Sunny, dry and breezy conditions changed the face of Milan-Sanremo Saturday, creating numerous crashes as a larger, fresher and extremely jittery peloton fought for positons in the business end of the 291-kilometer race.
The final crash occurred 300 meters from the line, causing Fabian Cancellara to brake hard and lock up his rear wheel. Although he did not fall, it was game over. Cancellara rolled across the line at the back of the front group in 31st position, not the finish he imagined for his final La Primavera.
“It was quite difficult because I was isolated and I was a target from all the riders, especially on the [Poggio] climb,” Cancellara explained. “Kwiatkowski did a nice move, Tinkoff had to close, and then Nibali attacked over the top, and I was just following and letting him do the work, but then he saw it was me, and it was over.”
With Michal Kwiatkowski (Sky) desperately holding a small four-second gap at the bottom of the Poggio, Cancellara attacked with less than two kilometers to go. He opened a small gap, but it would not be so easy for Spartacus, a highly marked man.
“At the bottom, I thought they were going quite slow, and I went, but I didn’t get much of a gap before Trentin closed it, and Gaviria was yelling at him to go, go go!” continued Cancellara.
“Then Van Avermaet went with Boassan Hagen, and Peter [Sagan] went behind and I could kind of follow, but for me it was hard because I was already attacking before and I had to come back 10-20 meters. I was slowly closing, and on the chicane Gaviria crashed, and Peter and I just missed going down. You can call us lucky guys, but in the end, no results. Not what I was expecting – I was racing for winning. In the end I gave up, it was over.”
Fernando Gaviria’s (Etixx-Quick Step) fall held up a few riders, including Cancellara, and it was a new victor taking the glory in the year’s first Monument. Arnaud Demare (FDJ) sprinted to the win ahead of Ben Swift (Sky) and Jurgen Roelandts (Lotto Soudal)
“This was a weird race, a strange Milan-San Remo,” continued Cancellara. “It was really slow with the headwind. This also neutralizes the race. With [Marco] Coledan in the break, we did a good move to let the others work. A lot of teams had fatigue, and this is why at the end there was a lot of chaos. A lot of riders were isolated; there was a lot of one-against-one in the finish.”
“When you see a large group arrive at the finish in Milan-Sanremo it can be a bit of roulette, but in the end, a good rider always wins,” explicated director Adriano Baffi. “We did what we could until the end, but with only Fabian in the front, we did not have much to play with. Fabian tried an attack, but he was a marked man. Then, of course, he almost crashed in the last meters, and it was over.
“For sure we went in with a lot of expectations, and in the end, we have nothing. All we can do is move on, and look forward to the other races.”
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