Simon Gerrans (GreenEDGE) won Milan-San Remo in a thrilling finish that saw the Australian champion outsprint Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Nissan-Trek) for arguably the biggest win of his career.
But Mark Cavendish (Team Sky) suffered a disappointing day, abandoning the race after failing to regain contact with the leaders despite the efforts of his team-mates.
At the top of the decisive Poggio climb, the last in the seven-hour, 298km epic, Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale), winner of last week’s Tirreno-Adriatico, launched a ferocious attack. Cancellara and Gerrans responded, and the three descended into San Remo ahead of an elite chasing pack.
Four-time world time trial champion Cancellara piled on the pressure, driving the trio into the city, flicking his elbow at Gerrans who after a slight delay took a turn on the front. Nibali stayed third wheel throughout the run in, and it was Cancellara and Gerrans who contested the sprint.
Gerrans, who took the overall victory at the season opening Tour Down Under in January, said: “I knew when the move went on the Poggio with Fabian, that this was time to go. It turned out to be the crucial move of the race.”
“It’s amazing for GreenEDGE to win a Classic – to win the first real Classic we’ve done as a team. To finish up the great work the guys did today is an honor.”
Cancellara was philosophical in defeat, describing his second place as prestigious but a disappointing way to prepare for his 31st birthday celebrations tomorrow.
“Gerrans did some pulls and I understood that Nibali had his team-mate Peter Sagan behind for the sprint so he didn’t have to work,” said Cancellara. “I saw the riders coming at the end but after 300km it’s not easy to calculate exactly what to do and be right each time. In the end I got a nice second place and second in San Remo is prestigious of course, but it wasn’t the birthday present I was looking for. I came to win.”
Cavendish lost ground on the slopes of Le Mànie. Team-mates Mathew Hayman, Jeremy Hunt, Salvatore Puccio and Ian Stannard paced him to within 40 seconds of the leading group but failed to bridge the gap.
Team Sky’s representation at the head of the field was reduced to Edvald Boasson Hagen and Thomas Löfkvist. The pair finished 25th and 30th respectively.
Directeur sportif, Steven de Jongh, said: “The boys did really well to try and pace him back but it wasn’t to be.
“We waited for him [Cavendish] after Le Mànie but in front BMC, Liquigas and Quickstep were all working so it was hard to close it down. They did everything they could but the gap proved too big.
“We then had Edvald and Thomas in the front group but after Nibali, Gerrans and Cancellara went clear, Edvald got behind the split on the descent and wasn’t able to sprint which was a real shame.”
Milan-San Remo result
1) Simon Gerrans (AUS)- Greenedge Cycling Team – 6:59.24
2) Fabian Cancellara (SUI) – Radioshack-Nissan-Trek
3) Vincenzo Nibali (ITA) – Liquigas-Cannondale
4) Peter Sagan (SVK) – Liquigas-Cannondale +2”
5) John Degenkolb (GER) – Project 1T4I
6) Filippo Pozzato (ITA) – Farnese Vini – Selle Italia
7) Oscar Freire Gomez (SPA) – Katusha Team
8) Alessandro Ballan (ITA) – BMC Racing Team
9) Daniel Oss (ITA) – Liquigas-Cannondale
10) Daniele Bennati (ITA) – Radioshack-Nissan