Fabian Cancellara wins 99ª Milano Sanremo

Sanremo, 22nd March 2008

More often than not in recent years the Milan San Remo has ended with a sprint finish. Fabian Cancellara (Team CSC) however had different plans for this years event. The 27 year old Swiss rider chose to attack alone with 2 km of the race remaining and used his time trialing skills to good effect to cross the line 4 seconds ahead of the bunch. Cancellara became only the second rider from Switzerland, along with Erich Maechler in 1987, to take victory in this Italian spring classic. Interestingly Maechler himself won alone in similar fashion 6 seconds ahead of his nearest rival Eric Vanderaerden. Cancellara also became only the fourth man in history to win both Tirenno-Adriatico and Sanremo in the same year (along with De Vlaeminck 1973, Fondriest 1993 and Furlan 1994). The winning margin was the greatest since Giorgio Furlan's 20 seconds lead on the via Roma in 1994.

How the race unfolded

Km 0 - 0941 hours - 199 riders start under clear skies with a temperature of 12°c. One non-starter was Alberto Loddo (Tinkoff Credit Systems). The race is started by the editor of La Gazzetta dello Sport Carlo Verdelli.

Km 4 -  First attack of the day by Stephan Schreck and Allesio Signego. All together again 2 Km later.

Km 7 - Piergiorgio Camussa and Nikita Eskov break gaining a maximum advantage of 22 seconds. By Km 18 they rejoin the peloton.

Km 22 - Four riders escape - they are Filippo Savini (CSF Group Navigare), Nicola D'Andrea (Miche-Silver Cross), Raivis Belohvosciks (Saunier Duval-Scott) and William Frischkorn (Slipstream Chipotle - H30).

Km 52 - The four breakaway riders have a lead of 12'50"; Km 60 - Break at 15'30"; Km 82 - 15'34". Average for first two hours  is 42,700 Km/h.

Km 92 - 16'08" (maximum advantage). At Novi Ligure (Km 95) the lead starts to come down with the gruppo at 15'43". Rabobank and Milram are on the front.

Km 116 - Ovada and the approach of the Turchino Pass, 13'24". Average after three hours 42,700 Km/h. Km 128 - 12'20". Km 139 - 11'34".

Km 142 - Top of the Turchino Pass, 10'55". Km 158 - 12'50". Tinkoff assist Rabobank and Milram at the head of the group.

Km 180 - 10'58"; Km 194; 8'45" and approaching the new climb of Le Manie inserted due to a landslide on the Capo Noli.

Km 204 - The new c
limb of Le Manie which rises to 318m in altitude. The leading group was down to three as D'Andrea lost contact on the ascent. The Lampre rider Marzio Bruseghin forces the pace on Le Manie followed by Barloworld's Juan Soler and Enrico Gasparotto. The peloton splits. Savini goes over the top of Le Manie first. D'Andrea is now alone at 2'20" with Soler at 5'12". The first part of the gruppo goes over at 5'30" followed by the rest at 6'10".
The fireworks continued on the descent as everyone knew having too much to do late on would be suicidal.  It was this that caused Milram's Zabel and Petacchi to lose contact and they were forced to expend valuable energy regaining the group (at Ceriale). On the descent the leading three had a 4'30" advantage. Average after four hours 41,300 Km/h.

Km 214
- D'Andrea and Soler have been caught. Peloton now split into three. Break at 3'50" to the first gruppo, 4'05" to the second and 4'30" to a third.

Km 220 - Three leaders still ahead. First and second groups merge (around fifty riders) and are at 2'58. Second group at 3'16".

Km 239 - Allasio; the pursuers slow down which allows the three leaders advantage to grow to 4'10".

Three Fugitives
Belohvosciks, Savini and Frischkorn - Image © Massimo Botturi

Break at Alassio
Three fugitives at Alassio with Raivis Belohvosciks at the front - Image © Giovanni Pandolfi

Gruppo at Alassio
The peloton chases at Alassio lead by Lampre from Credit Agricole - Image ©
Giovanni Pandolfi

Km 243 - Laigueglia; Tinkoff's Ivan Rovny leaves the peloton and chases over the Capo Mele (Km 245). On the Capo Cervo (km 251) he is at 2'55" with the gruppo at 3'12".

Km 258 - Capo Berta; Rovny is caught and the gruppo have a deficit of only 1'30" on the three fugitives.

Km 270 - San Lorenzo al Mare and the start of the Cipressa climb; 28 Km to the finish.
Belohvosciks, Savini and Frischkorn commence the climb of the Cipressa with about 15 seconds lead. Paolo Bettini (Quick Step) attacks from the peloton as soon as he gets onto the climb. He is quickly joined by Thomas Lövkvist (High Road) and the pair soon end the long escape of the three leaders. Several riders, such as Gutierrez and Bruseghin, attempt to cross the gap to Bettini and Lövkvist without success but Niklas Axelsson (Diquigiovanni) and Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner) do. Paolo Savoldelli (LPR) now chases and goes over the top of the Cipressa ten seconds behind the four leaders. It does not take long before Savoldelli joins them on the descent with 20 Km remaining to the finish in Sanremo. Tristan Valentin (Cofidis) crashes on the technical descent but was able to get to the finish. Onto the via Aurelia with the Cipressa behind them Bettini, Lövkvist, Axelsson, Rebellin and Savoldelli are still away and working well together.

Km 284 - Arma di Taggia; Liquigas and CSC are at the front of the peloton chasing. At the tunnel (Galleria di Castelletti) they have around twenty seconds lead from the bunch lead by Frank Schleck (CSC). On the Capo Verde (Km 287) the break is over.

Km 288 - Onto the Poggio; the peloton was lead by Frédéric Guesdon followed by his teammate Philippe Gilbert (Française des Jeux). Alessandro Bertolini (
Diquigiovanni) is the first to attack and gains a few seconds. He is soon caught by a trio containing Franco Pellizotti (Liquigas) but these four are in turn caught by the gruppo headed by Yaroslav Popovych (Silence-Lotto) and Enrico Gasparotto (Barloworld). Gasparotto was especially keen to do something as he was celebrating his 26th birthday.
Km 291 - Very near the top of the Poggio
Philippe Gilbert attacked and went over the top in first position three seconds ahead of Cancellara, Gasparotto, Rebellin, Ballan, Pozzato and Nocentini in that order. These riders along with five others had seven seconds on the peloton at the start of the descent.

Km 293 -On the early part of the descent Gilbert is passed by Cancellara and Gasparotto.

Km 295 -14 riders descend the Poggio in a line with Rebellin now at the front.
Two others join on the descent. Small gaps open and at the bottom of the Poggio and on the Corso Cavallotti, Bertolini, Pellizotti and Rebellin have a slight gap but a powerful looking Cancellara brings them back.

Km 296 -Inigo Landaluze (Euskaltel) tries an attack next but Cancellara is onto him straight away, looks back briefly and is gone. Alessandro Ballan (Lampre) chased at the front of the remaining break that went away over the top of the Poggio but can do little against a fast moving Cancellara. Fabio Sabatini (Milram) rode hard on the front of the peloton for Alessandro Petacchi but it was too little too late.

Km 298 - Fabian Cancellara crosses the line four seconds clear of Pozzato and Gilbert on the Piazalle Carlo Dapporto to win the 2008 Milan-San Remo.

Cancellara on the Via Bixio
Cancellara on the via Bixio with 550m to the finish - Image © Paul Griffiths

Chase group
 The 15 man chasing group realise Cancellara has gone - Image © Paul Griffiths

The peloton headed by Milram's Fabio Sabatini with Alessandro Petacchi fourth in line - Image © Pete Griffiths

Cancellara wins 2008 Milan-San Remo
Fabian Cancellara wins the 2008 Milan-San Remo - Image © Sirotti

Erich Maechler 1987
Erich Maechler crosses the line on the Corso Cavallotti to win in 1987 - Image © Cor Vos