Glorious Gerrans wins Milan-San Remo
Sat, 17 Mar 16:07:00 2012
In a thrilling finale to La Classicissima, the GreenEDGE star outsprinted RadioShack's Cancellara and Liquigas-Cannondale's Nibali to win the gruelling 298km race after the trio broke clear on the famous Poggio climb 10km from the finish.
Gerrans crossed the line a bike length ahead of Switzerland's Cancellara after six hours, fifty-nine minutes and twenty-four seconds in the saddle to take the biggest win of his career on the Italian Mediterranean coast.
In a day of dramatic twists and turns, the world champion and pre-race favourite Mark Cavendish saw his hopes of a second San Remo win scuppered after being distanced on the second climb of the day, just under 100km from the finish, after the Liquigas team of Nibali increased the pace in pursuit of the day's break.
Despite the help of several Team Sky team-mates – including lead-out man Bernard Eisel – Cavendish was not able to get back onto the back of a peloton which had smelt blood and upped the tempo accordingly.
News: Milan San remo
The initial nine-man break had jumped clear after just 20km or racing, swiftly carving out a large lead of 13 minutes over an indifferent pack.
Comprised for the most part of unknown or rookie riders, the group was swept up by the bunch inside the final 60km as the BMC and Omega Pharma-Quick Step teams of Philippe Gilbert and Tom Boonen set a fierce pace on the front in a bid to sever the distanced Cavendish's hopes.
On the penultimate climb of the day, La Cipressa, Dutch rider Johnny Hoogerland (Vacansoleil-DCM) put in a strong attack to counter a move from Spaniard Patxi Vila Errandonea of Utensilnord-Named.
Moments later, Gilbert's hopes were floored after the Belgian was caught up in a crash that occurred when FDJ's Dominique Rollin clipped a parked car on the side of the road.
The race came back together on the descent of the Cipressa before Liquigas's Valerio Agnoli attacked at the beginning of the Poggio with 10km remaining.
Reigning champion Matt Goss – a team-mate and compatriot of Gerrans – could not keep up with the pace and saw his chances of defending his title fade in a flash.
Spaniard Angel Madrazo (Movistar) responded before Hoogerland had yet another go at forcing a gap. But with his team-mate Agnoli having laid down a marker, Nibali then made his move, breaking clear of the bunch and taking Gerrans and Cancellara with him.
The trio combined well to carve open a small gap before stretching out their advantage to 12 seconds on the final descent into San Remo.
With Nibali seemingly resigned to take third place, it was left between Cancellara and Gerrans to contest for the spoils. As the pack edged ever closer, Cancellara led out the sprint but was beaten by a far stronger Gerrans, who swept past with 50m to ride to take the win – his first of cycling's Monuments.
Nibali's team-mate Peter Sagan led the chasing pack over the line just one second in arrears to take fourth place ahead of John Degenkolb of Project 1t4i – but only after a nasty crash on the final bend saw both Greg van Avermaet (BMC) and Boonen crash into the barriers at speed.
Coming less than two months after his overall win in the Santos Tour Down Under, Gerrans's victory sends the 31-year-old Australian to the top of the UCI rankings.
It also marked a first individual win for newly formed Australian team GreenEDGE, who two weeks ago broke their duck with a win in the team time trial at Tirreno-Adriatico.
Earlier in the stage, Colombian rider Carlos Quintero was taken to hospital with a suspected fractured skull and elbow after crashing into a wall on a fast descent. The Colombia-Coldeportes rider regained consciousness in the ambulance, however, and was said to be making a recovery.Felix Lowe / Eurosport