This article was originally published on Cyclingnews.com.
Simon Gerrans (GreenEdge) captured an enthralling Milan-San Remo, outsprinting Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack) and Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas) at the end of the race. The three had gotten away on the final climb, the Poggio, and maintained a narrow lead to the end.
The first decisive moment in the race came on La Manie, as World Champion Mark Cavendish fell back, and despite the great efforts of his teammates and in particular Matt Hayman, he was unable to rejoin the favourites. The Cipressa, the penultimate climb, saw no changes, but as so often happens, the Poggio played the deciding role.
Several attacks were made but the key moment came as Nibali and Gerrans attacked close to the summit. Cancellara quickly joined them, and from then on there was little doubt as to the race's outcome. The Swiss rider was unable to drop his companions though, either on the descent or the final flat run-in, and having led most for most of the finale, couldn't summon up the last bit of strength to beat Gerrans.
"We rode as a team all day. The guys were always looking after one another and making sure that Gossy was in the right position at the key moments. Simon had free reign to cover any big moves, and he certainly did. Boys rode super today. I'm very, very proud, " said GreenEdge's Matt White.
Simon Gerrans wins it
A moment of silence
The race started with a minute’s silence for the victims of the coach crash in Switzerland earlier this week.
But the racing began when a group of nine got away 21 kilometers into the race: Cheng Ji (Project 1t4i), Juan Pablo Suarez (Colombia-Coldeportes), Dmitriy Gruzdev (Astana), Angelo Pagani (Colnago-CSF), Vergard Stake Laengen (Team Type 1), Juan Jose Oroz (Euskaltel), Pierpaolo De Negri (Farnese Vini), Michael Mørkøv (Saxo Bank) and Oleg Berdos (UtensilNord). Their advantage ran out to 13 minutes.
With just under 100 kilometers to go, La Manie loomed, and as GreenEdge and Liquigas set the pace, the most notable victim was none other than Cavendish, who fell off the back of the field. Bernhard Eisel worked long and hard to try and bring his Sky teammate back up, while those at the head of the field increased their speed.
A serious crash with about 78 kilometers to go saw Carlos Quintero (Colombia Coldeportes) carried into an ambulance with suspected head injuries.
Eventually a group formed around Cavendish – he was not the only one to suffer – but even that proved futile.
BMC moved to the front and along with Omega Pharma-Quick Step kept the pace high. Philippe Gilbert put in a turn or two at the front, looking very comfortable.
With 60 kilometers to go, the break was caught by the chasing field. Behind them, and some 10 kilometers later, Cavendish called off the chase. He thanked his teammates for their work.
Favourites charge up Cipressa
BMC led the charge up the Cipressa, with Liquigas moving in to help. As they neared the top, the expected attacks came. The first to go was Francisco Javier Villa of UtensilNord-Named, with Vacansoleil's Johnny Hoogerland catching him. They gradually pulled away, causing Liquigas to pick up its speed again.
A crash with 22 kilometers to go took down Philippe Gilbert, amongst others. The Belgian champion was back on his bike again quickly but his chances of victory were over.
Hoogerland led the way on the descent, but the chasers were catching up. By the time they hit the bottom, a group including Tom Boonen, Cancellara and Daniele Oss came up and caught the two escapees.
The favourites all re-grouped on the seven flat kilometers between the Cipressa and the Poggio. Rabobank jumped into the lead with 11 to go, setting a blistering pace as they headed up the climb. Valerio Agnoli of Liquigas jumped out of the field, soon followed by Movistar's Angel Madrazo, as Rabo kept pace.
Madrazo pulled away from Agnoli on the steep, twisting climb. Hoogerland jumped again and Agnoli fell back into the field. Nibali and Gerrans were the next to go and quickly took the lead, with the Italian giving his all. Cancellara joined them, and the three forced a gap as they hit the sharp left hand turn which started the dizzying final descent.
The four-time World time trial champion had a few meters on his companions as they hit the bottom but he didn't pull away, as expected. The trio took a 12 second lead into the final two kilometers, with Katusha leading the furious chase.
Cancellara led out the sprint but Gerrans moved around to the right to take it by a nose, the second Australian victory in a row. A crash in the chasing field within sight of the finish line saw Omega Pharma-Quick Step's Trentin hit the barriers. Peter Sagan (Liquigas) won the sprint of the field, with John Degenkolb of Project 1t4i rounding out the top five.
|1 Simon Gerrans (Aus) GreenEdge||6:59:24|
|2 Fabian Cancellara (Swi) RadioShack-Nissan|
|3 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale|
|4 Peter Sagan (Svk) Liquigas-Cannondale|
|5 John Degenkolb (Ger) Project 1t4i|
|6 Filippo Pozzato (Ita) Farnese Vini - Selle Italia|
|7 Oscar Freire Gomez (Spa) Katusha Team|
|8 Alessandro Ballan (Ita) BMC Racing Team|
|9 Daniel Oss (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale|
|10 Daniele Bennati (Ita) Radioshack-Nissan|