Cancellara and Gilbert make up the podium in exciting race

Matt Goss of HTC-Highroad has won the 102nd edition of Milan-San Remo today, outsprinting Fabian Cancellara with Philippe Gilbert third in a finale contested by just eight riders, including other big names such as Vincenzo Nibali and Alessandro Ballan.

The young Australian, who with his first Classic win caps a phenomenal start to the season with seven victories already, had been expected to assist Mark Cavendish as the Manxman sought to win back the title he had won by inches from Garmin-Cervelo’s Heinrich Haussler two years ago.

A crash on the day’s second climb, Le Manie, which saw 20 or so riders hit the deck including world champion Thor Hushovd, put paid to Cavendish’s chances, as well as those of the Norwegian and his Garmin-Cervelo team mate Tyler Farrar as a group of around 35 riders got away and quickly built a two-minute lead.

With HTC-Highroad and Garmin-Cervelo represented in that lead group by, respectively, Goss and Haussler, those teams appeared disinclined to chase down the break. Meanwhile, at the front of the race, BMC and Katusha, which both had several riders in the break, were pushing hard.

Although the gap started to narrow, in the end the pursuers gave up the ghost and only Michele Scarponi of Lampre managed to bridge across after attacking the other members of the second group on the day’s penultimate climb, the Cipressa.

Another pre-race favourite, three-time winner and defending champion Oscar Freire of Rabobank, saw his chances dashed by a fall during the descent from that climb, some 90km from the finish of the 298km race.

It could have been much worse for the Spaniard, though; while bashed and bruised from his chute, only the safety barrier prevented him from a precipitous fall down the hillside after he slid across the road on the outside of a hairpin bend.

With 10km to race, the leaders were on the final climb, the Poggio, and BMC’s Belgian rider Greg van Avermaet made a bid for glory, hitting the summit 15 seconds ahead of the other leaders, with Vincenzo Nibali of Liquigas Cannondale attacking behind him.

As the leaders entered San Remo, just eight riders were left in contention. Yoann Offredo of FDJ may have been the least heralded, but he has decent form in this race and launched a series of attacks but could not get away.

Nibali, Gilbert and Cancellara in turn each tried to make the decisive move, with Ballan, Scarponi and Filippo Pozzato also in the mix, but the 24-year-old Tasmanian Goss, the last remaining pure sprinter in contention, had enough left in his legs for one final effort despite having nearly 300km of riding in his legs.

Prior to the race getting under way outside the Castello Sforzesco this morning, tribute was paid to the victims of the earthquake in Japan and shortly after the start that country’s national champion, Takashi Miyazawa of Farnese Vini-Neri Sottoli, got off the front to make his own commemoration.

He was joined by three other riders, Nico Sijmens of Cofidis, Alessandro de Marchi of Androni-Giocatolli and Katusha’s Mikhail Ignatiev. At one point they had a lead of more than 13 minutes, but by the time they were over the Turchino, coming up to the halfway point of the race, they were being reeled back in before the drama began in earnest.

The stage appeared to be set for the peloton to regroup ahead of a bunch sprint, but the crashes on the Manie put paid to that, as well as the hopes of many of the pre-race favourites, with the main group eventually coming home 5 minutes 23 seconds after the winner.

2011 Milan-San Remo result 
1 Matthew Goss      HTC-Highroad         6:51:10
2 Fabian Cancellara Leopard Trek
3 Philippe Gilbert  Omega Pharma-Lotto
4 Alessandro Ballan BMC Racing Team
5 Filippo Pozzato   Katusha Team
6 Michele Scarponi  Lampre-ISD
7 Yoann Offredo     FDJ
8 Vincenzo Nibali   Liquigas-Cannondale   + 0:03


Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.