Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) was the big favourite to win Milan-San Remo but the world champion could only finish sixth in the sprint behind solo winner Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida), beaten by several of his big-name sprint rivals.
Sagan rolled to the Bora-Hansgrohe team bus in silence after the sprint in the Via Roma, tired after a huge effort in the rain, disappointed in defeat but happy for his former Liquigas teammate and good friend.
Nibali admitted he talked to Sagan before the race hit the Poggio, trying to understand his plans for the final climb. Last year Sagan made the decisive attack on the Poggio only to lose the three-rider sprint to Michal Kwiatkowski. This time he seemed to ride a more race and didn't move when Nibali jumped across to Krijs Neilands (Israel Cycling Academy) and then kicked clear alone.
Sagan seemed happy to see a close friend play his cards biding is time and final effort. On the descent of the Poggio Sagan appeared to force other riders and teams to chase, especially Team Sky, who out manoeuvred him 2017. This year the tables were turned.
In the via Roma sprint, Sagan fought for a way through but was unable to find the front as Nibali celebrated a few metres ahead.
"After a very wet start, fortunately, the rain didn't affect the final part of this year's Milano-Sanremo and thanks to the slower pace as well, the selection was less and the group to arrive at the finish quite a lot bigger," Sagan explained, revealing why he hesitated on the Poggio.
"I was not chasing on the Poggio, I just wanted to keep going. After on the bottom of the descent I wanted to see if someone was going to pull to the finish because there was still a chance to catch him. But in the end Vincenzo was strong and finished first.
"I knew that if I went solo and chased, we'd get him but the problem was that nobody reacted, they were all expecting me, so I said: Okay. I told myself: Vincenzo wins or we'll catch him. We didn't catch and that's okay."
Sagan helped Nibali win the Sheffield stage of the Tour de France in 2014, with Nibali paying him back in later races. Sagan openly praised Nibali fro his victory, while chastising his rivals.
"Congratulations to Vincenzo, he deserved it. This victory is good for Italy and the sport of cycling in general," Sagan said.
"I'm very happy for Vincenzo because only him showed the balls and he took a nice victory."