Milan - Sanremo 2003

Light and tight, pedaling with brilliant agility in every phase of the race, with a constant series of attacks both uphill and in the flat, Paolo Bettini owned this Spring Classic, even taming a Cipollini who has never seemed stronger in the climbs.

Like Lance Armstrong, Bettini seems to pedal from too low in the saddle, handle bars a bit high to allow a higher body position. He displayed an impressive muscular fluidity, indicating a long and thorough specific race preparation.

After about 280 kilometers at an average of 44 km/h, he showed he still had ‘plenty of gas in his tank. Thanks to the economical and efficient pedaling style and optimal food intake before and during the race.

Mirko Celestino kicked up some dust at the first Cipressa curve, but he was quickly caught by Bettini, Freire, Rebellin and Vinokourov.

The Super-Mario team had to use up the last of their energy on the Aurelia stretch to retake the five fugitives.

Di Luca took off very strongly at the very beginning of the the Poggio stage, but in view of the punishing headwind, he may have attacked too soon: Paolini, Celestino and of course Bettini waited for the last bit of false flat, and caught him in just a few seconds.

Exhausted, Di Luca had to give up on them in the descent of the Poggio; like Argentin in 1992, he had spent too much on the Poggio and lost the race in the downhill segment. His climb time of 6’1”, however, was impressive.

Cipo sped down only 6” behind, but he was all alone: a great Paolini devoured the final kilometers before the via Roma finish line, but Bettini crossed it easily ahead of the pack.

At 11”, Cipollini showed an amazing form, but only managed to finish fourth.

26 Mar 2003