MILAN: Norwegian Alexander Kristoff outsprinted former champion Fabian Cancellara and Ben Swift to win a rain-lashed 105th edition of the Italian classic Milan-SanRemo yesterday.
Kristoff, taking his first victory in one of cycling’s five ‘monument’ one-day races, benefited from the good work of team-mate Luca Paolini in a 20-up dash for the finish to leave Cancellara frustrated in second with Swift in third place. Britain’s Mark Cavendish, the winner in 2009, was fifth while fellow pre-race favourite Peter Sagan of Slovakia was 10th, just behind defending champion Gerald Ciolek of Germany.
Although Kristoff’s win was a minor surprise given the presence of the likes of Cavendish, Cancellara and several other pre-race favourites in the final group, the Norwegian was quick to remind potential detractors: “I’ve already finished fourth at the Tour of Flanders and ninth at Paris-Roubaix.”
But the former Norwegian champion — who won Olympic road race bronze in London in 2012 - was quick to admit it was Paolini’s work that paved the way to his biggest win yet.
The Italian kept the Norwegian sheltered on his wheel from the 1.4 km mark and in the end his relative freshness paid off. After Cavendish’s brief sprint petered out quickly, Kristoff powered to the line to beat Cancellara by several bike lengths.
“It’s thanks to him that I won,” admitted Kristoff.
Paolini said: “We’d planned to keep Kristoff as fresh as possible for the finale and that I would try something in the final kilometres.
“I tried to attack on the Poggio (climb) but wasn’t successful. At the bottom of the descent I saw Alexander was in the front group and so I put everything on the line for him.”
It is the third time Cancellara, who last won the race in 2008, has finished runner-up in the race known as ‘La Primavera’ (Spring). He admitted he was not a fan of the organisers’ decision to remove the Pompeiana climb, placed between the Cipressa and Poggio in the final 30km, that would have made it harder for the sprinters to contend victory.