Seconds after the finish of Milan-San Remo, on the second part of the Via Roma, Julian Alaphilippe and Fernando Gaviria crossed paths and touched hands. The Frenchman was on his way to the podium after taking third in the sprint behind Michal Kwiatkowski and Peter Sagan, while Gaviria rode on to the Quick-Step Floors team bus after finishing fifth and second behind Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) in the sprint. It was a moment of mixed emotions.
The atmosphere at the team bus was one of defeat and regret. Some lamented that Gaviria's saddle had come loose before the climb of the Cipressa. He was unable to change bikes in such a key moment in the race and so it perhaps affected his performance. However, there was also satisfaction with Alaphilippe's third place.
The Belgian team had taken on the race as it likes to do. Perhaps Gaviria was a stronger card to play but Sagan's attack on the Poggio completely changed the race, and his work on the descent and on the streets of San Remo ensured that the three-rider attack stayed away.
Alaphilippe was rightly proud of his ride after going close to victory in the three-rider sprint.
"It was my first participation in San Remo, so this was a good experience. We respected our role, as a team with a sprinter in Gaviria. It was my role to be vigilant on the ascent of the Poggio. To cover the attacks there. I did that, so I'm happy with my performance," the Frenchman explained.
"The final was really hard. Sagan was very, very strong when he attacked. I gave my maximum in order to begin the descent in front. I saw we rapidly made a difference and so I wanted to recover in the descent. But Sagan attacked on every corner. When we arrived in the flat, my legs were full. I have no regrets today."
"In the sprint, I felt immediately that the legs weren't exceptional. There is no disappointment. You have to take things as they come. There are two great champions in front of me, so I'm happy to be on the podium with them."
The eventual full post mortem at Quick-Step Floors might not be so bright, but Philippe Gilbert, who was aggressive after the Cipressa and helped keep the race together there and before the Poggio, tried to be upbeat.
"We had Alaphillipe take third and Gaviria was fifth and so we have to see it as a good result," the Belgian national champion insisted.
"We thought that Sagan would attack because he'd be beaten by certain sprinters. We knew he would do something and he did it. I didn't see what happened but I imagine he was super strong, he's a 'grosse moteur'."
"Frustration? No. I gave everything I had. The legs have spoken today. I was beaten by two guys who were stronger. Peter was very strong. I just spoke with Michal and he said the same thing: Peter was so strong," he said.
Gaviria spoke briefly at the team bus, with signs of his crash in training still evident on his face and wrist.
"Sagan's attack was spectacular. He clearly had the legs to do it and he showed," Gaviria said.
"This is a complicated race bit it's a spectacular race. It's not easy to get right but I think it's a race for me in the future."