With the two famed climbs, the Cipressa (5.6 km) and the Poggio (3.7 km) in the final kilometres of the race, the possibility of a bunch sprint became a reality as a bunch of 25-riders made it to San Remo together and it was Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) who prevailed.
The light showers and chilly conditions at the start line quickly turned into steady rain and windy conditions with intermittent hail at times although there were no sign of snow which forced last year's race to be shortened.
As Vincenzo Nibali (Astana Team) attacked midway up the Cipressa, he looked around for companions but found none so it was no surprise the charging peloton overtook him on the lower slopes of the Poggio.
On the twisting descent into San Remo,Van Avermaet and Sonny Colbrelli (Bardiani-CSF) built a small gap with Van Avermaet even putting in an attack as the road began to flatten out but both riders were swept up with 2.5km to go.
"I think we did a pretty good race. It was a hard race with the wind and the cold. But everyone did their job well. Phil and I were in the perfect position on the Cipressa and the Poggio. But it was not enough to drop some sprinters. The group was pretty big at the end" Van Avermaet said who was 25th.
Gilbert led through the final left-right turn with about 500 meters left before Van Avermaet launched his own sprint but both BMC riders were overtaken by Kristoff while Fabian Cancellara (Trek Factory Racing) and Ben Swift (Team Sky) rounded out the podium.
"It was an extremely hard edition again, with the cold and the rain. It is hard to be able to spin the legs a lot in the final because you suffer a lot in those extreme conditions. It is not an excuse; but it makes it harder. Greg and I were trying to be in the first position on the Cipressa and the top of the Poggio. I left a gap for him and I was hoping he could take advantage of this and maybe go with the Bardiani rider. But they only took about 50 meters," said Gilbert who ended the day in 13th place.
Sport Director Fabio Baldato praised his team's efforts on the day and acknowledged the race was always going to come down to a sprint.
"There were lots of strong riders in the front, but none were able to make the difference. It was a sprint where everyone was without good legs. Everyone was waiting until the last 200 meters. We lost an opportunity in the final to be in the top 10. Phil was not bad, but he lost good position for the final sprint."