Milano-Sanremo celebrates 100 years

Lucien Petit Breton
The single day classic Milan-San Remo celebrates its centenary this year. It all started at 5.18 on the morning of 14 April 1907 when 33 men set out from Milan in the rain. They had 288 km and over 11 hours of racing ahead of them before they would reach the "Città dei Fiori" San Remo. Taking part were some of the giants of cycling from that era including Carlo Galetti, Luigi Ganna, Giovani Gerbi, Gustave Garrigou and Marshall "Major" Taylor who was making a brief comeback after a two year break. The eventual winner was Lucien Petit Breton (pictured left) who rode to victory on the Corso Cavallotti to great applause 35 seconds ahead of Garrigou and Gerbi. Only 14 would complete the arduous journey with the last, Luigi Rota, arriving over three and a half hours later. More information on the first edition can be found in the History section. You can view the front page of La Gazzetta dello Sport and the report published in the Corriere della Sera from the day after the first event by clicking on the image below right. 
There have been a few changes in the 100 years since its inception. The distance covered has gradually increased with the inclusion of hills such as the Poggio (1960) and the Cipressa (1982) but the climb of the Passo del Turchino has been there from the start. The Turchino no longer plays a role in the outcome of the race however and it is more likely to come down to a sprint finish rather than from an escape.
The record number of victories goes to Eddy Merckx who won seven times between 1966 and 1976. Merckx is followed closely by Costante Girardengo who dominated from 1918 to 1928 achieving six. Next in line come Gino Bartali and Erik Zabel with four - Fausto Coppi and Roger De Vlaeminck three.

To celebrate 100 years of Milano-Sanremo La Gazzetta dello Sport has organised a number of events. An exhibition is to be held near the old railway station in San Remo on Saturday 24 March (1000-1300) and Sunday 25 (1000-1900) and will include 20 large photographic exhibits showing significant moments from years gone by. Admission is free. Also on 24 March between the junior race and the professionals there will be a "mini-Sanremo". Thirty riders on old bicycles, one of which is from 1907, will ride from the Poggio.

Following this years race on Saturday night a gala will be held at the Teatro del l'Opera di Casino di Sanremo. Past winners such as Merckx, Del Cancia, Petrucci, Dancelli, Gavazzi, Moser, Fondriest, Cipollini, Saronni, Bugno, Bettini, Petacchi, Furlan, Zabel and Freire will attend this invitation only event. It starts at 1900 hours.


2006 finish Image © Cor Vos
Now we look forward to this years race. The route remains the same as last year apart from a change to the start area. Last used 25 years ago the race returns to the Castello Sforzesco.
Satellite view of Castello Sforzesco >>

The Programme for race day is as follows:
0730, Begin meeting at Castello Sforzesco
0800-0900, Participants sign departure sheet
0905, Participants assemble & make way to start
0930, Start on Via della Chiesa Rossa
1600-1650, Arrive Sanremo on Via Roma

Race distance is once again 294 km. All 20 ProTour plus 5 wild card
teams will participate. Each team allowed 8 riders making a total of 200                                                                                                              
Brief route description
From Milan, Castello Sforzesco (0905 hours) then the via piazza Castello, via Minghetti, piazzale Cadorna, via Carducci, via De Amicis, via Molino delle Armi, Corso Italia, piazzale Porta Ludovica, via Teulé, via Castelbarco, via Bazzi, via Lampedusa, via Valla, piazza Agrippa, via Medeghino, piazzale Abbiategrasso, via dei Missaglia, via Boifava to the official start on the via della Chiesa Rossa (0930 hours).

The race will pass through Binasco, Pavia, Casteggio,
Voghera, Tortona, Novi Ligure, Rossiglione, Passo del Turchino (km 143), Voltri, Varazze, Finale Ligure, Albenga, Allasio, Capo Mele (km 240), Capo Cervo (km 247), Capo Berta (km 254), Cipressa (km 272), Poggio (km 288), Sanremo, finish on via Roma (1600 hours approximately).

La Gazzetta dello Sport asked some famous names who they thought would cross the line on the via Roma first - the results were;

Argentin (World Road champion 1986) chose Bettini
Ballerini - Ricco'
Marino Basso
(World Road Champion 1972) - Pozzato
(World Road Champion 1988 & Sanremo 1993) - Bettini
Saronni  (World Road Champion 1982 & Sanremo 1983) - Bettini
(World Road Champion & Sanremo 2002) - Bennati
Di Rocco (President Italian Cycling Federation) - Freire

The 2003 Sanremo victor Paolo Bettini is the clear favourite here. However he is suffering from the injuries sustained on stage 4 of Tirreno Adriatico which includes a fractured rib and bruised left knee. He has only one win so far this year - the 4th stage of the Tour of California. Should Bettini take his second Sanremo he would be the first rider since Giuseppe Saronni in 1983 to win wearing the rainbow jersey. Bettini has said he "might try something on the Cipressa or Poggio", "if not it will be Boonen for the sprint".

Bettni's Quick Step team-mate Tom Boonen also says he is not at 100%. He started the year well notching up 6 wins early in the season but pulled out of the Paris Nice with nagging back pain. Boonen has stated that Sanremo is not his top goal this season but do not be surprised to see him up there should it come down to a sprint.

Last years winner Filippo Pozzato is a man on form.
Last year Pozzato rode a superb finale to snatch victory from a Poggio initiated breakaway. It looked like his break would be caught by the peloton but he launched a huge sprint in the closing metres to hold off Petacchi and Boonen to win. He recently took Omloop Het Volk and the Tour du Hat Var. Pozzato has a new role as leader of Liquigas following his move from Quick Step.  Can he do it again?

Alessandro Petacchi (Milram), with the same number of wins a Boonen, recently won the GP Costa degli Etruschi. He has not regained top form following his knee injury and may not be able to repeat his 2005 Sanremo triumph. Although nowhere near his best Petacchi will give it his all. Despite some disappointing results he said "Sanremo is another story" earlier this week. Erik Zabel, Petacchi's Milram team-mate is now 36 years old. He has four La Primavera wins to his credit but without any successes as yet this year must be looked on as an outsider.

Also look to Oscar Freire (Rabobank) winner in 2004 must be ranked as one of the favourites. Freire would be difficult to beat in a sprint.

Danielle Bennati
(Lampre-Fondital), Stuart O'Grady (CSC) and Robbie McKewan (Predictor-Lotto). Ricardo Ricco'
(Saunier-Duval-Prodir), a revelation at the Tirreno Adriatico, may provide some excitement.  It is only his second year as a pro rider and this will be his first Sanremo.

La Gazzetta dello Sport today, 24 March, rates the riders chances by awarding stars - 5 for the favourites down to 2 stars for those with an outside chance.

5 Stars - Freire, Pozzato
Stars - Bettini, Zabel, Petacchi, Boonen, Bennati
Stars - McKewan, Napolitano, Ricco', O'Grady, Paolini, Rebellin, Garzelli
2 Stars - Ballan, Schumacher, Celestino
Weather conditions - the forecast predicts a partly cloudy start in Milan, 10°c with light winds. In San Remo light rain is possible - the last finish with rain was back in 1991 when Claudio Chiappucci won.
Television coverage - See the race on the following channels (Timings subject to change).
Rai Tre, 1450-1710 CET Live
Eurosport, 1400-1615 GMT Live
Also Canvas (Belgium), SRG & SSR (Switzerland), ETB & Television de Galicia (Spain), Versus (USA), J Sports (Japan)