Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quick Step) is celebrating a "huge moment" in his career after winning Milan-San Remo on Saturday (March 23) on Italy's Mediterranean coast.
The 26-year-old Frenchman won his seventh race of the 2019 season and the first Monument in a career that is starting to rocket.
"I've got my special style in different races. I like that. I've won some good races but never won a Monument, it's a huge personal satisfaction," he said. "This is huge moment in my career."
He attacked before the top of the Poggio and was joined by others, including Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe), before riding tactically in the six kilometres to San Remo.
Milan-San Remo is icing on a cake that included two stages in the Tour de France and the mountains jersey, Flèche Wallonne and the Clásica San Sebastián last year.
"I've still got some big dreams, I've not reached my best yet. I was close to a Worlds win, so I'd rather win a worlds than a Tour de France stage," he continued.
"It's simply a sensation of joy. It's difficult to understand but I came here to win, it was my goal and the team's goal, and we did it.
"I'm really proud to have won and of the way my team rode. We were solid and united in the final. Tim Declercq worked all day and then Zdenek Stybar was incredible."
When the team's sprinter Elia Viviani slipped away on the Poggio, it became clear that Alaphilippe was the sharp end of the Deceuninck - Quick-Step arrow. He had Stybar, but also stars like Philippe Gilbert firing on the front to soften his rivals before he attacked.
"I made a big effort on Poggio, then I tried to recover on the Poggio descent. I knew it'd be difficult to win with the rivals I faced but I stayed calm and made no mistakes, then I did a huge sprint," he continued.
"The speed on Poggio decides the final of the race. If there's a headwind, the sprinters can get over the Poggio with us. I asked my team-mates to be in top-three or max top-five at the start of the Poggio. We did that and went the speed we wanted. I tried to recover in the corners to not have to move up.
"I went from far out but then when I looked left and right, nobody was there. It was an incredible moment, as was celebrating with my team-mates after the line."
Alaphilippe began the Monument as a star favourite following wins in Strade Bianche and two stages in Tirreno-Adriatico last week.
"I was the big favourite, people were talking about me even at Tirreno-Adriatico and so I felt it. But I trusted myself and stayed calm," he said.
"I knew I had good form and recovered after Tirreno-Adriatico. I also knew the team was with me, so I stayed focused on what I had to do and what people expected from me. Living up to expectations is fantastic."
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