Fabian Cancellara (Trek Factory Racing) was in the mix at the end of Milan-San Remo but the 2008 winner couldn't match the top-end speed of some of the world's best sprinters and had to settle for a disappointing seventh. Giant-Alpecin's John Degenkolb took the win ahead of 2014 winner Alexander Kristoff (Team Katusha) and Orica-GreenEdge fastman Michael Metthews.
“If you look ahead of me there are six world-class sprinters, and I am the first non-traditional sprinter, in a way,” Cancellra said after the stage. “I don’t have the absolute instinct to find the right spot and to know when you can feel when someone is coming, and I got a little bit locked in on the right side. I made a mistake there and it’s disappointing because I had good legs.”
After the peloton dragged back a late attack by Sky's Geraint Thomas and BMC's Daniel Oss, Cancellara followed a move from Philippe Gilbert and nearly met with disaster when the BMC rider went down in a corner of the descent off the Poggio.
“I was also lucky I didn’t crash because Philippe Gilbert crashed just in front of me in a corner and I almost went down,” he said. Like I said you need a lot of luck and tactics to come together at the end.”
But Cancellara, who has been second or third in the race the past four years, avoided the crash that also took out 2013 winner Gerald Ciolek and Etixx-QuickStep contenders Zdenek Sytbar and Michal Kwiatkoswki. The big Swiss rider was well-positioned going into the finale, but the sprinters swept past him.
“I was in a really good place with 500 meters to go, but then the riders came from the left side and closed me, and like professional sprinters they would never open the door again, and that was my own luck,” he said.
“I checked out who was behind me, and it was not right, and the moment was gone in a milli-second to make a late attack. This race is always the most tactical of the entire year, there are tons of possibilities, and maybe I waited too long in the sprint, or….there are more questions than answers.”
Candellara won't have long to ponder those questions, however, as he looks forward to the upcoming Classics in Belgium, including E3 Harelbeke next weekend, followed by Gent-Wevelgem, Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix.
“The shape is great and now I close the day and look forward to Belgium,” Cancellara said. “It’s going to be very interesting for the next weeks because the field is really deep – lots of contenders, lots of teams with strong ambitions – and it's clear that everyone has had a good winter. It’s going to be a very open spring campaign.”
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