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Vincenzo Nibali wins Milan-San Remo

Milan-San Remo is a race that crescendos like no other. Once again, the build-up was long and slow but the seven hours of calm were more than redeemed by a breathless final 15 minutes over the Poggio and onto the Via Roma, where Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) claimed a solo victory that will live long in the memory.

The Italian went clear on the Poggio, flew down the vertiginous descent, and held off the chasing peloton in the final two kilometres. It was an absolute nail-biter of a finale but Nibali was a picture of cool as he sat up and celebrated in the final 50 metres while futile sprints were unfurled behind.

Caleb Ewan (Mitchelton-Scott) was the best of the rest, backing up his 10th place debut last year, while 2016 champion Arnaud Démare (FDJ) was third, but the day belonged to one man.

Already a winner of all three Grand Tours and twice Il Lombardia champion, Nibali adds another dimension to his palmares with a third Monument victory. He also ends 12 years of hurt in becoming the first Italian to triumph at La Primavera since Pippo Pozzato in 2006.

Beyond the finish line he was mobbed by his entourage and the Italian fans, and the exhaustion soon made way for exhilaration. "I don't have words," he told the TV cameras.

Nibali was nominally working alongside teammate Sonny Colbrelli as an unaggressive race, which started out in driving rain before being slowed by a headwind on the Ligurian coast, seemed destined to culminate in a bunch sprint. As it was, he almost went away by stealth on the Poggio, following an attack from Krists Neilands (Israel Cycling Academy) before finding himself alone with a surprisingly big gap over the large bunch.

"In the last 15km I had really good sensations," said Nibali. "On the Poggio I worked with Colbrelli and in the last 5km I only followed the other rider. When my director came on the radio and gave me the time gap, I only thought 'full gas'."

Having dropped Neilands, and having kicked again to fend off a chase from Nathan Haas (Katusha-Alpecin), Nibali continued to pull away and crested the Poggio with 10 seconds in hand. An artist of a descender, he cut through the tight corners without fault and carried a lead of eight seconds onto the flat roads in the final two kilometres. Matteo Trentin (Mitchelton-Scott) tried a last gasp attack, while FDJ and Quick-Step Floors mounted late chases, but Nibali's resilience proved too much.

Everyone expects Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) to add Milan-San Remo to his palmares one day but the world champion had to settle for sixth place today. He had been active in the chase towards the top of the Poggio and followed his teammate Daniel Oss down the descent before tracking Trentin, but was unable to make the podium in the sprint. Quick-Step Floors led out for Elia Viviani but the Italian faded badly. Alexander Kristoff (UAE Team Emriates), another former winner, finished fourth, with Jurgen Roelandts (BMC) taking an impressive fifth. Michael Matthews (Sunweb), Magnus Cort (Astana), and Colbrelli, all sprinters who can climb, came in next, while Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo) rounded out the top 10.

Earlier in the race Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data) was forced to abandon, the former winner hitting a bollard just ahead of the Poggio and catapulting over the top before being hit from behind as other riders ploughed in to him.

How it happened

The riders woke up to heavy rain in Milan, and it continued to pour as they arrived at the start in the shadow of the Castello Sforzesco in central Milan to sign on and prepare for seven hours and 294 kilometres in the saddle, bellies full from the morning's feast of carbohydrates.

Despite the conditions, the riders seemed happy to be racing and excited to contest the first Monument of the season. Teams signed on together, with Bora-Hansgrohe and Team Sky the last on stage, reflecting their importance and success in 2017. UCI President David Lappartient was also at the start and posed for photographs with Sagan.

The riders rolled out of central Milan under pouring rain, with only the forecasts of dry, sunny conditions in San Remo to boost their morale.

The race officially started on the long straight via della Chiesa Rossa, 7.6km south of Milan. The flag dropped at 10:13 and the race was on, with 294km to race. Loïc Chetout (Cofidis) was the only non-starter.

As per tradition, the break soon formed, with the peloton happy to let the early attacks go. Surprisingly nine riders got in the move and worked smoothly to escape to glory.

The nine riders were Mirco Maestri and Lorenzo Rota (Bardiani-CSF), Evgeny Koberniak (Gazprom Rusvelo), Guy Sagiv (Israel Cycling Academy), Dennis Van Winden (Israel Cycling Academy), Sho Hatsuyama (Nippo-Vini Fantini), Charles Planet (Novo Nordisk), Matteo Bono (UAE Team Emirates) and Jacopo Mosca (Wilier Selle Italia).

Only Bono was from a WorldTour team but the Italian loves to be in the Milan-San Remo break. He was also in the move in 2014, 2015 and 2016.

The peloton let the nine go away on the flat roads of Lombardy and they pushed their lead out to 6:00 after an hour of racing at 41.2kph, with Bora-Hansgrohe, Team Sky and Quick-Step Floors setting the tempo behind. The rain eased in Novi Ligure but the road remained wet on the way to the Passo Turchino.

The Passo Turchino rises to 532m but climbs gradually from Ovada. However, it helped the peloton pull back time on the break, with BMC upping the pace slightly as the race headed into the clouds. At the summit it was down to 4:30 and even less after Team Sky lead the peloton down the descent. The peloton eased as they smelled the sea air for the first time and the break of nine pushed their lead back out to 5:00.

Wet roads and traffic furniture raised the tension in the peloton a little and the pace eased after a crash saw Alexander Kristoff (UAE Team Emirates) go down and dirt his white kit. Andre Greipel (Lotto Soudal) was also involved, as was Lukasz Wisniowski of Team Sky and Mitchell Docker (EF Education First-Drapac). Docker and the Polish rider were unable to continue, leaving Team Sky a rider down for the finale.

Sagan was wisely riding up front in the wheels of Team Sky, who were protecting Michal Kwiatkowski and Gianni Moscon.

With 140km left to race, with 161.7km in their legs, Luke Rowe (Team Sky), Tim Declercq (Quick-Step Floors) and Juraj Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) continued to take turns on the front to keep the break in check.

Sun shines and speeds rise

The rain fell hard and heavy in Savona but the riders could see blue skies along the coast as they snaked along the coast. Their odyssey in the rain ended with 70km to go, with the roads finally turned dry in Ceriale. The break was being gradually reeled in thanks to the work of Juraj Sagan, Rowe and Quick-Step Floors.

Rider began to take off their rain jackets, overshoes and swap gloves, with Sagan getting a push from a Bora-Hansgrohe teammate on the front of the peloton as he prepared for the finale. The speed rose as did the tension but the rain meant 2018 would be one of the slowest editions of recent years. With 50km to go, as the first Capi climbs began to bite the riders' legs, the break was just 2:00 head of the peloton.

As they reached the Cappo Berta, with 39km to go, the gap was down to half a minute, and already Marcel Kittel was being distanced from the bunch. Ahead, the attacks started to shatter the breakaway, with Maestri having a go on the high-speed descent. The climb left only four men out front, with Van Winden, Bono, and Rota surviving the acceleration.

Kittel had Nils Politt to haul him back into the bunch, and with enough flat roads before the Cipressa, he tacked back onto the bunch with time to recover. The breakaway had no hopes of surviving to the base of the climb as Groupama-FDJ set a furious pace as they headed toward San Lorenzo al Mare. With 30km to go, the bunch was all back together, the sky was blue, the sun warm, and possibilities endless.

Calm on the Cipressa

Mitchelton-Scott was at the front for Matteo Trentin as they hit the base of the Cipressa, and Nathan Haas was on the wheel of Nibali awaiting the inevitable attack as once again, his teammate Kittel was spat out the back as soon as the road tilted upward. Peter Sagan was placidly tucked in the midst of the peloton, while Arnaud Demare sat fourth wheel, in the back seat of his Groupama-FDJ train with Ignatas Konovalovas driving.

The pace was well controlled, with weaker riders heading out the back, but the sprinters and puncheurs biding their time as Team Sky headed to the front to take over from FDJ.

Dylan van Baarle's efforts strong out the bunch but Demare was still looking comfortable just behind, while Kristoff, Cavendish, Ewan and more still in the mix. Astana came to the front before the top, but the pace was still relatively sedate leading to some elbows being thrown in the bunch as riders fought to hold position.

Poggio springboard

A huge peloton sped to the Poggio, with a full-on lead-out into the base of the climb from Groupama-FDJ and Astana driving the pace flat out. But the traffic furniture just before the climb caused a horrific crash, with Cavendish nailing the bollard in the middle of the road and crashing heavily.

Bahrain-Merida took over the pacemaking as the gradient began to bite, before Marcus Burghard opened a gap, with BMC's Jempy Drucker tacking onto the move.

Drucker left Burghardt behind before the top, but Bahrain-Merida kept up the pressure behind and reeled him in.

Krists Nielands launched the attack before the crest of the Poggio that Nibali took advantage of, and although Nielands was soon dropped, Nibali forged on alone with a suddenly large advantage.

Over the top, the gap was 12 seconds for one of the best descenders in the peloton with a long history of blasting down the Poggio, and it was panic stations behind, as Matteo Trentin sensed the danger and set off in pursuit.

Nibali still had nine thin seconds and a long line of riders chasing him as he reached the bottom, with defending champino Michal Kwiatkowski, Michael Matthews, Sagan and Ewan all eyeing each other behind.

With all of Italy clenching their teeth down upon on their fingernails, Nibali entered the final turns with the peloton bearing down on him, with last year's runner-up Julian Alaphilippe leading the bunch in.

But he'd finally timed his Poggio attack correctly, and after a dozen years of disappointment, Italy finally had a champion in La Classicissima in Vincenzo Nibali.

Full Results

#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Bahrain-Merida7:18:43
2Caleb Ewan (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott
3Arnaud Demare (Fra) Groupama-FDJ
4Alexander Kristoff (Nor) UAE Team Emirates
5Jurgen Roelandts (Bel) BMC Racing Team
6Peter Sagan (Svk) Bora-Hansgrohe
7Michael Matthews (Aus) Team Sunweb
8Magnus Cort (Den) Astana Pro Team
9Sonny Colbrelli (Ita) Bahrain-Merida
10Jasper Stuyven (Bel) Trek-Segafredo
11Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Team Sky
12Matti Breschel (Den) EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale
13Christophe Laporte (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits
14Sacha Modolo (Ita) EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale
15Marco Canola (Ita) Nippo-Vini Fantini-Europa Ovini
16Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Dimension Data
17Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing Team
18Nathan Haas (Aus) Katusha-Alpecin
19Elia Viviani (Ita) Quick-Step Floors
20Maximiliano Richeze (Arg) Quick-Step Floors0:00:04
21Daryl Impey (RSA) Mitchelton-Scott
22Jens Debusschere (Bel) Lotto Soudal0:00:05
23Krists Neilands (Lat) Israel Cycling Academy
24Jos van Emden (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo
25Matej Mohoric (Slo) Bahrain-Merida
26Tony Gallopin (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
27Damiano Caruso (Ita) BMC Racing Team
28Luis León Sanchez (Spa) Astana Pro Team
29Gianni Moscon (Ita) Team Sky
30Christopher Juul Jensen (Den) Mitchelton-Scott
31Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Team Sunweb
32Daniel Oss (Ita) Bora-Hansgrohe0:00:10
33Heinrich Haussler (Aus) Bahrain-Merida0:00:11
34Simon Spilak (Slo) Katusha-Alpecin0:00:15
35Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Quick-Step Floors
36Oscar Gatto (Ita) Astana Pro Team0:00:17
37Matteo Trentin (Ita) Mitchelton-Scott
38Julien Vermote (Bel) Dimension Data0:00:32
39Edward Theuns (Bel) Team Sunweb
40Scott Thwaites (GBr) Dimension Data
41Alexis Vuillermoz (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
42Cyril Gautier (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
43Koen de Kort (Ned) Trek-Segafredo
44Ben Swift (GBr) UAE Team Emirates
45August Jensen (Nor) Israel Cycling Academy
46Fabio Felline (Ita) Trek-Segafredo
47Guillaume Boivin (Can) Israel Cycling Academy
48Sam Oomen (Ned) Team Sunweb0:00:34
49Jacopo Guarnieri (Ita) Groupama-FDJ
50Enrico Battaglin (Ita) LottoNL-Jumbo
51Davide Cimolai (Ita) Groupama-FDJ0:00:45
52Filippo Pozzato (Ita) Wilier Triestina-Selle Italia0:00:53
53José Gonçalves (Por) Katusha-Alpecin0:01:02
54Sven Erik Bystrøm (Nor) UAE Team Emirates
55Danny van Poppel (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo
56Jean-Pierre Drucker (Lux) BMC Racing Team
57Carlos Barbero (Spa) Movistar Team0:01:21
58Marcus Burghardt (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe0:01:27
59Zakkari Dempster (Aus) Israel Cycling Academy
60Igor Boev (Rus) Gazprom-Rusvelo0:02:23
61Nils Politt (Ger) Katusha-Alpecin
62Oliver Naesen (Bel) AG2R La Mondiale
63Matthieu Ladagnous (Fra) Groupama-FDJ
64Edoardo Zardini (Ita) Wilier Triestina-Selle Italia
65David Lozano (Spa) Team Novo Nordisk
66Giulio Ciccone (Ita) Bardiani CSF
67Clement Venturini (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
68Koen Bouwman (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo
69Kristian Sbaragli (Ita) Israel Cycling Academy
70Stijn Vandenbergh (Bel) AG2R La Mondiale
71Ignatas Konovalovas (Ltu) Groupama-FDJ
72Artem Nych (Rus) Gazprom-Rusvelo
73Stephen Cummings (GBr) Dimension Data
74Sergey Firsanov (Rus) Gazprom-Rusvelo
75Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Quick-Step Floors
76Fabio Sabatini (Ita) Quick-Step Floors
77Carlos Betancur (Col) Movistar Team
78Sebastian Langeveld (Ned) EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale
79Alexis Gougeard (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
80Juan José Lobato (Spa) Nippo-Vini Fantini-Europa Ovini
81Ivan Santaromita (Ita) Nippo-Vini Fantini-Europa Ovini
82Marco Tizza (Ita) Nippo-Vini Fantini-Europa Ovini
83Neilson Powless (USA) LottoNL-Jumbo0:02:56
84Winner Anacona (Col) Movistar Team0:03:52
85Franco Pellizotti (Ita) Bahrain-Merida0:04:00
86Luka Pibernik (Slo) Bahrain-Merida
87Nikolas Maes (Bel) Lotto Soudal0:04:50
88Gijs Van Hoecke (Bel) LottoNL-Jumbo
89Cesare Benedetti (Ita) Bora-Hansgrohe
90Salvatore Puccio (Ita) Team Sky
91Daniele Bennati (Ita) Movistar Team
92Michael Schär (Swi) BMC Racing Team
93Simone Consonni (Ita) UAE Team Emirates
94Dayer Quintana (Col) Movistar Team
95Alberto Bettiol (Ita) BMC Racing Team0:05:20
96Simone Ponzi (Ita) Nippo-Vini Fantini-Europa Ovini
97Michael Valgren (Den) Astana Pro Team
98Giovanni Carboni (Ita) Bardiani CSF
99Dylan van Baarle (Ned) Team Sky
100Enrico Barbin (Ita) Bardiani CSF
101Aleksandr Vlasov (Rus) Gazprom-Rusvelo
102Davide Villella (Ita) Astana Pro Team
103Diego Ulissi (Ita) UAE Team Emirates
104Sam Bewley (NZl) Mitchelton-Scott
105Lennard Kämna (Ger) Team Sunweb
106Roger Kluge (Ger) Mitchelton-Scott
107Alexey Lutsenko (Kaz) Astana Pro Team0:05:22
108Mirco Maestri (Ita) Bardiani CSF0:06:14
109Jasper De Buyst (Bel) Lotto Soudal0:06:42
110Maciej Bodnar (Pol) Bora-Hansgrohe0:07:53
111Gregory Rast (Swi) Trek-Segafredo
112Jens Keukeleire (Bel) Lotto Soudal0:08:30
113Guillaume Bonnafond (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits
114Alessandro Tonelli (Ita) Bardiani CSF0:08:37
115Kiel Reijnen (USA) Trek-Segafredo0:09:37
116Joonas Henttala (Fin) Team Novo Nordisk
117Ryan Mullen (Irl) Trek-Segafredo
118Andrea Peron (Ita) Team Novo Nordisk
119Marcel Sieberg (Ger) Lotto Soudal
120Rick Zabel (Ger) Katusha-Alpecin
121Francisco Ventoso (Spa) BMC Racing Team
122Marco Coledan (Ita) Wilier Triestina-Selle Italia
123Victor De La Parte (Spa) Movistar Team
124Kristijan Koren (Slo) Bahrain-Merida
125Iljo Keisse (Bel) Quick-Step Floors
126Maarten Wynants (Bel) LottoNL-Jumbo
127Ian Stannard (GBr) Team Sky
128Simone Andreetta (Ita) Bardiani CSF
129Mickael Delage (Fra) Groupama-FDJ0:11:40
130Lars Bak (Den) Lotto Soudal
131Charles Planet (Fra) Team Novo Nordisk
132Andreas Schillinger (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe
133Stepan Kuriyanov (Rus) Gazprom-Rusvelo
134Dennis van Winden (Ned) Israel Cycling Academy
135Lorenzo Rota (Ita) Bardiani CSF
136Sam Brand (GBr) Team Novo Nordisk
137Guy Sagiv (Isr) Israel Cycling Academy
138Olivier Le Gac (Fra) Groupama-FDJ
139Truls Engen Korsaeth (Nor) Astana Pro Team
140Roy Curvers (Ned) Team Sunweb
141Jay Thomson (RSA) Dimension Data
142Umberto Poli (Ita) Team Novo Nordisk
143Boy van Poppel (Ned) Trek-Segafredo
144Damiano Cima (Ita) Nippo-Vini Fantini-Europa Ovini
145Jacopo Mosca (Ita) Wilier Triestina-Selle Italia
146Luke Rowe (GBr) Team Sky
147Nikolai Cherkasov (Rus) Gazprom-Rusvelo0:13:19
148Cyril Lemoine (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits0:15:03
149Bert Van Lerberghe (Bel) Cofidis, Solutions Credits
150Sho Hatsuyama (Jpn) Nippo-Vini Fantini-Europa Ovini
151Hector Carretero (Spa) Movistar Team
152Svein Tuft (Can) Mitchelton-Scott0:16:13
153Maxim Belkov (Rus) Katusha-Alpecin
154Taylor Phinney (USA) EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale
155Marcel Kittel (Ger) Katusha-Alpecin
156Tim Declercq (Bel) Quick-Step Floors0:16:32
157Juraj Sagan (Svk) Bora-Hansgrohe
158Brian Kamstra (Ned) Team Novo Nordisk
159Matteo Busato (Ita) Wilier Triestina-Selle Italia
160Jakub Mareczko (Ita) Wilier Triestina-Selle Italia
161Filippo Ganna (Ita) UAE Team Emirates0:16:53
162Liam Bertazzo (Ita) Wilier Triestina-Selle Italia
163Daniel Teklehaimanot (Eri) Cofidis, Solutions Credits0:21:00
164Evgeny Kobernyak (Rus) Gazprom-Rusvelo
DNSLoic Chetout (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits
DNFLukasz Wisniowski (Pol) Team Sky
DNFAnthony Turgis (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits
DNFAndré Greipel (Ger) Lotto Soudal
DNFMark Cavendish (GBr) Dimension Data
DNFMark Renshaw (Aus) Dimension Data
DNFSimon Clarke (Aus) EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale
DNFMitchell Docker (Aus) EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale
DNFDaniel McLay (GBr) EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale
DNFNikias Arndt (Ger) Team Sunweb
DNFMatteo Bono (Ita) UAE Team Emirates

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