Peter Sagan was hit by a slightly different curse of the rainbow jersey in Milan-San Remo, as he missed the sprint while watching his world champion successor Alejandro Valverde (Movistar).
The Slovakian again fell short in one of the Monuments missing from his palmarès, after he made the elite group with an attack over the Poggio.
But tactics on the Via Roma worked against him, as Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck -Quick-Step) won the sprint finish from an elite group and Sagan placed fourth.
“Deceuninck – Quick-Step did a good job on the climb and then Alaphilippe just was very strong,” Sagan said after the race.
“We kept him close and after I tried to do something with Kwiatkowski and Valverde but they just controlled the situation. After it was an unpredictable situation when we went down into San Remo.”
In San Remo’s streets, cyclocross star Wout Van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) pulled back a move by Matteo Trentin (Mitchelton-Scott) and Sagan, who found himself on the front too early, became swamped.
“Matteo Trentin tried to attack in the last two kilometres and I just tried to close the gap. After another tried to attack and then Alaphilippe tried to attack, [Bahrain-Merida’s Matej] Mohorič attacked. Then we all came together,” Sagan said.
“I got a little stuck on the front for the sprint. It was a sprint from a low speed. When we opened the sprint, I was looking for Valverde and they passed me on the left and I was on the right. Alaphilippe had two bike lengths and it as hard to get him back.”
Alaphilippe won his seventh race of the season, cruising to a monumental win after recent wins in Strade Bianche and Tirreno-Adriatico.
Sagan already has a Tour of Flanders win and from 2018, a Paris-Roubaix victory. He has come second in San Remo twice already and now fourth twice.
“What can I do?” he asked.
“Milan-San Remo is totally different to the other Classics. I was on a good day, I thought I’d be worse.”
Next for Sagan is E3 and then the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix. Deceuninck – Quick-Step won this round, but can Sagan bounce back?
“Yeah,” he said. “We’ll see. I’ll try my best.”