Norwegian Alexander Kristoff outsprinted former champion Fabian Cancellara and Ben Swift to win a rain-lashed 105th edition of the Milan-SanRemo on Sunday.
Kristoff, taking his first victory in one of cycling’s five “monument” one-day races, benefited from the good work of teammate 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 favorite 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 favorites in the final group, the Norwegian was quick to put down any potential detractors.
“I’ve already finished fourth at the Tour of Flanders and ninth at Paris-Roubaix,” Kristoff said.
However, the former Norwegian champion — who won the Olympic road race bronze medal 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 [Paolini] that I won,” Kristoff said.
“We’d planned to keep Kristoff as fresh as possible for the finale and that I would try something in the final kilometers,” Paolini said. “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 organizers’ 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.
“Following wheels for 250km is not the kind of Milan-SanRemo I like,” said Cancellara, whose sole win in 2008 came after he attacked solo in the final kilometers. “We needed one more climb in the finish. It was a total lottery — a lottery on the Poggio, a lottery on the descent, a lottery in the sprint.”
“It turned into a bit of a track race once we got into that final 3km. There were always guys willing to put moves in and then once it came to the sprint it was just about trying to pick the right wheel,” Swift, claiming the best classics result of his career, told the Sky Procycling Web site. “It’s the one big race where I could see myself getting a result because normally that sort of terrain is where I’d have pretty good legs. So to go there and do that today was a really great feeling.”
Covering 294km, the longest race of the season was blighted by challenging conditions, with rain and hailstones adding to the pain of nearly seven hours in the saddle.
Despite the prospect of a punishing day ahead, the attacks came early and a seven-man group formed in the opening kilometers to go on and build a lead of nearly 10 minutes on the peloton.
However, the hilly finale to the race, featuring the Cipressa and Poggio climbs, ultimately put the brakes on their hopes as the pre-race favorites began their respective bids for victory.
Sensing the prospect of a sprint finish, Italian all-rounder Vincenzo Nibali launched a solo attack on the Cipressa, but the Italian’s move appeared doomed.
The defending Giro d’Italia champion ultimately failed to open up a significant gap and was reeled in by the peloton early on the climb to the summit of the Poggio.
An attack by Cancellara’s Trek teammate Gregory Rast on the descent prompted a series of counterattacks.
However, the race, as widely expected following the removal of the Pompeiana, was ultimately settled with a group sprint.
Taiwanese table tennis ace Lin Yun-ju on Wednesday handily downed Sweden’s Jon Persson 4-0 to advance to the round-of-32 at the World Table Tennis Championships Finals in Houston, Texas. World No. 6 Lin, who had a bye to automatically advance to the second round, defeated the 35-year-old Swede 11-5, 11-7, 11-8, 11-7 at the George R. Brown Convention Center. Lin was yesterday to play South Korea’s Lim Jong-hoon. Compatriot and fellow Olympic veteran Chuang Chih-yuan crashed out after losing to Sweden’s Truls Moregard. Moregard, who is more than half Chuang’s age at 19, downed the 40-year-old world No. 25 4-3 in a
FEARS TOO GREAT: Denmark’s Union of Journalists urged reporters not to travel to Qatar to cover the World Cup, saying the country cannot be trusted after the incident Security forces in Qatar detained two Norwegian Broadcasting Corp (NRK) journalists for more than 30 hours and deleted footage they gathered at a migrant labor camp as they tried to report on worker issues ahead of next year’s FIFA World Cup, authorities said on Wednesday. The Qatari government accused NRK journalists Halvor Ekeland and Lokman Ghorbani of “trespassing on private property and filming without a permit,” as the two returned on Wednesday to Norway following their arrest. The journalists contended they had verbal permission from those they filmed there. The arrests sparked a diplomatic dispute between Norway and Qatar. Norwegian news agency
Former champion Shaun Murphy on Wednesday said that amateurs should not be allowed to play in professional snooker tournaments after he lost in the first round of the UK championship to 19-year-old Si Jiahui. The 39-year-old Murphy, who was runner-up in the world championship this year, fought back from 5-1 down to level the match, but lost the deciding frame to the Chinese amateur. Murphy, who has won more than ￡4 million (US$5.33 million) in prize money in his career, vented his frustration after the defeat in York on Tuesday. “I’m going to sound like a grumpy old man, but that young man
PRESIDENTIAL VISIT: Tsai Ing-wen attended pre-game events, with her staff saying that she wanted to show her strong support for the nation’s most popular sport Two home runs gave the CTBC Brothers a 2-0 victory over the Uni-President Lions in an otherwise pitcher-dominated Taiwan Series opener in Taichung yesterday. CTBC took the lead in the best-of-seven Taiwan Series, with Taichung Intercontinental Stadium fully open and filled to capacity with 20,000 spectators because health authorities have kept the COVID-19 pandemic at bay. CTBC fans dominated the stands, turning them yellow as so many were wearing their team’s colors. The CPBL’s championship series is to continue with Game 2 today, also in Taichung. President Tsai Ing-wen made an unannounced visit prior to game’s start, participating in the opening ceremony and posing