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Jasper Philipsen wins razor's edge Milan-San Remo

Jasper Philipsen throws his bike across the line to gain the crucial centimetres for victory (Marco BERTORELLO)
Jasper Philipsen throws his bike across the line to gain the crucial centimetres for victory (Marco BERTORELLO)

Jasper Philipsen won the Milan-San Remo with a bike throw on Saturday, after a photo-finish triumph in the first one-day Monument race of the season.

Belgian Philipsen used the bike throw manoeuvre right on the line to pip Australia's Michael Matthews into second with Tadej Pogacar third at the Riviera finish line.

The Alpecin-Deceuninck rider charged to the biggest one-day win of his career in a rare bunch sprint finish with twelve riders crossing within a second after over six hours of racing.

He was swift to praise his teammate Mathieu van der Poel.

"What Mathieu did in the final was an incredible job. I'm really proud and happy that we managed to play it out as a team," he said after being launched into his sprint, as with so many of his Grand Tour wins.

Philipsen has won six stages of the Tour De France and claimed the points jersey in last year's edition of cycling's most important Grand Tour with constant service from Van der Poel.

He is the first sprinter to win Milan San-Remo since Arnaud Demare's victory in 2016.

"It's incredible, it's one of the dreams of any cyclist. To be a sprinter and win it, it's incredible," said Philipsen.

"Milan-San Remo may be one of the only Monuments I can win. But I'm really proud also.

"I had a really good feeling that it could be my day, I had really good legs from the start... but everything needs to fall in place. Mathieu was there who did a really big team job."

Fringe contender Britain's Tom Pidcock was in the final shake-up as were three world champions in Mads Pedersen, Van der Poel and Matej Mohoric.

Pre-race favourites Pogacar and Van der Poel tried and failed to pull away in the final kilometres as a solo winner failed to emerge.

Pogacar was again disappointed after starting the season so well at Strade Bianche earlier this month.

Despite a bold attempt to go it alone on the final Cipressa and Poggio di San Remo climbs, Pogacar had to be content with a podium finish as he is not equipped to mix it in the sprints.

"We had a plan but we missed a little bit, maybe 10 percent we missed on Cipressa and after...," said Pogacar.

"In the end the team had to wait too long on Poggio so it wasn't too hard. I tried two times on Poggio to attack and I had incredible legs but this year was not hard enough to be a climbers race so I think I did everything I could to get third place. In this situation I couldn't do much better.

"Everything needs to be perfect (to win) and today everything wasn't perfect."

Pogacar's UAE team moved to the front of the peloton with 51km left on Capo Mele, the first of the climbs which brings the race to its climax, to put their star man in position.

And they pushed forward again on the Cipressa with 27km remaining as an early break was gobbled up by the peloton on the descent.

Filippo Ganna and Van der Poel were among the big hitters at the front of the peloton, with Van der Poel in his first road race of the season.

On the flat, Davide Bais, who had been in the break, made another burst ahead as the main bunch prepared for the decisive Poggio climb.

Bais was caught for the second time of the day just before the start of the Poggio and Pogacar took to the front behind team-mate Tim Wellens, with Van der Poel on his wheel.

Pogacar pushed and with 6km to go broke away, with Van der Poel hot in pursuit as they crested the Poggio but the Slovene could not build a big enough gap and Philipsen made his move with metres remaining to take a famous win.

td/nr/dmc