The Liquigas-Cannondale squad of Peter Sagan and Vincenzo Nibali dealt world champion Mark Cavendish a solid blow on the Le Mànie climb at Milan-San Remo Saturday. Cavendish lost contact with the peloton on the first of the late climbs, with 94km remaining, at “La Primavera.”
Cavendish’s Team Sky teammate Bernhard Eisel dropped back to pace him on the climb, but the pair lost over a minute by the summit. Liquigas stayed at the front of the peloton on the 7km descent and the gap went north of 1:30.
Eisel pulled Cavendish and three other riders across the winding flats along the Mediterranean coast between Ceriale and Alassio ahead of the five climbs in the final 50km of the 298km race. Despite Eisel’s work, the gap remained at 1:30 with 75km remaining and Liquigas and BMC Racing driving the peloton.
The Manxman hoped to become the first current world champion to win Milan-San Remo, the sprinters’ classic, since Guiseppe Saronni in 1983. But with just one-third of the race remaining, Team Sky appeared to be building around its “Plan B” rider, Edvald Boasson Hagen.
Three riders dropped back to the world champion with 72km remaining and pulled a chase group of about 40 riders. Australian Matthew Hayman worked hard to reduce the gap, but with still more than a minute to close and less than 50km remaining, Team Sky pulled the plug. Cavendish dropped back into the group and thanked his teammates, reconciled to missing the opportunity to contend for the season’s first monument.