something on the Poggio would be hard, maybe the Cipressa is better for the attackers. Outside of the sprinters, maybe someone like Stybar can do something today.”
The record time for the Poggio (3.7km at 3.7%) remains the 5:46 clocked by Giorgio Furlan en route to victory in 1994. Furlan’s win twenty years ago was part of a never-before-nor-since purple patch that also included overall victory at Tirreno-Adriatico and Critérium International, and kick-started a startling run of results from his Gewiss team.
Moreno Argentin led an infamous 1-2-3 at Flèche Wallonne, Evgeni Berzin won Liège-Bastogne-Liège and the Giro d’Italia, Piotr Ugrumov pushed Miguel Indurain closest at the Tour de France and Vladislav Bobrik won the Tour of Lombardy. In between, Gewiss officially parted company with their team doctor, one Michele Ferrari, after he told L’Équipe that April: “EPO is not dangerous, it's the abuse that is. It's also dangerous to drink 10 litres of orange juice.”
Boem looks to be in trouble with cramps as he tries to hold the wheels in the break. He's in trouble though because they won't wait for him.
Back in the bunch and Cannondale, Trek and Giant are all on the front and setting the pace. Cavendish is mid-pack but looking comfortable.
96km remaining from 299km
We're into the final 100km with the peloton on the coast now. Steady rain and a buffering wind as Cannondale set the pace.
We'll shortly be joining Charly Wegelius live from the Garmin-Sharp team car. Marijn is with us too and will be providing expert comments on the race.
As more teams start to move up and take control at the head of the race.
We're about to talk to Charly Wegelius. He has Robbie Hunter in the car with him. Robbie has kindly passed the phone over to Charly. We can hear in the background the race radio crackle through as Robbie gives his riders instructions.
CN: You have rider up the road in Haas. How would you assess the race so far?
CN: Are you surprised by the make-up of the lead group?
84km remaining from 299km
84km to go and the gap to the leaders is at 6;40. The weather is getting worse though, with reports of snow now at the finish. Ciolek again?
Jerrie Camp @geojer 16m
@dnlbenson If OPQS gets Cavendish there, he will outsprint Sagan for sure.
Boem is off the back of the lead group, so we're down to six leaders as the break push on.
Parrinelo grits his teeth at the back of the break. Savio will be pleased with his man in the move but will be demanding a result today. Perhaps Pellizotti will have the legs to make a move?
Back to the finish and it's not in fact snowing. Confirmation that the rain is heavy though.
Team Sky have posted a couple of riders near the front of the field. Stannard who rode so well here last year and won at Omloop earlier this season has been left at home so leadership falls on the shoulders of Edvald Boason Hagen.
Thanks again to Wegelius for joining us during the race. A reminder that Garmin-Sharp have a rider up the road in Haas.
This line from Barry Ryan's excellent race preview perfectly describes the finale of the race:
"The Capo Mele (241km) signals the beginning of the end game, followed in rapid succession by the Cervo, Berta, Cipressa and Poggio. From here, the race adheres to a familiar pattern, with each climb and twisting descent adding another stanza to a poem that everyone seems to know by rote."
75km remaining from 299km
And this race could split up before the final two climbs. The conditions are getting worse, the rain continues to fall and every time the camera pan back all you can see are suffering faces.
Haas has a flat. What poor timing. The lead group is now down to five riders. Can the Garmin rider make it back?
In another part of Italy Ben King is about to sit down and watch the race with Jay Mccarthy (Saxo) and Martin Wesseman from MTN. They managed a swift 70 of training before the race and will be sending us their thoughts.
The rain continues to pour down and every rider has a cape on now. The bunch is strung out as they head through a roundabout but at this stage the sprinters will be hanging on for dear life because this race could become very, very selective.
The record for the Cipressa (5.6km at 4.1%), meanwhile, is held by Francesco Casagrande, who went up in 9:36 in 2001, when Erik Zabel beat Mario Cipollini in the bunch sprint for the win. Casagrande’s time was one second quicker than Marco Pantani’s on the Cipressa two years earlier.
Barta takes on some food from the team car and then gives his DS a thumbs up, rather more in hope than confidence.
Very briefly we've been joined by Wegelius from the team car live.
61km remaining from 299km
That's all from the Garmin team car today. As with 61km to go and the leaders still have around six minutes.
Parrinello has also lost contact with the leaders so the break is down to just four riders.
It's Giant now on the front of the peloton
Ben King (Garmin-Sharp):
And riders are really starting to struggle at the back of the peloton with more and more starting to struggle. Giant continue to set the pace and keep things as high as possible. 56km to go.
5'30 for the leaders now as Bono take a turn on the front.
Just four riders remain from the seven man group.
It's now Orica and Katusha who are setting the pace, Orica for Matthews and Katusha for Kristoff. Both riders are outsiders for today but with such brutal conditions they can't be ruled out.
Brett Lancaster who came into the race for Gerrans slips to the back of the bunch as we see Mark Cavendish in the bunch, protected by his teammates. He looks to be suffering but so does everyone else. Cavendish is near the front and that's a good sign for the British rider.
50km remaining from 299km
Into the final 50km with the gap to the leaders over 5 minutes.
Smart. Paolini has a bottle of warm liquid and pours it straight over his gloves in a bid to warm his hands.
Now Lotto move up with Greipel waiting in the wings as Canndonale stomp their way to the front once more.
Katusha are busy moving their sprinter close to the action as the climbs being to start. soon. Out from the break look to be on their last legs but they're all taking their turns and working well together. 43km to go.
As the leaders have around 4 minutes with 41km to go.
4'50 in fact to the break with 41km to go. The bunch are winding things up nicely.
Onto the Capo Berta now for the four leaders. Bono leads.
As Katusha and Cannondale share the pace.
Barta has cracked on the Berta. So we have just three riders up front now with 40km to go. The gap is down to four minutes as we see Barta hit the wall in a big way.
It's de Maar who leads the break as back in the bunch Cavendish sits with Petacchi. Wegmann is up there for Garmin too as the bunch tackle the Berta.
Cancellara for the first time today moves up to the head of the peloton. A lot of riders are struggling on the climb though, the race is splitting apart.
Nibali doesn't seem to be enjoying these conditions as we see him for the first time as well.
Cavendish is out of the saddle as he climbs with the three leaders now 2'56 clear with 36km to go .
Gasparotto has been dropped. That's a bit of a surprise at this stage.
Just two more climbs to come now, the Cipressa and the Poggio. The peloton has started to shed a number of riders but Cavendish, Kristoff, Demare, Greipel and Degenkolb are all still there.
The main field is down to around 50 or 60 riders.
2'49 for the leaders and there's a bit of panic in the bunch as it's confirmed that Omega have lost Renshaw and Kwiatkowski. Petacchi and Trentin are both still there.
Katusha lead, they want to split this race and drop the sprinters but at the same time have a pace that's too strong for the likes of Gilbert and Cancellara to attack. The gap is around two minutes.
Inside the final 30km and there are reports that Petacchi has been dropped too.
Cavendish might have to hope that Lotto and Giant keep things together for a sprint.
Tjallingii and de Maar are alone as they drop Bono on the Cipressa.
And it is Lotto who move up to the front and set the pace. Greipel, Degenkolb, Cavendish, Sagan, Cancellara, Gilbert are all here.
As Giant lead onto the climb. Demare is also in the main field as Cannondale hit the front and the pace increases straight away. That was a planned move at the foot of the Cipressa.
Three Cannondale riders hit the front and it has an immediate affect with rider after rider slipping off the back.
Sagan is in second wheel, a Sky rider on his wheel with the gap to the leaders down to 1'32. The Sagan group is down to less than 30 riders. I think that's Swift from Sky up there.
Van Avermaet is in there too. Cavendish is still there. He's hanging on.
25km remaining from 299km
No attacks yet, the pace too high from Cannondale but they've still not dropped Cavendish as Nibali attacks.
That might be the end for Cavendish but this is a huge move from the Astana rider with 24 km to go. There are no reactions from the rest of the field.
Nibali sweeps by Bono and he could catch the leaders on the descent.
There's the move we expected from nibali!
Ciolek is in the Sagan group too by the way but it's Nibali who has about 5 seconds on the Cannondale led field.
De Marchi is doing an excellent job for Sagan but more riders have joined the Cannondale led group.
Marijn de Vries:
Nibali continues to push on. He'll look to catch the leaders on the descent and then hit them on the Poggio. Assuming of course he can hold off the bunch but that's a huge ask. The Italian has 30 seconds on the peloton though. That's a decent gap at this stage.
The questions are how much room with they give the Astana leader and which team will chase him?
It's no longer Cannondale on the front. I think that's Lotto or Giant doing the work.
Nibali is 15 seconds off the leaders but still has 30 seconds over the peloton.
26 seconds between Nibali and the chase. He'll put his descending skills to good use now.
He's on the descent but so are the bunch. The gap is at 31 seconds now.
The two leaders look back, and soon they'll see Nibali coming over to them. The wet roads are a factor for everyone. Who has the skills and who will take the risks?
Nibali is an amazing descender and knows these roads. Now is the time to take risks.
Nibali cant' wait for anyone. With 18km to go he need to bridge up to the two leaders and then attack them on the Poggio and go clear. He can't lose a single second at this rate.
Tjallingii leads, de Maar about 10 meters back, then Nibali. Thre's an attack from the peloton though.
There's a splinter move with Cancellara, Stybar and Sagan included but that's been shut down.
This stop-start action is only going to help Nibali but now Cannondale move up again. The whole race is split by just 48 seconds as de Marchi again sets the pace.
Swift is there, Greipel too. Tjallingii still leads with Nibali hunting him down. Lotto still have the numbers in the bunch though. Cavendish is there too.
14km to go and Tjallingii still leads. Greipel looks very good at this stage as Swift helps Boasson Hagen move up.
Nibali looks to be tiring now. His cadence his high but his shoulders are starting to drop a little bit. He's still not even caught the leader and that's an indication of his level, perhaps.
Cavendish meanwhile sits on Sagan's wheel. Tense moments in the peloton right now as Nibali hits the Poggio.
Out of the saddle straight away but he's 33 seconds down on the lone leader.
I think de Maar has blown but we've not seen him in a while as BMC lead Gilbert to the front.
Apologies Nibali is clear and leading. He has that advantage over the peloton of around 30 seconds.
Nibali has 26 seconds on the chase group with Sky leading the charge. They've been joined by BMC who have van Avermaet and Gilbert in the mix. Behind them are the sprinters. Can they hang on?
Here come Trek as Cancellara has a teammate lead him to the front. The gap to Nibali is down to 16 seconds.
Inside the final 9km as Nibali hits the Poggio proper. He has 12 seconds at this stage. It's not going be enough.
Greipel in second wheel.
Nibali's lead is down to four seconds.
And here comes a move from Trek. It's Rast who has gone clear.
Cancellara will just wait for now.
And here comes a move from Bardiani and it's Battaglin, who now has Rast on his wheel
Rast looks back but there's nothing from Cancellara just yet as Nibali sits up and will coast to the finish.
Sky now set the pace with FDJ in the mix too. 7.5km to go and it's playing into the hands of the sprinters who have remained.
And Gilbert has gone. He's made a move but it's been covered.
It's brought the race back together though.
Belkin attack but that's been caught.
And Katusha move up with Paolini and control the pace to help Kristoff.
Cavendish is still there but it looks like Boasson Hagen is going back wards.
Now the descent of the climb, it's all still together.
Greipel is hanging on. Sagan is certainly there.
Belkin have a rider off the front with Van Avermaet with him. Two lone leaders but the gap is less than two seconds.
We're hearing that Greipel was in trouble on the last climb. The Belkin rider is Mollema by the way. He and van Avermaet have a gap of a few meters.
4.6km to go
That might be Cavendish in fifth wheel. Swift is there, Degenkolb as well I think.
Bennati is also there for Saxo.
There are less than 20 riders in contention with 3.3km to go and Van Avermaet has attacked.
The BMC rider can't break free though and it's all back together once more.
Another Bardiani rider has attacked.
no one is closing this down.
It's Colbrelli but it's all over and Greipel has made it back to the front group. Incredible ride from the German
Katusha lead and Omega are there with Cavendish
1.1km to go.
Two Katusha riders on the front. Ciolek is there, Cancellara and Sagan.
BMC hit the front. Here comes Cavendish.
It's Kristoff who takes it. An incredible sprint from the Katusha man after and excellent lead out from Paolini.
I think it was Cancellara in second. Cavendish perhaps found himself at the front too early but there was nothing he could do when Kristoff opened up for the line. Swift may have taken third ahead of Cavendish.
In the end Kristoff was well clear of the rest of the group. Confirmed, Cancellara in second, Swift in third.
Sagan didn't have the legs, Ciolek was in the top 15 as well but Kristoff simply had more in the tank in the end.
Lobato was fourth, Cavendish fifth. Sagan was 10th in the end.
1 Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Team Katusha
2 Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Trek Factory Racing
3 Ben Swift (GBr) Team Sky
4 Juan Jose Lobato Del Valle (Spa) Movistar Team
5 Mark Cavendish (GBr) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team
6 Sonny Colbrelli (Ita) Bardiani-CSF
7 Zdenek Stybar (Cze) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team
8 Sacha Modolo (Ita) Lampre-Merida
9 Gerald Ciolek (Ger) MTN-Qhubeka
10 Peter Sagan (Svk) Cannondale
Degenkolb, if you're wondering, punctured at the foot of the Poggio. Heartbreak for the German after almost 300km of racing.
Thanks for joining us today. You can find our report, images, and results right here.
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