Alexander Kristoff sprinted to victory in the Milan-San Remo classic on Sunday, edging out the 2008 winner Fabian Cancellara on a wet and rainy course for the biggest win of his career.
Kristoff pulled away in the closing metres to win the 294km (186-mile) contest in 6hr 55 min 56sec and become the first Norwegian to triumph in the one-day race.
Cancellara finished on the podium for the fourth successive year, while Team Sky’s Ben Swift edged out sprint specialist and 2009 winner Mark Cavendish for third place.
“It was a fantastic victory,” Kristoff said. “I didn’t believe it when I crossed the line, I was only hoping for a top 10 finish.”
Vincenzo Nibali had seemed on course for victory after attacking on the penultimate climb of the day with 25km remaining. But the Giro d’Italia champion was caught by the chasing pack.
There was an early break of seven riders, who built a lead of more than 10 minutes. But they dropped off one by one and by the time Nibali attacked on the ascent up the Cipressa there was only a pair of riders up front. The Italian overtook them on the descent and built an advantage of 49sec.
But the peloton began upping the pace and cut the gap to 12 seconds at the start of the final climb up the Poggio.
Cavendish had stayed the pace but tired in the closing 100m and eventually finished fifth, behind Juan Jose Lobato.