A fast and at times wet Milan-San Remo finished in a thrilling bunch sprint, with Oscar Freire claimPIC © TIM DE WAELE Unlike three years ago, when he appeared from under Erik Zabel's left armpit like a magician's rabbit, today there was no need for a photo. "Perfect" was how Oscar Freire described the sprint which gave him his second victory in Milan-San Remo on Saturday afternoon, and no-one could argue. Certainly not Alessandro Petacchi, who Freire burned off in the final 100 metres. Or runner-up Allan Davis and third-placed Tom Boonen, who weren't quick enough to trouble the Spaniard from behind his rear wheel. Of the other fancied riders, Robbie McEwen finished a creditable fourth and countryman Stuart O'Grady fifth. The hotly-tipped Daniele Bennati was less impressive, too tired to even take part in the sprint on the Via Roma. Another of the pre-race favourites, Filippo Pozzato, struggled with stomach problems all day and could only manage 19th. The day undoubtedly belonged to Freire. "I decided to go behind Petacchi, because I knew that his train was stronger than mine," said the jubilant Spaniard in his post-race press conference. "I was happy to have got through the race with no problems up to that point. That always helps in the sprint. Then I found myself in the right position at the bottom of the Poggio descent and, fortunately, I had the legs to win." Tom Boonen said that he "hadn't seen Freire all day until one kilometre from the finish-line." Not that it would have helped him if the Spaniard had been in his sights all day. "I made a small mistake on the last bend but it didn't make any difference. I was beaten by a better man on the day. I'm still happy to have finished on the podium of San Remo, and that we had the best team in the race day." Another Belgian, La Franaise des Jeux's Philippe Gilbert, had more cause for regret. On the Poggio, Gilbert was the only rider able to live with the scintillating Riccardo Ricc, who showed precisely why he was the talk of Tirreno-Adriatico last week. Ricc and Gilbert took off one kilometre from the top of the Poggio and began the descent with a nine-second advantage over a peloton led by Paolo Bettini. Nine seconds was still the gap as they entered the final two kilometres but it was never going to be enough. Gilbert said afterwards that the wind had ultimately dashed his hopes. "If it had been a tailwind, we'd only have needed a 300-metre advantage and we'd have stayed away. Ricc was stronger on the climb but I was fine on the flat." Ricc had a different take on things. "If there'd been three or four of us it would have been easier. Unfortunately Gilbert was at his limit and he couldn't do the kind of turns on the front which would have given us a 15-second gap at the top of the Poggio. I'm still happy with my first San Remo, though. Next year I'll come back for the win." From start to finish If the finale was pulsating, earlier in the day the 197 starters had given every indication that the centenary edition of La Primavera would be classic fare. Right from the start gun at 9.30pm, the kamikaze shoot-out began, played out by assorted no-hopers determined to at least enjoy a memorable day on the Italian Riviera. The Tinkoff team - irresistible a few weeks ago, quieter of late - was especially active. It was largely under the Russians' impetus that the first hour across the Po basin was devoured at a dizzying 46km/h. It was not long after even Petacchi sneakily tried to infiltrate a 15-man break that six riders finally broke the elastic after 86km. Andrei Kunitski (Acqua&Sapone-Mokambo), Koen De Kort (Astana), Emanuele Sella (Panaria-Navigare), Roberto Traficante (LPR), Pavel Brutt (Tinkoff) and Aitor Hern ndez (Euskaltel) were the lucky ones, and showed their gratitude by building an eight-minute lead as they approached the Passo del Turchino. The presence in the break of Sella, a former Giro d'Italia stage winner, and Brutt, a winner of two races already this year, didn't seem to unduly concern a peloton driven by Milram and, to a lesser extent, Lampre and Liquigas. The status quo remained thus for another 100km, a strong tailwind helping the breakaway to maintain a lead of around seven minutes. Only Traficante was struggling. He finally lost touch after 170km and soon retired. Back in the peloton, falls either side of the Turchino also ruled out Daniele Contrini Frederic Guesdon (Franaise des Jeux) and Jose Enrique Gutierrez (LPR). Another pile-up after 240km was potentially much more significant. Ricc was among the victims and had to chase hard to regain touch with a group by now closing fast on the breakaway. The crashes got heavier as the kilometres went by and light rain started to sprinkle the Riviera. Either side of the Cipressa, Gerolsteiner suffered twice, with David Kopp first and then Andrea Moletta tumbling badly. The main pack had finally picked off the remnants of the break at the foot of the Cipressa. As they hit the lower slopes of the climb, an attack from Thomas Voeckler and Manuel Quinziato signaled the start of the real hostilities. A more concerted counter-move then came from Franco Pellizotti, who was soon joined by Moletta and Yaroslav Popovych. Moletta crashed on the descent, while Pellizotti and Popovych remained out front until the foot of the Poggio, just nine kilometres from the line. The legendary, 3.3kilometre-ramp saw two very different faces of cycling's new guard, Gilbert and Ricc, take centre stage. Behind, though, Freire was plotting his latest Classics smash-and-grab with typical poise. As the Spaniard said in San Remo this evening, "it's funny but, the more important a race is, the cooler and more focused I seem to be." Post race quotes Oscar Freire (Rabobank, winner) "I was very confident that I could win today, even though I hadn't won a stage at Tirreno, which I've always done in the past. There weren't really many stages suited to me there but I knew today would be a different story. "I was at the front on the Poggio but I watched the attacks go and knew that it'd be tough for them with the headwind. Even when you go clear on the Poggio, there's always 1.5km at the bottom of the descent that make it hard to stay away. I preferred to wait for the sprint. "I'm happy to be able to dedicate this win to my uncle Antonio, who's been ill in hospital for a month. It was him who bought me my first bike. Green.but not as nice as the one I have now." In the April issue of Procycling, we have an exclusive interview with Oscar Ferire at home. He admits that he's probably the most forgetful man in cycling, while many others claim is the most talented. Philippe Gilbert (Franaise des Jeux, 21st @ same time as winner) "When we got down onto the coast the tarmac was getting wet and it was pretty dangerous. I tried to stay around the tenth or twelfth position all the time, so as not to take any risks. The wind was against on the Poggio, which made it hard but it was my only chance. I knew that I had to go after Ricc. If the wind had been behind on the other side of the Poggio, we'd only have needed a 300-metre advantage and we'd have stayed away. Then I'd have been confident in a sprint against Ricc. Still, I love this race and today gives me even more reason to believe that I might win it one day". Paolo Bettini (Quick.Step, 33rd @ same time as winner) "I didn't feel well all day. It's only thanks to riders like [Matteo] Tosatto that I somehow found the determination to carry on. I wanted to stop at the second feed station. It's a shame that I went off the road just before the Cipressa and I had to do the first part in amongst the cars. It took a massive effort to get back to the peloton and it meant that unfortunately I couldn't be there to follow the guys who attacked on the Poggio. I tried to work for Tom after that but, although we worked really well as a team, it's not easy to win here." Filippo Pozzato (Liquigas, 19th @ same time as winner) "It was an exciting race but not great for me. I woke at four o' clock in the morning with stomach problems and I had a pain there all day. The legs were fine. Pellizotti did a great job with his attack on the Cipressa, and I'm just sorry that I wasn't there to finish off the job." Results 1 Oscar Freire Gomez (Spa, Rabobank) 6:43:59 (43.665km/h) 2 Allan Davis (Aus, Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team) 3 Tom Boonen (Bel, Quickstep-Innergetic) 4 Robbie McEwen (Aus, Predictor-Lotto) 5 Stuart O'Grady (Aus, Team CSC) 6 Erik Zabel (Ger, Team Milram) 7 Gabriele Balducci (Ita, Acqua & Sapone-Caffe' Mokambo) 8 Alessandro Petacchi (Ita, Team Milram) 9 Vicente Reynes Mimo (Spa, Caisse D'Epargne) 10 Robert Hunter (Rsa, Barloworld) 11 Danilo Napolitano (Ita, Lampre-Fondital) 12 Luca Paolini (Ita, Liquigas) 13 Kim Kirchen (Lux, T-Mobile Team) 14 Martin Elmiger (Swi, Ag2R Prevoyance) 15 Cristian Moreni (Ita, Cofidis, Le Credit P. Telephone) 16 Stefan Schumacher (Ger, Gerolsteiner) 17 Jeremy Hunt (Gbr, Unibet) 18 Manuele Mori (Ita, Saunier Duval-Prodir) 19 Filippo Pozzato (Ita, Liquigas) 20 William Bonnet (Fra, Credit Agricole) 21 Philippe Gilbert (Bel, Franaise Des Jeux) 22 Julian Dean (Nzl, Credit Agricole) 23 Vladimir Gusev (Rus, Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team) 24 Rene Mandri (Est, Ag2R Prevoyance) 25 Pablo Lastras Garcia (Spa, Caisse D'Epargne) 26 Daniele Bennati (Ita, Lampre-Fondital) 27 Gerald Ciolek (Ger, T-Mobile Team) 28 Yaroslav Popovych (Ukr, Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team) 29 Frank Schleck (Lux, Team CSC) 30 Davide Rebellin (Ita, Gerolsteiner) 31 Enrico Gasparotto (Ita, Liquigas) 32 Grgory Rast (Swi, Astana) 33 Paolo Bettini (Ita, Quickstep-Innergetic) 34 Bernhard Eisel (Aut, T-Mobile Team) 35 Renaud Dion (Fra, Ag2R Prevoyance) 36 Tomas Vaitkus (Ltu, Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team) 37 Marco Velo (Ita, Team Milram) 38 Riccardo Ricco' (Ita, Saunier Duval-Prodir) 39 Juan-Antonio Flecha (Spa, Rabobank) 40 Mario Aerts (Bel, Predictor-Lotto) 41 Koldo Fernandez (Spa, Euskaltel-Euskadi) 42 Roger Hammond (Gbr, T-Mobile Team) 43 Ren Haselbacher (Aut, Astana) 44 Nick Nuyens (Bel, Cofidis, Le Credit P. Telephone) 45 Luca Mazzanti (Ita, Ceramica Panaria-Navigare) 46 Lorenzo Bernucci (Ita, T-Mobile Team) 47 Stefano Garzelli (Ita, Acqua & Sapone-Caffe' Mokambo) 0:00:06 48 Fabio Sacchi (Ita, Team Milram) 49 Arnaud Coyot (Fra, Unibet) 0:00:12 50 Lloyd Mondory (Fra, Ag2R Prevoyance) 51 Imanol Erviti (Spa, Caisse D'Epargne) 52 Max Van Heeswijk (Ned, Rabobank) 53 Volodymyr Bileka (Ukr, Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team) 54 Luca Solari (Ita, Team L.P.R.) 55 Alessandro Ballan (Ita, Lampre-Fondital) 56 Laurens Ten Dam (Ned, Unibet) 57 Jesus Del Nero (Spa, Saunier Duval-Prodir) 58 Karsten Kroon (Ned, Team CSC) 59 Jrome Pineau (Fra, Bouygues Telecom) 60 Matti Breschel (Den, Team CSC) 61 Thomas Lvkvist (Swe, Franaise Des Jeux) 62 Claudio Corioni (Ita, Lampre-Fondital) 63 Simone Masciarelli (Ita, Acqua & Sapone-Caffe' Mokambo) 0:00:18 64 Steven Cummings (Gbr, Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team) 0:00:21 65 Mirko Celestino (Ita, Team Milram) 66 Thomas Voeckler (Fra, Bouygues Telecom) 67 Ricardo Serrano (Spa, Tinkoff Credit Systems) 68 Gorazd Stangelj (Slo, Lampre-Fondital) 69 Francisco Vila Errandone (Spa, Lampre-Fondital) 70 Angel Gomez Gomez (Spa, Saunier Duval-Prodir) 71 David Millar (Gbr, Saunier Duval-Prodir) 72 Igor Astarloa Ascas (Spa, Team Milram) 73 Kanstantsi Siutsou (Blr, Barloworld) 0:00:28 74 Sergey Kolesnikov (Rus, Unibet) 75 Vasil Kiryienka (Blr, Tinkoff Credit Systems) 0:00:37 76 Matthias Kessler (Ger, Astana) 0:00:40 77 Alberto Ongarato (Ita, Team Milram) 0:01:14 78 Matteo Tosatto (Ita, Quickstep-Innergetic) 79 Alexander Efimkin (Rus, Barloworld) 80 Franco Pellizotti (Ita, Liquigas) 81 Benat Albizuri Aranso (Spa, Euskaltel-Euskadi) 82 Francisco Ventoso (Spa, Saunier Duval-Prodir) 83 Aaron Kemps (Aus, Astana) 0:01:23 84 Axel Merckx (Bel, T-Mobile Team) 85 Carlos Barredo Llamaz (Spa, Quickstep-Innergetic) 0:01:42 86 Mathew Hayman (Aus, Rabobank) 0:01:57 87 Johan Van Summeren (Bel, Predictor-Lotto) 0:02:22 88 Bjrn Leukemans (Bel, Predictor-Lotto) 0:02:38 89 Borut Bozichz (Slo, Team L.P.R.) 0:03:14 90 Sbastien Rosseler (Bel, Quickstep-Innergetic) 0:03:16 91 Giovanni Visconti (Ita, Quickstep-Innergetic) 92 Tiziano Dall'antonia (Ita, Ceramica Panaria-Navigare) 93 Dario Davi Cioni (Ita, Predictor-Lotto) 0:03:45 94 Laszlo Bodrogi (Hun, Credit Agricole) 0:04:19 95 Alessandro Spezialetti (Ita, Liquigas) 96 Salvatore Commesso (Ita, Tinkoff Credit Systems) 97 Marcus Ljungqvist (Swe, Team CSC) 98 Dario Andriotto (Ita, Acqua & Sapone-Caffe' Mokambo) 99 Eric Berthou (Fra, Caisse D'Epargne) 100 Elio Aggiano (Ita, Tinkoff Credit Systems) 101 Matthew White (Aus, Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team) 0:04:41 102 Sylvain Calzati (Fra, Ag2R Prevoyance) 103 Emanuele Sella (Ita, Ceramica Panaria-Navigare) 0:04:47 104 Roberto Petito (Ita, Liquigas) 105 Fabio Baldato (Ita, Lampre-Fondital) 106 Maurizio Bellin (Ita, Team L.P.R.) 107 Daniele Righi (Ita, Lampre-Fondital) 0:04:49 108 Wim Vansevenant (Bel, Predictor-Lotto) 109 Kevin Hulsmans (Bel, Quickstep-Innergetic) 0:06:33 110 Fabian Cancellara (Swi, Team CSC) 111 Axel Richeze (Arg, Maximceramica Panaria-Navigare) 0:07:05 112 Gorik Gardeyn (Bel, Unibet) 0:08:03 113 Aitor Hernandez Guti (Spa, Euskaltel-Euskadi) 0:09:37 114 Staf Scheirlinckx (Bel, Cofidis, Le Credit P. Telephone) 115 Thomas Fothen (Ger, Gerolsteiner) 116 Ivan Mayoz (Spa, Euskaltel-Euskadi) 117 Antonio Cruz (USA, Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team) 118 Guennadi Mikhailov (Rus, Astana) 119 Christophe Laurent (Fra, Credit Agricole) 120 Anthony Geslin (Fra, Bouygues Telecom) 121 Serguei Ivanov (Rus, Astana) 122 Alexei Markov (Rus, Caisse D'Epargne) 123 Pavel Brutt (Rus, Tinkoff Credit Systems) 124 Mikhail Ignatiev (Rus, Tinkoff Credit Systems) 125 Bert Grabsch (Ger, T-Mobile Team) 126 Massimo Codol (Ita, Acqua & Sapone-Caffe' Mokambo) 127 Ignacio Gutierrez (Spa, Team L.P.R.) 128 Michal Golas (Pol, Unibet) 129 Peter Wrolich (Aut, Gerolsteiner) 130 Luke Roberts (Aus, Team CSC) 131 Ryan Cox (Rsa, Barloworld) 132 Diego Caccia (Ita, Barloworld) 133 Marco Marcato (Ita, Team L.P.R.) 134 Juan Jos Haedo (Arg, Team CSC) 135 Manuel Quinziato (Ita, Liquigas) 136 Pedro Horrillo Munoz (Spa, Rabobank) 137 Fortunato Baliani (Ita, Ceramica Panaria-Navigare) 138 Matteo Priamo (Ita, Ceramica Panaria-Navigare) 139 Jimmy Casper (Fra, Unibet) 140 Carlos Da Cruz (Fra, Franaise Des Jeux) 141 Paolo Longo Borghini (Ita, Barloworld) 142 Kevin Van Impe (Bel, Quickstep-Innergetic) 143 Jan Boven (Ned, Rabobank) 144 Franck Renier (Fra, Bouygues Telecom) 0:14:14 145 Alexandre Pichot (Fra, Bouygues Telecom) 146 Mathieu Perget (Fra, Caisse D'Epargne) 147 Mathieu Heijboer (Ned, Cofidis, Le Credit P. Telephone) 148 Rony Martias (Fra, Bouygues Telecom) 149 Anton Luengo Celaya (Spa, Euskaltel-Euskadi) 150 Aketza Pena Iza (Spa, Euskaltel-Euskadi) 151 Ludovic Auger (Fra, Franaise Des Jeux) 152 Andrei Kunitski (Blr, Acqua & Sapone-Caffe' Mokambo) 153 Alessandro Donati (Ita, Acqua & Sapone-Caffe' Mokambo) 154 Sbastien Minard (Fra, Cofidis, Le Credit P. Telephone) 155 Xavier Florencio Cabr (Spa, Bouygues Telecom) 156 Yuriy Krivtsov (Ukr, Ag2R Prevoyance) 0:18:05 157 Fabien Patanchon (Fra, Franaise Des Jeux) 158 Kevin De Weert (Bel, Cofidis, Le Credit P. Telephone) 0:19:13 159 Giuseppe Palumbo (Ita, Acqua & Sapone-Caffe' Mokambo) 0:19:36 160 Michiel Elijzen (Ned, Cofidis, Le Credit P. Telephone) DNF Francesco Tomei (Ita, Ceramica Panaria-Navigare) DNF Samuel Dumoulin (Fra, Ag2R Prevoyance) DNF Paride Grillo (Ita, Ceramica Panaria-Navigare) DNF Fabrizio Guidi (Ita, Barloworld) DNF Giosu Bonomi (Ita, Barloworld) DNF Bram De Groot (Ned, Rabobank) DNF Christophe Mengin (Fra, Francaise Des Jeux) DNF Fabian Wegmann (Ger, Gerolsteiner) DNF Yon Bru Pascal (Spa, Euskaltel-Euskadi) DNF Unai Etxebarria (Ven, Euskaltel-Euskadi) DNF Erki Ptsep (Est, Bouygues Telecom) Got a comment? Discuss this in the Procycling forum. What else is new? Check out the Procycling blog.