Vincenzo Nibali holds off chasing pack for heroic Milano-Sanremo triumph
Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) produced a spectacular late break to win a maiden Milano-Sanremo on home soil.
The two-time Giro d’Italia champion had coveted the title since childhood and clinched it in dramatic style, breaking clear with six kilometres remaining on the Poggio before holding off a fast-finishing pack to take an emotional win.
Caleb Ewan (Mitchelton-Scott) and Arnaud Demare (FDJ) led the chasers home, finishing tantalisingly close to Nibali, who was only sure of victory just metres from the finish line. Pre-race favourite Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) took sixth in the same time as his wait for victory extended another year.
"I have to thank the team, who rode perfectly. I was able to hide in the group with (Sonny) Colbrelli, keeping an eye out and staying out of the wind," said Nibali.
"When I looked over my shoulder and saw the sprinters could not catch me, it was a good moment for me, but it is too early to say if it is the best win of my career."
Vincenzo Nibali, Milano - SanRemo.Getty Images
In truth, the scintillating finale was in complete contrast to the early action, with a nine-strong breakaway group failing to inject excitement into the 294km Classic before they were swallowed up with 30km remaining.
But a huge crash for Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data), which saw the Brit strike a huge bollard and go flying over his handlebars, broke up a heaving peloton and sparked a frantic race for position on the iconic Poggio.
Nibali caught his rivals napping with an attack off the front and held his lead on the descent, with late solo moves failing to bridge the gap as the Italian held on – just – for a famous triumph.