Liquigas played a brilliant tactical game but Cancellara’s raw power was their undoing – with Gerrans the best poker player.
Matt Conn was at the newsagent in Udine early to make sure that we had the Gazzetta’s take on the favourites for the 103rd Primavera.
Cavendish is number one; Boonen, Cancellara, Freire and Sagan are second favourites; Boasson-Hagen, Cunego, Greipel, Goss and Nibali are on the third rank with Ballan, Farrar, Modolo, Pozzato and Viviani bringing up the rear.
No mention then of Bennati or Haussler.
‘Buongiorno’ said the email from the race organisers, a little later in morning and went on to inform us:
‘The 103rd edition of Milano-Sanremo is underway after leaving the centre of Milan for the 298km race to Sanremo on the Italian coast.
Before the start, the riders gathered for a minute of silence in remembrance of the Belgian children killed in Switzerland.
A total of 200 riders from 25 different teams left Piazza del Castello in the centre of Milan.
The race is scheduled to finish in Sanremo at 5:15pm.
METEO: The sun was out in Milan with temperatures of 12C.
Similar conditions are expected during the race, with a slight chance of showers in the hills.
At the finish in Sanremo temperatures are forecast to be 15C.
INSIDE INFORMATION: Italian riders have won Milano-Sanremo 50 times, with international riders having won 52 editions.
Australia’s Matt Goss (GreenEdge) won the 2011 edition of Milano-Sanremo.
There are six previous Milano-Sanremo winners competing this year: Matt Goss, Mark Cavendish, Fabian Cancellara, Filippo Pozzato, Oscar Freire and Alessandro Petacchi.’
Thank you for that, RCS.
And the first break went within minutes – 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), Pier Paolo De Negri (Farnese Vini), Oleg Berdos (UtensilNord) and my boss from the six days, Michael Mшrkшv (Saxo Bank).
The lead stretched to around 13/14 minutes before those spoil sports at Sky took to the front of the bunch somewhere around 100 K in – but Sanremo is a long way from Kuurne…
The Turchino Pass, a long drag from the plains to the top of the coastal ridge, then a plunge to the Ligurian Sea – vast, blue and the signal that the ‘real’ race is about to start.
But the break still has nine minutes, although as we say in Scotland, that’ll fade away like, “sna’ aff a dyke,” – that’s “snow of a wall” in English, folks.
‘Livestream’ came to us at 100 K to go – the seven are still away but their lead is below six minutes.
GreenEdge are already active at the head of the peloton and Cav’s well to the fore, tucked in behind Bernie Eisel.
‘Tutto contro Cavendish’ says the Gazzetta headline – ‘All against Cavendish’ – and there’s no doubt it’ll be warp factor five on the Cipressa to try and distance him.
Only four riders have won the Primavera with the rainbow jersey on their back – Binda, Merckx (twice), Gimondi and Saronni; can Cav make it five?
La Manie – the first ‘real’ climb with 95 K to go with Hoogerland, Nibali, Boom, Cancellara all to the fore.
Up front in the break, Michael Morkov looks cool – good TV time for Saxo.
He’s dropped on La Manie, three Sky are back for him – but it looks all over to me.
Vik phones to remind me of his prediction that Cav’s not going to do it.
Vik’s not a man to say; ‘told you so!’ – not much, that is.
Off La Manie and Radio Shack and Liquigas are taking no chances, they’ve buried Cav at the crossroads but now they’re driving the stake into his heart.
Eisel is with Cav but it looks over.
At 85 K the break is back on the coast road as the peloton still flows down the technical twisting ribbon of tar behind them – the gap is 2:36, it would have been more but for the peloton’s desire to exorcise Cav.
The break is working nicely, two have gone but the seven survivors are neat, tidy and doing their job.
The gap is slipping for the break though as BMC and QuickStep become prominent at the front of the peloton with 72 K still to ride.
There are still 70 K to go at the feed, 230 K behind them, the full distance of many races.
And Cav’s made it back into a big chasing group – if I was Eisel’s agent, I’d be seeking a pay rise.
But those watts Cav just burned were the ones for the Cipressa and Poggio and he’s still not in the ‘race proper.’
Gilbert comes to the front at 61 K and asks his men why they’re chasing so hard – he’s thinking that Cav will crack again on the Cipressa, so why burn all the candles?
Big Stijn Vandenbergh comes through for QuickStep as the break succumbs inside 60 to go; but Oleg Berdos persists briefly for some more of that valuable TV time.
Behind, Sky chase like demons at around the half minute mark – but Cav will surely blow again on the Capi, if not, then on the Cipressa?
Laigueglia – and the Ligurian laps onto the beaches, it’s seen it all before.
The helicopter shot shows the gap back to the Cav group, 44 seconds – it’s unlikely they’ll get back before the Capi.
Cav sits up, chats to Hayman, finito.
Vini Farnese, Katusha and big Vandenbergh for QuickStep drive into the Capi – Mele, Cerva and Berta.
In most other races they wouldn’t get a mention, but at a distance when most classics finish and taken at a frantic pace, they hurt.
But with 42 K to go there’s a lull as news breaks that Cav is ‘morto.’
Vandenbergh churns it out on the Berta– he’s a beast of man but very affable to chat with and speaks perfect English.
Off the Berta it’s calmer for a little, all thoughts now on the Cipressa with 28 K to go.
The sun shines through the cypress trees and sparkles on the Ligurian foam as Vini Farnese lead the group – Pippo must feel good.
BMC now, drilling it into Cipressa, a good position here is vital, as Gilbert and Freire jostle up to the head of affairs.
Agnoli and Oss drive for Liquigas, BMC are there -Cancellara, Nibali, Gilbert, Boonen and Ballan are all there too as it snakes up through the trees.
Agnoli’s cheeks puff out as the clock creeps toward six-and-a-half hours.
Vila and Hoogerland go on the offensive – Johnny’s heart is ruling his head, again.
QuickStep pick it up for the peloton, Liquigas too – and there’s the church, that’s the top.
Gilbert is down, just before the summit – it’s very unlikely he can get back; it’s madness from here to the finish.
Vila goes ragged edge on the descent, but the peloton is just behind and the fugitives will be almost certainly be caught on the coast road.
There’s been a split on the descent – maybe a dozen riders, but it gels again, compatto.
Sagan, Boonen, Cancellara, Ballan, all big names near the front – as Vini Farnese and QuickStep drive into the Poggio and Liquigas mass just behind.
Astana lead an ever diminishing peloton out of the tunnel, the Poggio is just up the road, it’ll go frantic in a moment.
Goss sits at the back but it’s almost finishing sprint speed into the foot of the Poggio – the back isn’t the place to be.
Rabobank drive onto the legendary ascent; Agnoli goes for Liquigas – great tactics.
Rabo continue to drive, no panic – Agnoli is joined by Madrazo for Movistar.
Agnoli pops, Madrazo is going well, and still Rabo grind out the rhythm – Goss hurts at the back.
Hoogerland flies but Nibali rampages past; Gerrans is there though, as Cancellara bridges – this may be it.
Three are away – Cancellara, Nibali, Gerrans.
The top – and Katusha chase as the three drop like stones past the famous glass houses with five K to go.
Cancellara leads the three on the descent as Katusha chase hard with Sagan in the wheels.
Off the descent, in the streets of the Sanremo – Cancellara drives; Gerrans is in the wheel, then Nibali.
Red kite, Cancellara leads, Gerrans and Nibali play the poker game – they wait, wait, wait.
The gap is coming down – Sagan, Degenkolb, Freire are there, right behind, but it’s too late.
Gerrans launches, Cancellara can’t resist – Nibali is done.
Gerrans arms go high – Aussie two years in a row.
What was that the critics were saying about GreenEdge?
1. Simon Gerrans (Aus) Greenedge Cycling Team 6:59:24
2. Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Radioshack-Nissan
3. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale
4. Peter Sagan (Svk) Liquigas-Cannondale 0:00:02
5. John Degenkolb (Ger) Project 1T4I
6. Filippo Pozzato (Ita) Farnese Vini – Selle Italia
7. Oscar Freire Gomez (Spa) Katusha Team
8. Alessandro Ballan (Ita) BMC Racing Team
9. Daniel Oss (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale
10. Daniele Bennati (Ita) Radioshack-Nissan
11. Xavier Florencio Cabre (Spa) Katusha Team
12. Luca Paolini (Ita) Katusha Team 0:00:12
13. Simon Geschke (Ger) Project 1T4I
14. Oscar Gatto (Ita) Farnese Vini – Selle Italia
15. Matthew Harley Goss (Aus) Greenedge Cycling Team 0:00:20
16. Giovanni Visconti (Ita) Movistar Team
17. Jacopo Guarnieri (Ita) Astana Pro Team
18. Francisco Josй Ventoso Alberdi (Spa) Movistar Team
19. Koen De Kort (Ned) Project 1T4I
20. Johnny Hoogerland (Ned) Vacansoleil-Dcm Pro Cycling Team