SAN REMO, Italy -- Gerald Ciolek won the Milan-San Remo classic on Sunday, sprinting to victory in a race which was heavily affected by bad weather conditions in Northern Italy.
Ciolek edged out favorite Peter Sagan, surging past the Slovakian in the final meters to win in 5 hours, 37 minutes, 20 seconds.
"It's unbelievable," Ciolek said of MTN-Qhubeka's first victory at a WorldTour level. "This is an unbelievable success for us and just an incredible day. We just came here as a wildcard and now we're standing here with the trophy. This is great. I knew I had to follow all the best riders on the Poggio and it worked out perfectly.
"When I chose this team, people wondered why I would join a Pro Continental team, but it's just been unbelievable. The coaching and staff on this team is so professional. I have never seen management care so much for the riders. I am happy to be on this team."
The race had to be shortened by about 45 kilometers, cutting out the Turchino pass and the crucial Le Manie climb, because of heavy rain and snow along the route, which caused several cyclists to withdraw from the race.
Team buses had to transport the riders from the 73-mile point, with the race restarting 81 miles from the finish. Tom Boonen, 2011 winner Matthew Goss and Vincenzo Nibali were among the cyclists who abandoned the race.
Tom Boonen, 2011 winner Matthew Goss and Vincenzo Nibali were among the cyclists who abandoned the race, and there were even reports of tears in the peloton because of the extreme cold.
"I think my decision says enough," a furious Boonen said just after quitting. "This is partly a precaution, but also a statement to the organization. They knew long enough that there was so much snow on the road. What happens now is the organization's own fault. Have you ever wanted to bicycle through the snow?
"There are nicer things than this. I'm completely frozen."
Sagan looked to have won but had started sprinting slightly too early, and a late surge allowed Ciolek to cross the line half a wheel in front for the biggest win of his career.
"Maybe today wasn't my day," Sagan said. "Races are won or lost, but you always have to try. It was the first classic of the season, the first goal. I came to compete and I take it as a good signal for the next races.
"It was a very strange race. Cold, snow, rain, then the transfer in the bus. Certainly Ciolek was a surprise, but San Remo is that kind of race. You think about the favorites and then an outsider wins. I expected something from Cancellara at the end, I thought I was the fastest but I underestimated the group. I did too long of a sprint and I paid the price. I'm disappointed but it's all experience."