Erik Zabel of Deutsche Telekom has won his fourth
Milan-San Remo in five years. After 1997, 1998 and 2000,
the German rider added another Primavera to his total. He
won the race in the final straight, out-sprinting Mario
Cipollini of Saeco and Romans Vainsteins of the Domo-Farm
The Milan-San Remo began on Saturday morning at 09.45 cet under sunny skies and spring-like temperatures of 16c with light variable winds.
The race got off to a quiet start which saw the peloton together with 100km covered. The first serious escape of the day saw Lampre's Ludo Dierckxsens attack. This was countered by Sergey Matveyev (Panaria), Martin Rittsel (CSC), David Latasa Lasa (iBanesto.com) and Milan Kadlec (Mobilvetta) who had a lead of 4'50 after approximately 118km. The lead gradually increased and was 9'50 with 87km to go. Their lead however began to decrease as Telekom and Mapei forced the pace of the peloton. At the first of the capi, the Capo Mele, the lead was 4 minutes. At the Capo Cervo it was down to 2'30.
Sergey Matveyev (Panaria) decided to go it alone on the Capo Berta and gained 1'30 on the three remaining breakaway riders. After 155 kilometres away, Milan Kadlec (Mobilvetta) and Martin Rittsel (CSC) were finally caught by the fast moving peloton. Matveyev, the former World Amateur Pursuit Champion, still had 40 seconds lead. David Latasa Lasa (iBanesto) was in no-man's land between Matveyev and the peloton.
On the Cipressa Matveyev was caught and Sergio Barbero (Lampre) and Bo Hamburger (CSC) counterattacked. Farazijn (Cofidis), Aerts (Lotto) and Nathan O'Neill (Panaria) joined the leaders on the Cipressa. Halfway up, Francesco Casagrande attacked with Vinkourov (Telekom). Casagrande went alone but his lead did not last long. Vinokourov, Balducci, Savoldelli, Bettini, and Farazijn soon joined him.
Not everyone was willing to work and they were caught by the Telekom driven bunch with 10km left.
On the Poggio Telekom were at the front and rode hard tempo. Lanfranchi attacked a third of the way up but was caught. Van Petegem, Colombo, Rebellin, Petito and Bartoli developed a gap, but were caught over the top by 30 riders. Bartoli lead on the descent of the Poggio but all the big names were close behind.
With just over 1 km to go there was an attack by Erik Dekker, but he was quickly brought back.
The crash however did not distract the eventual winner. Lead out by his Telekom teammate Fagnini, Erik Zabel crossed the line in first place followed by Cipollini (Saeco) and Vainsteins (Domo-Farm Frites).
|"This is the best of my
four victories because I managed to beat Mario Cipollini
and Romans Vainsteins who are both great sprinters"
|"Planckaert pulled my
jersey 300 metres out... coming back against Zabel in
conditions like that is impossible"