John Degenkolb (Giant-Alpecin) sprinted to victory at the 2015 Milan-San Remo from a reduced peloton as a number of pre-race favourites were distanced on the Poggio, with several riders being taken down by crashes.
The German rider took the first monument win of the season ahead of sprint rivals Alexander Kristoff (Katusha), Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEdge) and Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo) who finished in second, third and fourth respectively.
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Defending champion Kristoff was the first to launch his sprint from a long way ahead of the line, but faded enough for Degenkolb to pull past him and take victory a half-a-bike length ahead of the Norwegian.
Team Sky’s Ben Swift was Britain’s highest placed rider, finishing in 13th, while Mark Cavendish (Etixx – Quick-Step) appeared to get distanced after a mechanical, as the peloton crested the final climb of the day, the Poggio.
A number of crashes blighted the race throughout the latter part of the 293km course, with several big name riders being taken down on the technical descent of the Poggio. World champion Michal Kwiatkowski (Etixx – Quick-Step) saw his chances wiped out there, along with teammate Zdenek Stybar and BMC rider Philippe Gilbert. Former winner Gerald Ciolek (MTN-Qhubeka) also went down on the fast descent.
Earlier in the day there were attacks from the gun, with an 11 rider breakaway eventually forming to settle in for a long day out front. Stretching out a maximum gap of just over 10 minutes, the war of attrition took its toll and eventually saw the last of the fragmented break caught, with Matteo Bono (Lampre-Merida) absorbed by the peloton with on the slopes of the Cipressa with 32km remaining.
The race then kicked into action as Daniel Oss (BMC) made an attack and was quickly joined by Geraint Thomas (Team Sky). The pair could only build-up a gap of around 20 seconds before the bunch closed them down as they took on the Poggio.
Thomas then made one final attack before he was caught by Greg van Avermaet (BMC) and eventually the main bunch as the high pace put Cavendish and other sprinters like André Greipel (Lotto-Soudal) in trouble.
With the bunch back together a sprint looked inevitable, and it was Degenkolb who had enough strength remaining after the marathon Classic to take his first La Primavera win and the first monument of the 2015 season.
2015 Milan-San Remo, 293km:
1. John Degenkolb (Ger) Giant-Alpecin in 6-46-16
2. Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Katusha, st
3. Michael Matthews (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge, st
4. Peter Sagan (Slo) Tinkoff-Saxo, st
5. Nicolo Bonifazio (Ita) Lampre-Merida, st
6. Nacer Bouhanni (Fra) Cofidis, st
7. Fabian Cancellara (Swi) 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 (Gbr) Team Sky, st
31. Geraint Thomas (Gbr) Team Sky, at 12 seconds
37. Simon Yates (Gbr) Orica-GreenEdge, at 23 seconds
46. Mark Cavendish (Gbr) Etixx – Quick-Step, st