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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

#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Oscar Freire Gomez (Spa) Rabobank6:57:28
2Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick Step
3Alessandro Petacchi (Ita) Lampre-Farnese Vini
4Sacha Modolo (Ita) Colnago - CSF Inox
5Daniele Bennati (Ita) Liquigas-Doimo
6Thor Hushovd (Nor) Cervelo Test Team
7Francesco Ginanni (Ita) Androni Giocattoli
8Maxim Iglinsky (Kaz) Astana
9Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto
10Luca Paolini (Ita) Acqua & Sapone
11Matti Breschel (Den) Team Saxo Bank
12Anthony Geslin (Fra) Française Des Jeux
13Enrico Gasparotto (Ita) Astana
14Geoffroy Lequatre (Fra) Team Radioshack
15Paul Martens (Ger) Rabobank
16Yoann Offredo (Fra) Française Des Jeux
17Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Team Saxo Bank
18Juan Antonio Flecha Giannoni (Spa) Sky Professional Cycling Team
19Linus Gerdemann (Ger) Team Milram
20Pablo Lastras Garcia (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne
21Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Quick Step
22Marcus Burghardt (Ger) BMC Racing Team
23Daniel Oss (Ita) Liquigas-Doimo
24Xavier Florencio Cabre (Spa) Cervelo Test Team
25Michael Rogers (Aus) Team HTC - Columbia
26Andriy Grivko (Ukr) Astana0:00:09
27Thomas Lövkvist (Swe) Sky Professional Cycling Team
28Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas-Doimo
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 Vini
34Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre-Farnese Vini
35Andreas Klier (Ger) Cervelo Test Team
36Alan Perez Lezaun (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi0:01:40
37Dmitriy Muravyev (Kaz) Team Radioshack
38Lloyd Mondory (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
39Jose Joaquin Rojas Gil (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne
40Francisco José Ventoso Alberdi (Spa) Carmiooro NGC
41Niki Terpstra (Ned) Team Milram
42Tyler Farrar (USA) Garmin - Transitions
43Juan Jose Oroz Ugalde (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi
44Bernhard Eisel (Aut) Team HTC - Columbia
45Ruben Perez Moreno (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi
46Alexandr Kolobnev (Rus) Team Katusha
47Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto
48Eduard Vorganov (Rus) Team Katusha
49Rui Alberto Faria Da Costa (Por) Caisse d'Epargne
50Christian Knees (Ger) Team Milram
51Markus Fothen (Ger) Team Milram
52Karsten Kroon (Ned) BMC Racing Team
53Wesley Sulzberger (Aus) Française Des Jeux
54Michael Barry (Can) Sky Professional Cycling Team
55George Hincapie (USA) BMC Racing Team
56Markel Irizar Aranburu (Spa) Team Radioshack
57Sébastien Rosseler (Bel) Team Radioshack
58Jackson Rodriguez (Ven) Androni Giocattoli
59Gabriel Rasch (Nor) Cervelo Test Team
60Bram Tankink (Ned) Rabobank
61Nick Nuyens (Bel) Rabobank
62Sebastian Langeveld (Ned) Rabobank
63Oscar Gatto (Ita) ISD - Neri
64Alessandro Ballan (Ita) BMC Racing Team
65Sébastien Hinault (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
66Rene Mandri (Est) AG2R La Mondiale
67William Bonnet (Fra) BBox Bouygues Telecom
68Matteo Tosatto (Ita) Quick Step
69Emanuele Sella (Ita) Carmiooro NGC
70Francesco Gavazzi (Ita) Lampre-Farnese Vini
71Jérôme Pineau (Fra) Quick Step
72Inaki Isasi Flores (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi
73Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) Colnago - CSF Inox
74Mirco Lorenzetto (Ita) Lampre-Farnese Vini
75Dries Devenyns (Bel) Quick Step
76Jose Rodolfo Serpa Perez (Col) Androni Giocattoli
77Manuele Mori (Ita) Lampre-Farnese Vini
78Assan Bazayev (Kaz) Astana
79Manuel Quinziato (Ita) Liquigas-Doimo
80Benoît Vaugrenard (Fra) Française Des Jeux
81Rigoberto Uran Uran (Col) Caisse d'Epargne
82Franco Pellizotti (Ita) Liquigas-Doimo0:01:49
83Stefano Garzelli (Ita) Acqua & Sapone
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'Epargne
88Steve Chainel (Fra) BBox Bouygues Telecom0:05:29
89Mark Cavendish (GBr) Team HTC - Columbia0:06:12
90Mirko Selvaggi (Ita) Astana
91Giovanni Visconti (Ita) ISD - Neri
92Grégory Rast (Swi) Team Radioshack
93Thomas Leezer (Ned) Rabobank
94Lars Boom (Ned) Rabobank
95Maarten Tjallingii (Ned) Rabobank
96Greg Henderson (NZl) Sky Professional Cycling Team
97Brett Lancaster (Aus) Cervelo Test Team
98Johan Van Summeren (Bel) Garmin - Transitions
99Christopher Sutton (Aus) Sky Professional Cycling Team
100Cameron Wurf (Aus) Androni Giocattoli
101Jurgen Roelandts (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto
102Frédéric Guesdon (Fra) Française Des Jeux
103Mickael Delage (Fra) Omega Pharma-Lotto
104Anders Lund (Den) Team Saxo Bank
105David Millar (GBr) Garmin - Transitions
106Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Sky Professional Cycling Team
107Marco Velo (Ita) Quick Step
108Xabier Zandio Echaide (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne
109Sébastien Turgot (Fra) BBox Bouygues Telecom0:10:07
110Biel Kadri (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
111Luca Mazzanti (Ita) Team Katusha
112Daryl Impey (RSA) Team Radioshack
113Fumiyuki Beppu (Jpn) Team Radioshack
114Michael Schär (Swi) BMC Racing Team
115Peter Wrolich (Aut) Team Milram
116Alan Marangoni (Ita) Colnago - CSF Inox
117Marco Frapporti (Ita) Colnago - CSF Inox
118Vladimir Efimkin (Rus) AG2R La Mondiale
119Mathieu Claude (Fra) BBox Bouygues Telecom
120Stuart O'grady (Aus) Team Saxo Bank
121Lars Ytting Bak (Den) Team HTC - Columbia
122Matthew Wilson (Aus) Garmin - Transitions
123Paul Voss (Ger) Team Milram
124Danilo Hondo (Ger) Lampre-Farnese Vini
125Staf Scheirlinckx (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto
126Allan Davis (Aus) Astana
127Frank Hoj (Den) Team Saxo Bank
128Gustav Larsson (Swe) Team Saxo Bank
129Mathew Hayman (Aus) Sky Professional Cycling Team
130Dmytro Grabovskyy (Ukr) ISD - Neri
131Paolo Longo Borghini (Ita) ISD - Neri
132Aristide Ratti (Ita) Carmiooro NGC
133Jure Kocjan (Slo) Carmiooro NGC
134Vladimir Miholjevic (Cro) Acqua & Sapone
135Alessandro Fantini (Ita) Acqua & Sapone
136Pablo Urtasun Perez (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi
137Jorge Azanza Soto (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi
138Laurent Beuret (Swi) Carmiooro NGC
139Rubens Bertogliati (Swi) Androni Giocattoli
140Eric Berthou (Fra) Carmiooro NGC
141Luke Roberts (Aus) Team Milram0:10:18
142Jeremy Hunt (GBr) Cervelo Test Team0:14:24
143Olivier Bonnaire (Fra) Française Des Jeux
144Alessandro Donati (Ita) Acqua & Sapone
145Valeriy Dmitriyev (Kaz) Astana0:17:17
146Danilo Wyss (Swi) BMC Racing Team
147Roy Sentjens (Bel) Team Milram
148Valerio Agnoli (Ita) Liquigas-Doimo
149Yauheni Hutarovich (Blr) Française Des Jeux
150Diego Caccia (Ita) ISD - Neri
151Daniele Ratto (Ita) Carmiooro NGC
152Maxime Bouet (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
153Fabrice Piemontesi (Ita) Androni Giocattoli
DNFMichael Albasini (Swi) Team HTC - Columbia
DNFMatthew Harley Goss (Aus) Team HTC - Columbia
DNFMaxime Monfort (Bel) Team HTC - Columbia
DNFPeter Velits (Svk) Team HTC - Columbia
DNFDario Andriotto (Ita) Acqua & Sapone
DNFMassimo Codol (Ita) Acqua & Sapone
DNFAlexander Efimkin (Rus) AG2R La Mondiale
DNFDamiano Margutti (Ita) Androni Giocattoli
DNFSergey Renev (Kaz) Astana
DNFYukiya Arashiro (Jpn) BBox Bouygues Telecom
DNFSaïd Haddou (Fra) BBox Bouygues Telecom
DNFAlexandre Pichot (Fra) BBox Bouygues Telecom
DNFDamien Gaudin (Fra) BBox Bouygues Telecom
DNFJeffry Louder (USA) BMC Racing Team
DNFBrent Bookwalter (USA) BMC Racing Team
DNFMarzio Bruseghin (Ita) Caisse d'Epargne
DNFArnaud Coyot (Fra) Caisse d'Epargne
DNFRaffaele Ferrara (Ita) Carmiooro NGC
DNFRoger Hammond (GBr) Cervelo Test Team
DNFDominique Rollin (Can) Cervelo Test Team
DNFMattia Gavazzi (Ita) Colnago - CSF Inox
DNFManuel Belletti (Ita) Colnago - CSF Inox
DNFFederico Canuti (Ita) Colnago - CSF Inox
DNFSimone Stortoni (Ita) Colnago - CSF Inox
DNFKoldo Fernandez (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi
DNFAmets Txurruka (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi
DNFJulian Dean (NZl) Garmin - Transitions
DNFMurilo Antonio Fischer (Bra) Garmin - Transitions
DNFSvein Tuft (Can) Garmin - Transitions
DNFMartijn Maaskant (Ned) Garmin - Transitions
DNFCarlo Scognamiglio (Ita) ISD - Neri
DNFBartosz Huzarski (Pol) ISD - Neri
DNFMauro Da Dalto (Ita) Lampre-Farnese Vini
DNFFabio Sabatini (Ita) Liquigas-Doimo
DNFWilfried Cretskens (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto
DNFMichiel Elijzen (Ned) Omega Pharma-Lotto
DNFSebastian Lang (Ger) Omega Pharma-Lotto
DNFCarlos Barredo Llamazales (Spa) Quick Step
DNFMaarten Wynants (Bel) Quick Step
DNFIan Stannard (GBr) Sky Professional Cycling Team
DNFMarco Bandiera (Ita) Team Katusha
DNFMikhail Ignatiev (Rus) Team Katusha
DNFKim Kirchen (Lux) Team Katusha
DNFTomas Vaitkus (Ltu) Team Radioshack
DNFAndy Schleck (Lux) Team Saxo Bank
DNFBaden Cooke (Aus) Team Saxo Bank

Nico Mattan on Milan-San Remo:

Some people were surprised that Oscar Freire won Milan-San Remo but I wasn't. The riders went so easy on the Poggio, that it was going to be a bunch sprint and he knows how to win after 298km.

I know Gilbert gave it a go but you could see he was not at 100% and was never going to get away. Pozzato was probably the strongest but there wasn't much he could, with everybody else wanting a sprint finish. Anyway, cycling is not like 15 years ago when riders attacked on the Poggio and stayed away. Now everyone is at a similar level and so Milan-San Remo is not as spectacular. It will probably always end in a group sprint now unless they add an extra climb or move the finish to the top of the Poggio.

In races over 250km, Freire is the best sprinter out there, that's why he won three world titles and now three Milan-San Remo. Boonen was there but he's not really a sprinter like Freire, Cavendish or Petacchi, he's a cobbled classics rider who has a fast finish.

Freire also wanted it more. He'll never win on the cobbles, he doesn't like them, and so he put everything on winning Milan-San Remo. Now it's up to Boonen to prove he's as hungry for another win at the Ronde van Vlaanderen and Paris-Roubaix.

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