SANREMO, Italy (VN) — The Ligurian seaside town of Sanremo came alive Saturday with the attacks of Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) and Fabian Cancellara (Trek-Segafredo), but many followers were left scratching their heads when looking at the top 10 finishers. Chaos played its part.
New star Fernando Gaviria (Etixx – Quick-Step) tumbled in the final 500 meters and favorite Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis) spun like mad in his small chain ring. When Bouhanni finished, he lifted up and threw down his Orbea bike because he was so disgusted.
Gaviria wiped blood from his body and wondered how he could race nearly 300 kilometers to perfection, only to fail in the last 300 meters. Off to the side, Frenchman Arnaud Démare (FDJ) celebrated his win under the late-afternoon sun. He and his helpers caused a road block, where in the crowded mess, Bouhanni was letting out his frustration.
“I am very sad about what happened,” 21-year-old Gaviria said. “It was my fault, I was in a perfect position but then I lost my focus for two seconds, because I began thinking on how to sprint. I touched the wheel of the guy in front of me. That was enough to throw away all the hard work of the team.
“I missed an important opportunity and so I have mixed feelings. On the other hand, I am happy that I had good legs and could cope with a 300 kilometers of a long race, I felt good throughout the day. Then, I’m sad because of the crash and that I couldn’t finish off the work he team did. It’s not my wounds that hurt, they are only superficial, it’s the outcome that is more painful, especially as I was thinking of this race since January.”
Colombian Gaviria won the omnium title for a second time at the track world championships in London and last week he won a stage in Tirreno-Adriatico ahead of many of the stars racing today.
Bouhanni had focus, but not mechanical luck. His chain slipped from his big chain ring to his small one despite him not commanding it to do so. Without time to change bikes, all he could do was sprint in the same chain ring that helped him over the Cipressa and Poggio climbs in the front group.
Italians know Sanremo for two things: its music festival and casino. The tables seldom pay out within the same casino that hosted the opening ceremony of the 2015 Giro d’Italia. Often the players, like in today’s race, leave losers instead of winners.
Not many in Sanremo would have bet on the top ten order before today’s race. Démare, 24, won ahead of Ben Swift (Sky) and Jürgen Roelandts (Lotto – Soudal). Bouhanni placed fourth. Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing) took fifth. 2014 winner Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) managed only sixth, the best-placed Italian Filippo Pozzato (Southeast – Venezuela) took eighth and world champion Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) 12th.
Orica – GreenEdge saw its captain Michael Matthews crash ahead of the Cipressa climb. Sports director Matt White said that the chaos today is part of Milano-Sanremo and nothing new.
“It’s Sanremo, things can go very bad very quickly, or you can get a dream run,” White said. “It’s a very nervous race. Nothing’s changed, and nothing will change in this race. It’s one of the easiest races to finish, and one of the hardest races to win.”