John Degenkolb wins Milan San-Remo ahead of Alexander Kristoff
Ben Swift finishes 13th and Mark Cavendish 46th
By Matt Westby
Last Updated: 22/03/15 6:05pm
Germany’s John Degenkolb sprinted to the biggest win of his career in a compelling edition of Milan-San Remo as British riders Ben Swift and Mark Cavendish saw their challenge fade away in the closing kilometres.
Degenkolb (Giant-Alpecin) beat defending champion Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) into second place and Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEdge) into third after the 293km Italian classic came down to a bunch finish.
Swift made it to the sprint having benefited from aggressive tactics from his Team Sky team-mates, particularly the outstanding Geraint Thomas, but the Yorkshireman couldn’t move himself up to the head of the pack going into the final 500m and had to settle for 13th place.
Cavendish (Etixx – Quick-Step), who had been ill in the run-up to the race, didn’t contest the sprint after being dropped on a high-speed ascent of the day’s crucial final climb, the Poggio, and eventually crossed the line 23 seconds down in 46th.
Degenkolb, whose chances in the 2014 edition were thwarted by a puncture, said: "Last year it was the biggest disappointment of my career. And this year I add my name to the list of prestigious winners. It's the biggest win of my career."
Milan-San Remo is one of the most coveted races in cycling and is one of the sport’s five one-day Monument classics.
An 11-man breakaway escaped from the peloton early in the day and opened up a healthy lead, but they were all but caught when three Team Sky riders - Thomas, Swift and Luke Rowe – briefly sped ahead of the peloton on the descent from third-last climb of the day, the Capo Berta.
After the bunch stayed largely as one over the penultimate climb, the Cipressa, Daniel Oss (BMC Racing) attacked with 18km to go and was followed by Thomas, who was working for Swift and looking to force rival teams to chase by going on the offensive.
The pair opened up a lead of 20 seconds leading on to the Poggio, but when that dropped to single figures, the relentless Thomas attacked again and moved into a solo lead.
It took a powerful counter-move from Greg van Avermaet (BMC Racing) to catch the Welshman by the summit, yet Thomas’ efforts were not in vain, as they created a fierce pace in the peloton that Cavendish couldn’t match and the 2009 winner subsequently fell away.
Thomas led the peloton down the descent to the finish, but then Kristoff’s Katusha took over the pace-setting heading into the final 1km and it was the Norwegian who opened up the sprint. Degenkolb, however, had the freshest legs and powered past in the final 100m to claim a memorable win.
1 John Degenkolb (Ger) Giant-Alpecin, 6:46:16
2 Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Katusha, same time
3 Michael Matthews (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge, st
4 Peter Sagan (Svk) Tinkoff-Saxo, st
5 Niccolo Bonifazio (Ita) Lampre-Merida, st
6 Nacer Bouhanni (Fra) Cofidis, st
7 Fabian Cancellara (Sui) Trek Factory Racing, st
8 Davide Cimolai (Ita) Lampre-Merida, st
9 Tony Gallopin (Fra) Lotto Soudal, st
10 Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) MTN-Qhubeka, st
13 Ben Swift (GB) Team Sky, st
31 Geraint Thomas (GB) Team Sky, +12
46 Mark Cavendish (GB) Etixx – Quick-Step, +23