Arnaud Demare takes the crown in Milan-San Remo

Arnaud Demare (FDJ) took the victory in Milan-San Remo, winning the mass sprint over Ben Swift (Sky) and Jurgen Roelandts (Lotto Soudal). The Frenchman overcame a crash earlier in the race to rejoin the front of the race and take the win.

Demare recently won a stage in Paris-Nice but after he left the race with a knee injury, he flew under the radar for the Italian classic. However, with a win in Vattenfall Cyclassics and a second place in Gent-Wevelgem, he had already proved that he can win bunch sprints at the end of long races and that’s what he did when it came together after a very hectic finale.

The win was made even more remarkable by the fact that Demare had gone down hard in the most hectic phase of the race: the run-in to the Cipressa climb. Pre-race favourite Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEDGE) was also involved in that tumble but while the Australian never became a factor in the race, Demare did a superior work to rejoin the peloton on the descent from the first key climb of the race.

He took a few moments to recover at the back of the field before his teammate Kevin Reza brought him to the front in the hectic fight for position that really started with 10km to go. At this point, a 5-rider break had just been caught and it was all back together for the Poggio climb.

Roman Kreuziger took a huge turn for Tinkoff to keep the pace high before Laurens De Vreese (Astana) took over. BMC were the next to take control with Daniel Oss but by the time they hit the climb, it was the Sky trio of Luke Rowe, Michal Kwiatkowski and Ben Swift on the front. Meanwhile, Matthews finally rejoined the peloton but he started the climb in the rear end of the field and would not make it to the top with the best.

Rowe set the pace on the lower slopes before a very strong Katusha team came to the fore. Jacopo Guarnieri brought Alexander Kristoff into second position and then left it to his teammate Simon Spilak to set the pace. In a surprisingly passive race, Spilak and Damiano Caruo (BMC) stayed on the front next to each other while everybody was keeping their powder dry for the finale.

With 7km to go, Andrea Fedi (Southeast) finally started the attacking and as no one reacted, he got an immediate gap. Spilak set a steady pace for Katusha to make sure that Kristoff was always in a good position.

Arthur Vichot (FDJ) and Lars Boom (Astana) bridged across to Fedi but as the gap was minimal, Tony Gallopin (Lotto Soudal) suddenly came flying, sprinting past the front trio. However, Oscar Gatto (Tinkoff) reacted quickly and with 6km to go, it was back together.

Michal Kwiatkowski (Sky) made a counterattack and he quickly got a five-second advantage. Gatto led the chase while everybody waited for the favourites to attack but no one ever tried. Instead, it was Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) who accelerated over the top, marked by Fabian Cancellara (Trek), but the duo never got clear.

Nibali and Cancellara set the pace on the descent, keeping the gap stable at around 5 seconds. Sagan also took a turn but as there was no organized chase, Nibali saw an opportunity to make a move. Zdenek Stybar (Etixx-QuickStep) shot it down and the pace went down after Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) had taken a turn.

As they hit the flat road, no one was able to take control and this opened the door for Gallopin to make another unsuccessful attack. Having realized that his teammate Fernando Gaviria was there, it was Gianluca Brambilla (Etixx-QuickStep) who finally tried to organize a chase, taking a huge turn on the front.

With the gap still at 5 seconds, Cancellara made his bid for the win and only Stybar could follow. They passed Kwiatkowski just before the flamme rouge, but Sagan, Edvald Boasson Hagen (Dimension Data) and Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) made contact.

When Cancellara swung off, the pace went down and this was the chance for Boasson Hagen. The Norwegian made a strong attack and only Van Avermaet was attentive enough to follow.

Boasson Hagen didn’t get any help from Van Avermaet and this allowed Sagan and Gaviria to join the duo. When the Norwegian finally stopped his effort, a bigger group gathered and it came to a standstill.

That’s when disaster struck for Gaviria. While riding in the perfect position for the sprint, the Colombian looked back and suddenly hit the ground. The crash created chaos and took several sprinters out of contention.

Jurgen Roelandts used the opportunity to launch a long sprint and he looked like he was going to win. Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis) was well-placed but failed to make any in-roads.

Instead, it was Demare who suddenly came flying, passing Roelandts with impressive speed. Swift was on the Frenchman’s wheel and finished fast but ran out of metres, settling for a second place to improve on jis third place from 2014. Roelandts held Bouhanni off to take third while Van Avermaet completed the top 5, just ahead of Kristoff.

Milan-San Remo 2016 results:

1 Arnaud Demare (FDJ)
2 Ben Swift (Sky)
3 Jurgen Roelandts (Lotto Soudal)
4 Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis)
5 Greg Van Avermaet (BMC)
6 Alexander Kristoff (Katusha)
7 Heinrich Haussler (IAM)
8 Filippo Pozzato (Southeast – Venezuela)
9 Sonny Colbrelli (Bardiani CSF)
10 Matteo Trentin (Etixx – QuickStep)

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