Alexander Kristoff Out Sprints Fabian Cancellara At Milan-SanRemo

by Justin DAVIS

MILAN, March 23, 2014 (AFP) – Norwegian Alexander Kristoff outsprinted
former champion Fabian Cancellara and Ben Swift to win a rain-lashed 105th
edition of the Italian classic Milan-SanRemo on Sunday.

Kristoff, taking his first victory in one of cycling’s five ‘monument’
one-day races, benefited from the good work of team-mate Luca Paolini in a
20-up dash for the finish to leave Cancellara frustrated in second with Swift
in third place.

Britain’s Mark Cavendish, the winner in 2009, was fifth while fellow
pre-race favorite Peter Sagan of Slovakia was 10th, just behind defending
champion Gerald Ciolek of Germany.

Although Kristoff’s win was a minor surprise given the presence of the
likes of Cavendish, Cancellara and several other pre-race favourites in the
final group, the Norwegian was quick to remind potential detractors: “I’ve
already finished fourth at the Tour of Flanders and ninth at Paris-Roubaix.”

But the former Norwegian champion – who won Olympic road race bronze in
London in 2012 – was quick to admit it was Paolini’s work that paved the way
to his biggest win yet.

The Italian kept the Norwegian sheltered on his wheel from the 1.4 km mark
and in the end his relative freshness paid off. After Cavendish’s brief sprint
petered out quickly, Kristoff powered to the line to beat Cancellara by
several bike lengths.

“It’s thanks to him that I won,” admitted Kristoff.

Paolini said: “We’d planned to keep Kristoff as fresh as possible for the
finale and that I would try something in the final kilometres.

“I tried to attack on the Poggio (climb) but wasn’t successful. At the
bottom of the descent I saw Alexander was in the front group and so I put
everything on the line for him.”

It is the third time Cancellara, who last won the race in 2008, has
finished runner-up in the race known as ‘La Primavera’ (Spring).

He admitted he was not a fan of the organizers’ decision to remove the
Pompeiana climb, placed between the Cipressa and Poggio in the final 30
kilometres, that would have made it harder for the sprinters to contend

“Following wheels for 250 km is not the kind of Milan-SanRemo I like,” said
Cancellara, whose sole win in 2008 came after he attacked solo in the final

– it was a lottery –

“We needed one more climb in the finish. It was a total lottery – a lottery
on the Poggio, a lottery on the descent, a lottery in the sprint!”

Swift, claiming the best classics result of his career, told
“It turned into a bit of a track race once we got into that final 3km. There
were always guys willing to put moves in and then once it came to the sprint
it was just about trying to pick the right wheel.

“It’s the one big race where I could see myself getting a result because
normally that sort of terrain is where I’d have pretty good legs.

“So to go there and do that today was a really great feeling.”

Covering 294km, the longest race of the season was blighted by challenging
conditions with rain and hailstones adding to the pain of nearly seven hours
in the saddle.

Despite the prospect of a punishing day ahead, the attacks came early and a
seven-man group formed in the opening kilometres to go on and build a lead of
nearly 10 minutes on the main bunch.

However the hilly finale, featuring the Cipressa and Poggio climbs,
ultimately put the brakes on their hopes as the pre-race favourites began
their respective bids for victory.

Sensing the prospect of a sprint finish, Italian all-rounder Vincenzo
Nibali launched a solo attack on the Cipressa, however the Italian’s move
appeared doomed.

The defending Giro d’Italia champion ultimately failed to open up a
significant gap and was reeled in by the peloton early on the climb to the
summit of the Poggio.

An attack by Cancellara’s Trek teammate Gregory Rast on the descent
prompted a series of counter-attacks.

However the race, as widely expected following the removal of the
Pompeiana, was ultimately settled with a group sprint.

Milan-San Remo cycling results on

1. Alexander Kristoff (NOR/Katusha) 6hr 55min 56sec, 2. Fabian Cancellara
(SUI/TRE) same time, 3. Ben Swift (GBR/SKY) s.t., 4. Juan Jose Lobato
(ESP/MOV) s.t., 5. Mark Cavendish (GBR/OPQ) s.t., 6. Sonny Colbrelli (ITA/BAR)
s.t., 7. Zdenek Stybar (CZE/OPQ) s.t., 8. Sacha Modolo (ITA/LAM) s.t., 9.
Gerald Ciolek (GER/MTN) s.t., 10. Peter Sagan (SVK/CAN) s.t.
11. Ramunas Navardauskas (LTU/GRM) s.t., 12. Salvatore Puccio (ITA/SKY)
s.t., 13. Philippe Gilbert (BEL/BMC) s.t., 14. Sebastian Langeveld (NED/GRM)
s.t., 15. Lars Petter Nordhaug (NOR/BKN) s.t., 16. Yoann Offredo (FRA/FDJ)
s.t., 17. Fran Ventoso (ESP/MOV) s.t., 18. Daniele Bennati (ITA/TIN) s.t., 19.
Gregory Rast (SUI/TRE) s.t., 20. Fabio Felline (ITA/TRE) m.t.

24. Andre Greipel (GER/LTB) s.t., 29. Edvald Boasson Hagen (NOR/SKY) at
34, 39. John Degenkolb (GER/GIA) 1:54, 44. Vincenzo Nibali (ITA/AST) 3:15,
56. Thor Hushovd (NOR/BMC) 5:29