- Caleb Ewan was runner-up for the second time at Milan-San Remo
- Michael Matthews finished sixth, giving Australia two riders in the top ten
- Jasper Stuyven won the race in six hours, 38 minutes and six seconds
Sydney rider Ewan rode superbly in Saturday’s one-day classic — the season’s first ‘Monument’ and longest on the calendar — powering home to win the bunch sprint for second place.
Yet the 26-year-old Ewan, along with the other favourites, were left frustrated after being caught out by the late, unexpected attack at the bottom of the final climb by Stuyven, who twice surged to hold off the charging peloton and secure victory.
Ewan, who was also runner-up in the race three years ago, finished just ahead of defending champion Wout van Aert.
Team BikeExchange’s big Australian hope, Michael Matthews, came home sixth in the sprint as Australia celebrated two top-10 finishers after the gruelling six-and-a-half hour slog across the roads of northern Italy.
Afterwards, though, there was no elation from Ewan; just the sense of what might have been as he admitted that the powerful group chasing Stuyven had made its move too late.
“The first time I was second in Milan-San Remo, I thought it was a really good result — it was only my second time doing the race,” Ewan told Eurosport.
That disappointment stemmed from the fact that the Lotto Soudal rider had ridden superbly to track down even the most explosive climbers on the famed Poggio hill near the finish.
“I knew coming into the race I was in really good form. Like most years, I target this race and this year I’ve really tried to improve my climbing and even practised that exact climb on the Poggio many times before this race,” Ewan said.
“That’s why I knew, when the attacks came, I should be able to follow and I was in a really good position for the most part of the Poggio.”
One of the race’s big three — world champion Julian Alaphilippe, Dutchman Mathieu van der Poel or van Aert — had been expected to prevail but, at the bottom of the Poggio, Stuyven surprised them all.
Behind his attack, the chasing group failed to organise, allowing the Belgian to open up a gap which, aside from briefly being joined by Søren Kragh Andersen, he held to the line with Ewan about five metres adrift.
Ewan said he had felt “comfortable” following the favourites even though he was “obviously suffering a bit” and always fancied his sprinting prowess would see him prevail in the end.
“I know if that group’s together then usually I’m the fastest guy there. It’s always a lottery in that situation because there’s always going to be attacks and you have to wait,” he said.
Stuyven, though, could hardly believe it.
“If it had gone to the line, I maybe would have finished fifth or 10th but I preferred to go all in and take the biggest victory of my career,” he said.
“Maybe eight times out of 10 you get nothing — but there are two times, or even one time, you get everything.”