The powerful Swiss rider had opted not to attack on the Poggio and played his hand in the sprint finish. He had the speed to beat Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) and a host of other big name sprinters but could not quite match Alexander Kristoff's perfectly timed sprint.
"When it's a sprint finish like that, you've got to give it a go," he said to journalists after climbing on the podium with Kristoff and third placed Ben Swift (Team Sky).
"Finishing second means you're the first of the most disappointed riders. And I race to win, not to finish second or third. But if I look back at the race, I think I can be satisfied. I gave it everything and the team did a great job. That's important to me."
"I could have finished fifth or even crashed out. I'm not a sprinter but after 294km, I was able to beat the likes of Cavendish and other sprinters, so that's satisfying. There was only one rider who finished ahead of me and unfortunately the finish came too soon for me to get past him. But Katusha deserved to win. They did a good race, too."
In the past, Cancellara has attacked on the Poggio, forcing a split in the peloton and a vital selection. However his effort has often cost him dearly in the sprint and he has finished second or third in each of the last four editions of La Primavera.
He won with a late solo attack on the flat road, two kilometres from the finish, in 2008 and decided that it was then futile to attack on the Poggio.
"The Poggio is like a motorway, where you go at 40kmh. I don't make the mistake of attacking there anymore," he said.
"I think the bad weather played a big role in the outcome of the race. I couldn't really make a move earlier because there were too many riders who were still fresh. I'm not interested in attacking just to put on a show either. There's also the descent, other climbs, the flat and lots of attacks. Races change and end as they end. This time it was in a sprint and I finished second."
"My initially reaction is to be happy because Kristoff is a sprinter and so a better sprinter than I am. I'd hoped to do something in the sprint but it’s not something I train for."
Praise for Trek Factory Racing before the Belgian Classics
Cancellara praised his Trek Factory Racing teammates for protecting him in the rain. Gregory Rast played a key role by attacking early on the Poggio to put Andre Greipel's Lotto-Belisol team under pressure.
"I think that we raced well. It was right that Rast attacked because the Lotto team was strong and they still have five riders at that point. We made them chase," Cancellara said.
"I'm on the podium, second, but if I look at how we raced, it was a great performance by the team and they all proved that we're ready for the Classics. You can't win without a good team.
Cancellara was keen to enjoy a warm shower, head home to Switzerland for a few days and then travel to Belgium for the next chapter of his Spring Classics campaign. He will ride E3 Harelbeke next Friday and then Gent-Wevelgem on Sunday, followed by the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix.
"I'm sure my form is good for the Classics but Milan-San Remo is not E3 Harelbeke or the Tour of Flanders," he warned, reminding that the Belgian Classics are far hillier and selective.
"They're more difficult but every race is different with a different field of riders and different conditions. I feel I'm ready."