San Remo 17 March 2012
There was a minutes silence at the start of the race with the Belgian riders at the front. This was for the tragic coach crash that took place in Switzerland earlier in the week where 28 people lost their lives.
Image © RCS Sport
Early fog gave way to sunny conditions in Milano for the start of the 103rd Primavera with the temperature a pleasant 13°. There were no non-starters among the 200 strong peloton that left the Castello Sforzesco for the 298km, seven hour, journey to Sanremo.
Remi Cusin at the start of 2012 Milano-Sanremo - Image © Team Type 1 - Sanofi
A group of nine got away 1 kilometer into the race - they were Cheng Ji (Project 1t4i), Juan Pablo Suarez (Colombia-Coldeportes), Dmitriy Gruzdev (Astana), Angelo Pagani (Colnago-CSF Inox), Vergard Stake Laengen (Team Type 1-Sanofi), Juan Jose Oroz (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Pierpaolo De Negri (Farnese Vini-Selle Italia), Michael Mørkøv (Saxo Bank) and Oleg Berdos (UtensilNord-Named). At km 67 their advantage was at its maximum of 14 minutes. Cheng Ji was the first rider from China to take part in the race and although dropped from the breakaway group did eventually finish in Sanremo.
Mark Cavendish,World Champion and race favorite, failed to mount his expected challenge after losing contact with the peloton just under 100 km from the finishing line on the climb of Le Mánie. Bernhard Eisel (below with Cavendish) and team mates Mathew Hayman, Jeremy Hunt, Ian Stannard and Salvatore Puccio dropped back to try and pace him up to the leading bunch. They managed to pull back to 44 seconds with the help of the large second group.
Carlos Julian Quintero (Columbia-Coldeportes) went down on the descent of Le Mánie suffering concussion and fractures to his left cheekbone and collarbone. The escape group would eventually be caught at Alassio with 57km remaining and with the peloton setting a very fast pace through Andora Marina the chasing group decided to call it a day.
Over the Capo Berta and through Oneglia and Porto Maurizio a steady pace was set by the 60-70 rider peloton waiting for the fireworks to come on the two remaining hills.
Onto the Cipressa and Liquigas set a steady pace with Valerio Agnoli leading. First to attack was Franciso Vila (Utensilnord) who was soon joined by Johnny Hoogerland (Vacansoleil). A crash near the top had Philippe Gilbert (BMC) on the floor and out of contention. Vila and Hoogerland persisted down the descent of the Cipressa but once back onto the coast road the peloton was soon back together. A group of around 50-60 riders went through Riva Ligure and Arma di Taggia as the final climb the Poggio loomed.
Rabobank took the group onto the Poggio and first away was Agnoli. The Spaniard Ángel Madrazo (Movistar) joined him but both were passed by Hoogerland in a counter-attack. The deciding point of the race came next when Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas) seen below, went to the front closely followed by Simon Gerrans (GreenEdge) and Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack).
Images © Ale Federico
With Cancellara doing almost all of the pace making down the Poggio and into San Remo the race was between these three. With 1km remaining they had a 3-4 second lead over the chasers. Onto the finishing straight of the Lungomare Italo Calvino Simon Gerrans timed his sprint perfectly to win from Cancellara and Nibali.
Images © Pete Griffiths - www.milansanremo.co.uk