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" I thought maybe I should go on the top of Poggio but there were too many riders that looked fresh, so I did not make a move. Same after the descent, there was no moment to go, so the best plan was to wait for a sprint. The sprin...

Photo: Sirotti






23.03.2014 @ 21:03 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

For the fourth year in a row Fabian Cancellara (Trek) finished on the podium in Milan-Sanremo when he took second against much faster riders in today's sprint finish. Many were surprised not to see the Swiss attack on the Poggio but the Swiss claims that a sprint finish was his only option in today's easier race.


There was not the snow of last year but the conditions were still dolorous: a ruthless, cold rain fell all day, and the closer the peloton pedaled towards the coast, a biting wind also cut through to add to the riders’ misery.  Proving that a sprint in wretched weather after 294 kilometers pedaled is not a regular state of affairs, Fabian Cancellara powered his way to second place behind Alexander Kristoff (Katusha), and beating out most of the big sprinters.


Ben Swift (Team Sky) completed the podium, while Peter Sagan (Cannondale), and Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) faded in the closing meters.


The habitual breakaway escaped in the early kilometers and a nonchalant peloton bid the seven riders adieu. With 100 kilometers remaining Trek Factory Racing joined the chase, sending Eugenio Alafaci – racing his first ever Milan-Sanremo – to the front to help Cannondale and Giant-Shimano.  Alafaci, despite the dismal weather, happily put in a monstrous effort to help control the breakaway.


The distance, weather, and finally the hills, eroded the escapees and by the Cipressa only three men remained out front. Team Cannondale led a fierce pace into the Cipressa, but it was Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) who shot off the front with no reaction from the numb peloton.  Nibali would gain up to 30 seconds before the bunch led a hard-charge from behind catching him at the base of the Poggio.


Trek Factory Racing’s Gregory Rast immediately countered, and gained a 20-second advantage.  However, his move was short-lived and he was swallowed by a group of 30 riders by the top, including Fabian Cancellara and Fabio Felline.


The treacherous descent on the wet, slippery roads caused a careful, slow ride down the twisting curves and at the bottom around 25 riders headed towards a bunch finish.  Cancellara was well placed in the top five, but Kristoff proved fastest at the end, and for the fourth year in a row Cancellara would make the podium, but not the top step.


“I am really tired, it was a race of survival," he said. "Many times during the race I was cold. I have to say a big thanks to the team, it was a great team effort, and everyone did his maximum today.  With, or without, the Pompeiana it was still hard. But in the end it was a sprinter’s race after all, so I guess in that way I made a good result.


“It was hard because it was a race where you had to be patient - to wait and wait. Maybe it was a little bit boring because of that. Today was not Flanders or Roubaix. I thought maybe I should go on the top of Poggio but there were too many riders that looked fresh, so I did not make a move. Same after the descent, there was no moment to go, so the best plan was to wait for a sprint. The sprint was the only solution of today.


“Of course I want to win, and not be second, or some place on the podium like the last four years. But it was special circumstances again, lots of cold and rain and it was not difficult other than the weather to get to the end. But I am happy when I look at how I finished against the big sprinters. The sprint at the end, I played it the best I could: I used my ‘non-sprinter’ skills to finish well. Kristoff was just too far away at the end.


"When it's a sprint finish like that, you've got to give it a go. Finishing second means you're the first of the most disappointed riders. And I race to win, not to finish second or third. But if I look back at the race, I think I can be satisfied. I gave it everything and the team did a great job. That's important to me.


"I could have finished fifth or even crashed out. I'm not a sprinter but after 294km, I was able to beat the likes of Cavendish and other sprinters, so that's satisfying. There was only one rider who finished a head of me and unfortunately the finish came too soon for me to get past him. But Katusha deserved to win. They did a good race, too.


"The Poggio is like a motorway, where you go at 40kmh. I don't make the mistake of attacking there anymore.


"I think the bad weather played a big role in the outcome of the race. I couldn't really make a move earlier because there were too many riders who were still fresh. I'm not interested in attacking just to put on a show either. There's also the descent, other climbs, the flat and lots of attacks. Races change and end as they end. This time it was in a sprint and I finished second.


"My initial reaction is to be happy because Kristoff is a sprinter and so a better sprinter than I am. I'd hoped to do something in the sprint but it’s not something I train for.


"I think that we raced well. It was right that Rast attacked because there Lotto team was strong and they still have five riders at that point. We made them chase.


"I'm on the podium, second, but if I look at how we raced, it was a great performance by the team and they all proved that we're ready for the Classics. You can't win without a good team.


"I'm sure my form is good for the Classics but Milan-San Remo is not E3 Harelbeke or the Tour of Flanders. They're more difficult but every race is different with a different field of riders and different conditions. I feel I'm ready.


“The condition I have to say is definitely here. Now I want to go and take a hot shower and wash my eyes really well because I cannot see out of one of them.”


General Manager Luca Guercilena added this analysis for the day:


“Fourth year in a row that we are on the podium and not winning so that is a little disappointing for the team, and especially for Fabian,” echoed Guercilena. “The team was really spectacular today and we did all we could: Rast attacked and Felline was still driving Fabian at the top of the Poggio. But that’s the race. We have to respect the situation, and in the end be satisfied that we did the maximum and be happy with that."


Trek Factory Racing has also moved from ninth to fifth place in the UCI WorldTour team rankings after the strong race by the team today which saw three riders finish in the top 20.



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