Cavendish wins Milan San Remo at first attempt!
Young Brit wins a famous victory… by millimetres
Mark Cavendish this afternoon won Milan San Remo at the first time of asking, but it was a mighty close finish wih Heinrich Haussler just millimetres back and his fellow Cervelo rider Thor Hushovd in 3rd place, Allan David was 4th and Alessandro Petacchi 5th.
The young Manxman defied those who said he would struggle with the distance and the climbs in his first outing in the longest of the spring classics. With 8km to go he was well placed in the bunch and he rode the final kilometres perfectly always in touch with the leaders and always keeping out of trouble too. Eight kilometres out from the finish he was spinning his legs to keep himself fresh for the climb of the Poggio and the, by then, inevitable bunch sprint.
"It's the most beautiful day of my life. I didn't expect to win. I couldn't dream of anything better," Cavendish said afterwards.
"Hincapie helped me enormously, but the whole team stayed with me on the climbs.
"When Haussler broke away at top speed I was scared, but it makes the victory even sweeter."
With four kilometres to go Cavendish and his Columbia team leader George Hincapie worked their way towards the front of the field as did the Cervelo sprint train – it looked like they were setting things up for Hushovd but in the final couple of hundred metres it was Haussler, who rode so impressively in Paris Nice last week, who broke for the line. At one point the young German had a 10 metre lead but Cavendish who must have ice-water in his veins as well as the iron in his legs nailed him on the line, just.
His win makes Cavendish only the second Britain to win Milan San Remo - the other was Tom Simpson back in 1964.
It was a mixed day for some of the other big names in the race, Tom Boonen fell on the Turchino 80Km into the race but swapped bikes and re-joined the main group finishing 15th, Stuart O'Grady was not so lucky forced to withdraw after a crash fairly early on. The biggest name of all in the race, Lance Armstrong fell away in the final climb to finish 125th, 8 minutes down on Cavendish, up until that point he had looked to be riding strongly in his first European race of the season. Lance gets the last word on the day's proceedings too, speaking on his twitter account afterwards he said: "Congrats to Cavendish on a spectacular victory. Cool kid".
Top 10 Milan San Remo
1 Mark Cavendish Team Columbia - Highroad
2 Heinrich Haussler Cervélo TestTeam
3 Thor Hushovd Cervélo TestTeam 0.02
4 Allan Davis Quick Step
5 Alessandro Petacchi LPR Brakes - Farnese Vini
6 Daniele Bennati Liquigas
7 Aitor Galdos Euskaltel - Euskadi
8 Enrico Rossi Ceramica Flaminia - Bossini Docce
9 Luca Paolini (Ita) Acqua & Sapone - Caffe Mokambo
10 Peter Velits Team Milram