Filippo Pozzato wins the 97th Milan-San Remo

2006 San Remo finish
Image © Cor Vos

18 March-Sanremo
Filippo Pozzato (Quickstep-Innergetic) has won the 2006 edition of Milan-San Remo with a fantastically timed move 300 metres before the finish on the via Roma. A late challenge by his ex-Fassa Bortolo team-mate, Alessandro Petacchi, was not good enough leaving the Milram rider to cross the finishing line in frustration. The 24 year old Pozzato scored his first victory since stage 2 of the Tour of Germany last August. Tom Boonen a pre-race favourite was delighted as he finished fourth behind his Quickstep companion. The race speed was fast throughout, almost record breaking in fact, at an average of 45.269 km/hour which made it the second fastest ever. The record was set by Gianni Bugno in 1990 with an average of 45.806 km/hour. Pozzato also has the honour of becoming the 50th Italian winner of "La Classicissima".

A cloudy, cold Milan saw the peloton leave just after 9.30 and it was not long before a break of eight took off. With 32km covered Daniele Contrini (LPR), Unai Etxebarria (Euskaltel), Staf Scheirlinckx (Cofidis), Ludovic Auger (Française des Jeux), Kjell Carlström (Liquigas), Mirko Allegrini and Sergiy Matveyev (Panaria), Giampaolo Cheula (Barloworld) soon gained an advantage of 5 minutes. The gap got to a maximum of 11' 30" as they crossed the Lombardy Plain and Turchino Pass unchallenged. Along the Ligurian Coast they seemed to be working well but the chase was on.  At Ceriale, the second feed zone, with 71km to go, their lead had diminished to 5' 30". It was the Quickstep team that was doing all the damage as Nuyens and Bettini (Quickstep) kept the pace high on the Capo Cervo. With assistance from the Milram team the leaders were pegged back to just over 2 minutes.

The 8 fugitives climb the Passo del Turchino
Image © Alessandro Federico

Peloton descends the Capo Noli just after Savona
 Image © Cor Vos

The Peloton chases headed by Milram
Image © Cor Vos

The pressure began to show on the 130m high Capo Berta as the eight fugitives split. Etxebarria and Allegrini had a lead of 16" over the top and headed toward Imperia. Going through Oneglia a crash saw Massimiliano Mori (Naturino-Sapore Di Mare) hit the floor at the fountain roundabout. His race was over with a cut and swollen right cheek bone. The race now headed for the Cipressa, possibly for the last time in the history of Milan-San Remo, with Lampre working hard on the front of the peloton. With everyone back together Stefano Garzelli (Liquigas) showed briefly as the climb began. Andrea Moletta (Gerolsteiner) was next to try but had Pozzato followed by Boonen chasing him. This too came to nothing and on the descent Matteo Carrara (Lampre) shared the lead with Bettini.

Back onto the coast road with only the Poggio remaining an attack by four men was instigated by the Dutch rider Koos Moernhout (Phonak). With him were
Guido Trenti (QuickStep), Frank Schleck (CSC) and Vicente Reynes (Caisse d'Epargne). Despite a chase by the Milram team (aided at times by the camera motorbike) they stayed away until the Poggio and had a 16 second lead at the bottom. Schleck attacked on the Poggio
but was caught by Ballan and Pozzato. Igor Astarloa (Barloworld) chased hard to get on and did so just over the top. On the descent Nocentini, Schleck and Sanchez made the leading group six.

The champion of Luxembourg Frank Schleck (CSC) attacks on the Poggio
Image © Alessandro Federico

Now only 4 km of the 2006 Sanremo remained. The break began to hesitate with Milram chasing hard. With 1.5km to the finish they had a slender 9 seconds lead and they were caught with 700m to go. Pozzato took a flyer with 300m left and the rest is history. Petacchi finished second and Luca Paolini (Liquigas) third for an Italian 1-2-3.

Italian 1,2,3 - Left to right Paolini, Pozzato and Petacchi
 Image © Cor Vos