Mathieu van der Poel won Milan-San Remo on Saturday to claim the first ‘Monument’ of the season with an attack which left some of road cycling’s biggest stars trailing in his dust.
Alpecin-Deceuninck rider Van der Poel won the race his grandfather Raymond Poulidor took 62 years ago after surging clear on the final Poggio climb.
Van der Poel surged away from race favourite Tadej Pogacar, Wout van Aert and Filippo Ganna, eventually finishing around 15 seconds ahead of the Italian Ganna on via Roma after 294 kilometres of riding.
Van der Poel became the first Dutch winner since Hennie Kuiper in 1985. He also won the cyclocross world title for the fifth time last month.
It was Van der Poel’s second major one-day classic victory in Italy after Strade Bianche two years ago.
“It’s a special win in a special race, it’s a win that everyone wants” said Van der Poel.
“My team and I trained really well in the week and today my teammates did excellent work. We’ll definitely celebrate a great win.”
The day almost got off to a dramatic day when news filtered through of Pogacar, fresh from his win at Paris-Nice, crashing in the pre-race neutral zone.
However, the two-time Tour de France winner dusted himself down and started the race. Beyond another crash of little consequence involving former winner Julian Alaphilippe on upper slopes of the Turchino that was the end of the major drama until Van der Poel put on the afterburners.
A traditional early break featuring none of the race favourites was finally absorbed by the peloton with 27km remaining, just before the penultimate Cipressa climb.
Little changed as the riders popped over onto the descent but Bora-Hansgrohe rider Nils Politt attempted a solo attack on the flat run towards the critical Poggio di San Remo ascent.
The German was easily caught and the peloton moved onto the Poggio in unison a before Pogacar made a move, charging up the climb with Van der Poel, Van Aert and world time-trial world champion Ganna in close pursuit.
Van der Poel then pushed ahead just before the top and descended into San Remo, handling the downhill segment perfectly, before rolling over the line at the gorgeously sunny Italian Riviera town.