Matej Mohorič (Bahrain-Victorious) won Milan-San Remo with a daring attack on the descent of the Poggio.
The Slovenian national champion attacked downhill from a decimated peloton and rode away to the finish line, securing his first-ever monument victory.
Mohorič managed to hold off an all-star chasing pack inside the final five kilometres, eventually crossing the line just two seconds ahead of Anthony Turgis (TotalEnergies).
In his first race of the season, after struggling with back issues during the off-season, Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) out-sprinted Michael Matthews (Team BikeExchange-Jayco) and Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) to secure third place.
How it happened
The first and longest monument of the season tested the riders along a 293km route from the outskirts of Milan to Sanremo on the Italian Riviera.
La Classicissima, ridden through the picture-perfect scenery of the Ligurian coast, may look stunning to watch, but for the riders, it’s a battle of endurance.
Despite being known as the sprinter’s classic, much of the build-up to this year’s edition was centred around which of the fast men wouldn’t be at the start line in Milan.
Caleb Ewan (Lotto-Soudal) Sam Bennett (BORA-hansgrohe) and Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain-Victorious), alongside last year’s winner Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo) and Julian Alaphilippe (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl) all pulled out due to illness.
The morning’s breakaway was organised in lightning-quick speed, as an eight-man group formed less than a kilometre after the flag was dropped.
It’s been over 70 years since an early escapee held off the peloton all the way to Sanremo, when Fausto Coppi won by a margin of over 10 minutes in 1946.
However, the break, which was made up of Yevgeniy Gidich and Artyom Zakharov (Astana Qazaqstan Team), Alessandro Tonelli (Bardiani-CSF-Faizanè), Filippo Tagliani and Ricardo Alejandro Zurita (Drone Hopper – Androni Giocattoli), Samuele Rivi and Diego Pablo Sevilla (EOLO-Kometa) and Filippo Conca (Lotto Soudal), rode away from the bunch regardless of their chances.
Earning plenty of airtime for their sponsors, with the race being broadcast from start to finish for a second consecutive year, they quickly built up a gap of around four minutes.
Meanwhile, the pace in the peloton was leisurely, with many teams all too aware of what awaited them laeter in the day.
Jumbo-Visma gave Jos Van Emden the job of not letting the gap get too big, with the Dutchman a constant at the front of the peloton for much of the first 200km.
When the Jumbo-Visma rider did drop away from the front of the pack, the time gap stretched out to just over seven minutes.
However, by the time the race reached Capo Mele with 55km to go, the higher pace in the bunch had cut the gap to four and a half minutes.
Tom Pidcock (Ineos Grenadiers) was clearly having a bad day, as the Brit was dropped on the Capo Berta with 36km remaining.
The gap dwindled as the bunch headed towards the Cipressa, with Peter Sagan (TotalEnergies) suffering a mechanical at the worst possible time – his outside chance of victory swiftly dashed.
Jan Polanc and Davide Formolo (UAE Team Emirates) set an intense pace on the climb, dropping swathes of riders including Fabio Jakobsen (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl).
The final two escapees, Tonelli and Rivi, summitted the Cipressa with a 40 second gap back to a decimated peloton.
However, by the time they reached the foot of the Poggio, the Italian duo were caught.
The explosive attacks then began in earnest, and all from the man that this climb was seemingly named after – Tadej Pogačar.
Yet, multiple attacks from the two-time Tour de France winner couldn’t distance the likes of Wout van Aert, Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) and van der Poel.
With the bunch settling momentarily as the Poggio was crested, Mohorič took his chance to attack, descending with nerves of steel and managing to create a slender gap back to the bunch.
Confusion and hesitation among the chasing pack meant the 27-year-old went into the final kilometre with a small gap.
Turgis attacked from the chasers in the hope of reaching the Bahrain-Victorious rider before the line, but his efforts were in vain.
A nervy moment on the final corner saw Mohorič suffer a momentary mechanical, but he managed to regain his focus quickly and power towards the line.
Everyone was expecting a Slovenian to win this year’s edition of Milan-San Remo, just not this one.
Milan-San Remo 2022 (293km)
1. Matej Mohorič (Slo), Bahrain-Victorious, in 6-27-49
2. Anthony Turgis (Fra), TotalEnergies, at two seconds
3. Mathieu van der Poel (Ned), Alpecin-Fenix
4. Michael Matthews (Aus), Team BikeExchange-Jayco
5. Tadej Pogačar (Slo), UAE Team Emirates
6. Mads Pedersen (Den), Trek-Segafredo
7. Søren Kragh Andersen (Den), Team DSM
8. Wout Van Aert (Bel), Jumbo-Visma, all same time
9. Jan Tratnik (Slo), Bahrain-Victorious, at 5s
10. Arnaud Démarre (Fra), Groupama-FDJ, at 11s