Van der Poel solos to emotional Milan-San Remo victory
Dutchman Mathieu van der Poel has won the Milan-San Remo one-day classic to claim the first cycling 'Monument' of the season, 62 years after his grandfather won the race.
UAE Team Emirates set the pace and their rider Tim Wellens took the lead in the final stages before handing it over to his teammate Tadej Pogacar, but the two-time Tour de France winner had Filippo Ganna, Wout van Aert and van der Poel for company on the final descent.
Van der Poel launched his attack on the summit of the Poggio climb with 5.5km to go on Saturday and stormed into the lead, extending it as they entered San Remo with the other three riders fighting it out for second place.
The Dutchman crossed the line with his arms raised after nearly six-and-a-half hours and Ganna took second ahead of van Aert and Pogacar.
The victory was van der Poel's third Monument win after triumphing in the Tour of Flanders in both 2020 and 2022, following in the footsteps of his French grandfather Raymond Poulidor who won the Italian race in 1961.
"For sure it is special, not only because he won it. It's one Monument every rider wants to win one day," Van der Poel, the Alpecin-Deceuninck rider, said with a smile.
"I cannot imagine a better scenario than this one... It wasn't hard as previous years but I already felt my legs were really fresh. I knew I wanted to place an attack at the end of the Poggio. This is one race I really wanted to win."
Twice world champion Julian Alaphilippe of France was involved in a crash during a descent of the Passo del Turchino midway through the race and had to switch bikes before rejoining the peloton.
Australian hopes of winning the race for the first time since Simon Gerrans in 2012 were extinguished as Pogacar's attack on the Poggio proved too much for many of the contenders.
Lotto Dstny's Caleb Ewan, twice a podium finisher in the race, was the leading Aussie, eventually coming home 16th in a group that finished 32 seconds adrift.
The 294km Milan-San Remo is the first and longest of the five Monument races, with the others to come this season being the Tour of Flanders, Paris-Roubaix, Liege-Bastogne-Liege and Giro di Lombardia.