The race was won by Arnaud Demare (FDJ) after the Frenchman navigated his way through a dramatic finale that saw Fernando Gaviria (Etixx-Quickstep) hit the deck with 300 meters to go.
That fall held up Cancellara and Peter Sagan, with both of the pre-race favourites losing their momentum with the finish line in sight.
“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 to win. In the end I gave up, it was over,” Cancellara said at the finish.
"It was quite difficult because I was isolated and I was a target for all the riders, especially on the [Poggio] climb," Cancellara said.
The race came along on the Cipressa and then the Poggio with Michal Kwiatkowski putting in a serious attack.
"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,” Cancellara said, describing the action.
Cancellara helped to pull the Team Sky rider back after the descent and even threw in his own late attack. However, he was a marked man, and the race eventually came down to a sprint.
"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!”
"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.