Ben Swift second at Milan-San Remo as Arnaud Demare wins
By Matt Westby
Last Updated: 19/03/16 5:55pm
Britain’s Ben Swift finished second at the Italian one-day classic Milan-San Remo on Saturday as France’s Arnaud Demare sprinted to the biggest win of his career.
Swift (Team Sky) latched on to Demare's (FDJ.fr) wheel after the 295km race culminated in the predicted sprint finish, but he was unable to surge past in the closing metres and ended up losing by a bike length.
Jurgen Roelandts (Lotto Soudal) hung on for third after failing with a last-gasp attack, while Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data) was dropped on the day's penultimate climb and crossed the line 4min 25sec down in 110th.
It was the second time Swift has finished on the podium at Milan-San Remo in three years, following his third place in the 2014 edition.
He told teamsky.com: "Obviously, it's quite disappointing to get second - so close to the win - but you have got to be happy to be back on the podium in a Monument.
"I'm slowly chipping away. We have had a second and a third and we will keep trying in the next few years."
Demare, meanwhile, became the first Frenchman to win the race since Laurent Jalabert in 1995 and revealed afterwards that he had been forced to fight his way back to the peloton after a late crash.
He said: "This is incredible. There are days like this one in which everything works despite the occasional hiccup, like crashing at the bottom of the Cipressa [the penultimate climb].
"I made it across at the bottom of the Poggio [the final climb] and the entire way I felt fantastic. I became the under-23 world champion in similar conditions after crashing.
"I'm delighted to win Milan-San Remo. This is a big one and has been running for over a century. It's extraordinary. I'm extremely happy."
Milan San-Remo is the first of the season's five Monument classics and is the longest race in professional cycling. It had been scheduled to take place over 291km, but a landslide early in the day led to a re-routing and 4km were subsequently added to the distance.
The race came to life on the legendary Poggio, when Michal Kwiatkowski (Team Sky) attacked just short of the summit, with 6.1km to go, and forced all of the pre-race favourites into a tiring chase.
He was eventually caught with 1.3km to go, opening the door for Edvald Boasson Hagen (Dimension Data) to attack and create a new lead group of four alongside Peter Sagan (Tinkoff), Fernando Gaviria (Etixx - Quick-Step) and Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing).
However, they failed to work together and were soon overtaken by the surging sprinters, of whom Demare produced the fastest final burst.
Geraint Thomas crashed with 30km to go but remounted and eventually finished more than 14 minutes down in 169th.
Milan-San Remo result
1 Arnaud Demare (Fra) FDJ.fr, 6:54:45
2 Ben Swift (GB) Team Sky, same time
3 Jurgen Roelandts (Bel) Lotto Soudal, st
4 Nacer Bouhanni (Fra) Cofidis, st
5 Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing, st
6 Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Katusha, st
7 Heinrich Haussler (Aus) IAM Cycling, st
8 Filippo Pozzato (Ita) Southeast, st
9 Sonny Colbrelli (Ita) Bardiani-CSF, st
10 Matteo Trentin (Ita) Etixx - Quick-Step, st