Spain's Oscar Freire secured his third success in the Milan-Sanremo spring classic cycling race after a dramatic sprint finish here on Saturday.
The 34-year-old Spaniard, who previously won the event in 2004 and 2007, crept into third place as the 298-kilometre race reached its conclusion on the winding streets of Sanremo and broke for the line with 100 metres to go.
He had too much power for Belgium's Tom Boonen, who finished second, with Italy's Alessandro Petacchi taking third place.
"Winning the Sanremo always produces fantastic emotions," said Rabobank rider Freire.
"I'm so happy with what I managed to do. My team-mates worked really hard and I dedicate this victory to them.
"I was worried about poor conditions but, fortunately, the weather got better during the race. Even when it was going quickly on the climbs, I felt good."
Grey skies greeted the peloton today
On a grey day in north-west Italy, a trio of Italians comprising Fabrice Piemontesi, Daniele Ratti and Diego Caccia launched the first breakaway of the race after 14km and opened up a lead of 22 minutes over the peloton.
They lost four minutes on the ascent of the Passo del Turchino and were eventually swallowed up by the first of two chasing packs shortly after the Manie climb with 91km left to race.
Maxime Bouet of the AG2r team set off on a solo attack with 61km remaining but he too was unable to pull clear of the peloton, while last year's winner Mark Cavendish fell off the pace and was dropped by his team 23km from the finish, having already had to change a wheel due to a puncture.
Frenchman Yoann Offredo was the next rider to pull clear and the Française des Jeux man reached the foot of the Poggio, the race's final climb at 10km from the finish line, with a lead of 18 seconds.
Offredo was reeled in shortly before the Poggio summit as Italy's Stefano Garzelli assumed the lead, but it was his compatriot Filippo Pozzato who led the race into the final stretch after seeing off a vain attack from Vincenzo Nibali with just over 2km to ride.
Pozzato, though, could not hold onto the lead and in the final sprint, Freire powered through from the heart of the pack to claim victory from Quick Step's Boonen and Lampre's Petacchi.
The winning margin
"I did the maximum, I gave everything I could in the sprint," said Boonen. "I was in a good position. But I couldn't manage to get onto Freire's wheel. He was two lengths ahead of me, he was very strong."
Petacchi said: "I think I raced a great Milan-Sanremo. Taking third place after everything that happened to me was good."
© AFP 2010
|1 Oscar Freire Gomez (Spa|Rabobank)||6:57:28|
|2 Tom Boonen (Bel|Quick Step)|
|3 Alessandro Petacchi (Ita|Lampre-Farnese Vini)|
|4 Sacha Modolo (Ita|Colnago - CSF Inox)|
|5 Daniele Bennati (Ita|Liquigas-Doimo)|
|6 Thor Hushovd (Nor|Cervelo Test Team)|
|7 Francesco Ginanni (Ita|Androni Giocattoli)|
|8 Maxim Iglinsky (Kaz|Astana)|
|9 Philippe Gilbert (Bel|Omega Pharma-Lotto)|
|10 Luca Paolini (Ita|Acqua & Sapone)|
|11 Matti Breschel (Den|Team Saxo Bank)|
|12 Anthony Geslin (Fra|Française Des Jeux)|
|13 Enrico Gasparotto (Ita|Astana)|
|14 Geoffroy Lequatre (Fra|Team Radioshack)|
|15 Paul Martens (Ger|Rabobank)|
|16 Yoann Offredo (Fra|Française Des Jeux)|
|17 Fabian Cancellara (Swi|Team Saxo Bank)|
|18 Juan Antonio Flecha Giannoni (Spa|Sky Professional Cycling Team)|
|19 Linus Gerdemann (Ger|Team Milram)|
|20 Pablo Lastras Garcia (Spa|Caisse d'Epargne)|
For full results, report and photos, visit Cyclingnews.com.