Freire gives Oscar-winning performance in Milan - San Remo

Oscar Freire (Rabobank) claimed his third and most emphatic victory in the Italian Classic, Milan-San Remo, on Saturday afternoon. The Spaniard positioned himself perfectly for a sprint finish from a select group of 25 riders to defeat race favourite Tom Boonen (Quick Step) and Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre-Farnese Vini).

Despite several spirited attempts by riders to get away on the ever-decisive Poggio, the favourites all regrouped in the three-kilometre dash towards the finish. Liquigas entered the final kilometre at the front, but it was a cagey Freire who benefited most from the lime green lead-out as he leapt out from third wheel to finish a bike length clear of Boonen.

"I think I deserved to win my first win Milan-San Remo because Zabel wasn't the same rider he had been," said Freire, as he compared his 2004 and 2007 wins with his latest title. "The second Milan-San Remo went really went and I did a great sprint. This year it was the same. I think I had good form. I was scared of the finish because it wasn't on the Via Roma, which I prefer. Fortunately it went well."

Snap, crackle and pop on the Poggio

The sprint finish defied pre-race predictions of late attackers being able to stay away, though, it was not for lack of trying. A nervous-looking peloton appeared willing to delay hostilities on the Cipressa, and despite a move by Alexandr Kolobnev (Katusha) towards the top of the penultimate climb, it wasn't until the Poggio that all-out war commenced.

A bold move by Yoann Offredo (Francaise des Jeux) on the descent off the Cipressa was met just kilometres later, on the Poggio, with a stampede from a Stefano Garzelli-led peloton. As the Acqua & Sapone man swung off, Michael Rogers (HTC-Columbia) tore off the front of the race, with Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) and Filippo Pozzato (Katusha) launching their own counter-attacks.

Pozzato led the race over the summit, but as he began the descent, the proximity of his rivals made it clear that a sizable group was going to make it to the finish. Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas) led a hair-raising descent into San Remo and although he took Pozzato, Gilbert, Thor Hushovd (Cervelo TestTeam) and Matti Breschel (Saxo Bank) with him, the race once again came back together as the terrain flattened out for the final kilometres.

Freire admitted afterwards that this regrouping was key to his eventual victory. "The most difficult moment for me was on the descent of Poggio," he said. "Pozzato got a gap with five or six others. I was scared they'd stay away. Then when he attacked I knew I had to just find a good wheel because I couldn't chase him. That was the only way I could win was in a sprint."

A final flourish from Nibali was answered by Pozzato, who went clear with two kilometres to go. After a moment's hesitation by the pack, Liquigas took responsibility for drawing the Italian Champion back once more as its team led the way into the final kilometre. Around a minute later, Freire slid out of their slipstream and sprinted across the line for yet another famous victory at La Classicisma.

"The statistics say that Milan-San Remo finishes more often than not in a sprint and so the sprinters have to wait for the sprint. There are always attacks, for sure, but there always are a lot of sprinters who want a sprint finish. A team like Liquigas could have done everything, go on the attack or wait for the sprint. They opted for a sprint but we all took advantage of that.

"When I started the sprint I knew I was in a good position and had good legs for it," he said. "I'd been worried about being blocked in like two years ago but this time the right people were up there for the sprint and I found the right wheel. Bennati went, but I don't think he had the legs today."

And so it begins

Just under seven hours earlier, the peloton had left a drizzly Milan for their journey to the coast. With the flag pulled in, the customary early attack followed just three kilometres down the road. Unsurprisingly, it was an all Italian affair as Fabrice Piemontesi (Androni Giocatolli), Aristide Ratti (Carmiooro NGC) and Diego Caccia (ISD-Neri) used the outskirts of Milan to make good their escape.

With almost 300 kilometres on the day's agenda, the trio were given a wide berth. Lampre-Farnese Vini, Liquigas-Doimo, Katusha and HTC-Columbia were the teams patrolling the front of the peloton behind, but their tempo was tranquil enough to allow the leaders to push out to over 22 minutes. However, as they approached the Passo del Turchino the leaders' time gap commenced its gradual retreat.

Quick Step now making themselves visible at the front of the main group, the time gap began to drop. The leaders began the climb with 16:25 and they finished it with a little over 12 minutes. There was no rush to shrink that gap further, and the leaders were still out in front on the slopes of Le Mànie, with 100 kilometres to go. But their advantage was now a meagre two minutes.

While the leaders had been making their way between the Turchino and Le Mànie, the race behind had split after a crash on the descent of the Turchino, with reigning champion Mark Cavendish caught in the latter selection. The Briton's HTC-Columbia squad immediately came to the front in order to limit the damage. While Cavendish's men set to work, Murilo Fischer (Garmin-Transitions), who had also crashed in the incident, left the race with a broken collarbone.

As attention focussed on the gap between the pelotons, the leaders were brought back by the front section of the grim-coated group at 81 kilometres-to-go. Caccia, who had spent more than 200 kilometres out in front, had clearly developed a penchant for that position in the race. The Italian took point duty at the front and controlled the tempo of the 30-strong group for another five kilometres.

With no-one in the mood to push the pace in the front group, the two halves of the peloton reformed. But at 60 kilometres to go AG2R-La Mondiale's Maxime Bouet decided to attempt mission impossible as he fired off the front. The young Frenchman quickly built a 20-second buffer, which he gradually stretched out towards 40 seconds. Dimitri Grabovskyy (ISD-Neri) was one of the first to answer the move as seven riders attempted to bridge across to the lone leader.

Grabovskyy was the only one able to catch Bouet. He made brief contact before storming past the AG2R rider on the Capo Berta. Unfortunately for the Ukrainian, the peloton had started to sharpen the pencil and it wasn't long before he too was recouped after the town of Imperia, with 37 kilometres to go.

With Grabovskyy caught and the peloton once again back to status quo, Milram led onto the Cipressa and into what would be a fantastic finale for Freire.

Full Results

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#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Oscar Freire Gomez (Spa) Rabobank6:57:28
2Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick StepRow 1 - Cell 2
3Alessandro Petacchi (Ita) Lampre-Farnese ViniRow 2 - Cell 2
4Sacha Modolo (Ita) Colnago - CSF InoxRow 3 - Cell 2
5Daniele Bennati (Ita) Liquigas-DoimoRow 4 - Cell 2
6Thor Hushovd (Nor) Cervelo Test TeamRow 5 - Cell 2
7Francesco Ginanni (Ita) Androni GiocattoliRow 6 - Cell 2
8Maxim Iglinsky (Kaz) AstanaRow 7 - Cell 2
9Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Omega Pharma-LottoRow 8 - Cell 2
10Luca Paolini (Ita) Acqua & SaponeRow 9 - Cell 2
11Matti Breschel (Den) Team Saxo BankRow 10 - Cell 2
12Anthony Geslin (Fra) Française Des JeuxRow 11 - Cell 2
13Enrico Gasparotto (Ita) AstanaRow 12 - Cell 2
14Geoffroy Lequatre (Fra) Team RadioshackRow 13 - Cell 2
15Paul Martens (Ger) RabobankRow 14 - Cell 2
16Yoann Offredo (Fra) Française Des JeuxRow 15 - Cell 2
17Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Team Saxo BankRow 16 - Cell 2
18Juan Antonio Flecha Giannoni (Spa) Sky Professional Cycling TeamRow 17 - Cell 2
19Linus Gerdemann (Ger) Team MilramRow 18 - Cell 2
20Pablo Lastras Garcia (Spa) Caisse d'EpargneRow 19 - Cell 2
21Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Quick StepRow 20 - Cell 2
22Marcus Burghardt (Ger) BMC Racing TeamRow 21 - Cell 2
23Daniel Oss (Ita) Liquigas-DoimoRow 22 - Cell 2
24Xavier Florencio Cabre (Spa) Cervelo Test TeamRow 23 - Cell 2
25Michael Rogers (Aus) Team HTC - ColumbiaRow 24 - Cell 2
26Andriy Grivko (Ukr) Astana0:00:09
27Thomas Lövkvist (Swe) Sky Professional Cycling TeamRow 26 - Cell 2
28Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas-DoimoRow 27 - Cell 2
29Filippo Pozzato (Ita) Team Katusha0:00:18
30Michele Scarponi (Ita) Androni Giocattoli0:00:21
31Serguei Ivanov (Rus) Team Katusha0:00:39
32Simon Clarke (Aus) ISD - Neri0:01:35
33Lorenzo Bernucci (Ita) Lampre-Farnese ViniRow 32 - Cell 2
34Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre-Farnese ViniRow 33 - Cell 2
35Andreas Klier (Ger) Cervelo Test TeamRow 34 - Cell 2
36Alan Perez Lezaun (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi0:01:40
37Dmitriy Muravyev (Kaz) Team RadioshackRow 36 - Cell 2
38Lloyd Mondory (Fra) AG2R La MondialeRow 37 - Cell 2
39Jose Joaquin Rojas Gil (Spa) Caisse d'EpargneRow 38 - Cell 2
40Francisco José Ventoso Alberdi (Spa) Carmiooro NGCRow 39 - Cell 2
41Niki Terpstra (Ned) Team MilramRow 40 - Cell 2
42Tyler Farrar (USA) Garmin - TransitionsRow 41 - Cell 2
43Juan Jose Oroz Ugalde (Spa) Euskaltel - EuskadiRow 42 - Cell 2
44Bernhard Eisel (Aut) Team HTC - ColumbiaRow 43 - Cell 2
45Ruben Perez Moreno (Spa) Euskaltel - EuskadiRow 44 - Cell 2
46Alexandr Kolobnev (Rus) Team KatushaRow 45 - Cell 2
47Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) Omega Pharma-LottoRow 46 - Cell 2
48Eduard Vorganov (Rus) Team KatushaRow 47 - Cell 2
49Rui Alberto Faria Da Costa (Por) Caisse d'EpargneRow 48 - Cell 2
50Christian Knees (Ger) Team MilramRow 49 - Cell 2
51Markus Fothen (Ger) Team MilramRow 50 - Cell 2
52Karsten Kroon (Ned) BMC Racing TeamRow 51 - Cell 2
53Wesley Sulzberger (Aus) Française Des JeuxRow 52 - Cell 2
54Michael Barry (Can) Sky Professional Cycling TeamRow 53 - Cell 2
55George Hincapie (USA) BMC Racing TeamRow 54 - Cell 2
56Markel Irizar Aranburu (Spa) Team RadioshackRow 55 - Cell 2
57Sébastien Rosseler (Bel) Team RadioshackRow 56 - Cell 2
58Jackson Rodriguez (Ven) Androni GiocattoliRow 57 - Cell 2
59Gabriel Rasch (Nor) Cervelo Test TeamRow 58 - Cell 2
60Bram Tankink (Ned) RabobankRow 59 - Cell 2
61Nick Nuyens (Bel) RabobankRow 60 - Cell 2
62Sebastian Langeveld (Ned) RabobankRow 61 - Cell 2
63Oscar Gatto (Ita) ISD - NeriRow 62 - Cell 2
64Alessandro Ballan (Ita) BMC Racing TeamRow 63 - Cell 2
65Sébastien Hinault (Fra) AG2R La MondialeRow 64 - Cell 2
66Rene Mandri (Est) AG2R La MondialeRow 65 - Cell 2
67William Bonnet (Fra) BBox Bouygues TelecomRow 66 - Cell 2
68Matteo Tosatto (Ita) Quick StepRow 67 - Cell 2
69Emanuele Sella (Ita) Carmiooro NGCRow 68 - Cell 2
70Francesco Gavazzi (Ita) Lampre-Farnese ViniRow 69 - Cell 2
71Jérôme Pineau (Fra) Quick StepRow 70 - Cell 2
72Inaki Isasi Flores (Spa) Euskaltel - EuskadiRow 71 - Cell 2
73Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) Colnago - CSF InoxRow 72 - Cell 2
74Mirco Lorenzetto (Ita) Lampre-Farnese ViniRow 73 - Cell 2
75Dries Devenyns (Bel) Quick StepRow 74 - Cell 2
76Jose Rodolfo Serpa Perez (Col) Androni GiocattoliRow 75 - Cell 2
77Manuele Mori (Ita) Lampre-Farnese ViniRow 76 - Cell 2
78Assan Bazayev (Kaz) AstanaRow 77 - Cell 2
79Manuel Quinziato (Ita) Liquigas-DoimoRow 78 - Cell 2
80Benoît Vaugrenard (Fra) Française Des JeuxRow 79 - Cell 2
81Rigoberto Uran Uran (Col) Caisse d'EpargneRow 80 - Cell 2
82Franco Pellizotti (Ita) Liquigas-Doimo0:01:49
83Stefano Garzelli (Ita) Acqua & SaponeRow 82 - Cell 2
84Dimitri Champion (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale0:01:54
85Francesco Failli (Ita) Acqua & Sapone0:03:04
86Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Liquigas-Doimo0:03:13
87Vasili Kiryienka (Blr) Caisse d'EpargneRow 86 - Cell 2
88Steve Chainel (Fra) BBox Bouygues Telecom0:05:29
89Mark Cavendish (GBr) Team HTC - Columbia0:06:12
90Mirko Selvaggi (Ita) AstanaRow 89 - Cell 2
91Giovanni Visconti (Ita) ISD - NeriRow 90 - Cell 2
92Grégory Rast (Swi) Team RadioshackRow 91 - Cell 2
93Thomas Leezer (Ned) RabobankRow 92 - Cell 2
94Lars Boom (Ned) RabobankRow 93 - Cell 2
95Maarten Tjallingii (Ned) RabobankRow 94 - Cell 2
96Greg Henderson (NZl) Sky Professional Cycling TeamRow 95 - Cell 2
97Brett Lancaster (Aus) Cervelo Test TeamRow 96 - Cell 2
98Johan Van Summeren (Bel) Garmin - TransitionsRow 97 - Cell 2
99Christopher Sutton (Aus) Sky Professional Cycling TeamRow 98 - Cell 2
100Cameron Wurf (Aus) Androni GiocattoliRow 99 - Cell 2
101Jurgen Roelandts (Bel) Omega Pharma-LottoRow 100 - Cell 2
102Frédéric Guesdon (Fra) Française Des JeuxRow 101 - Cell 2