Ciolek claim Milan-San Remo
Gerald Ciolek claimed a surprise victory in a weather-ravaged edition of the Milan-San Remo one-day classic through northern Italy.
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The German, riding for MTN-Qhubeka, edged out pre-race favourite Peter Sagan of Cannondale on the finishing straight with RadioShack-Leopard racer Fabian Cancellara finishing in third place.
Snow, ice and rain had threatened to disrupt the race completely, with organisers taking the decision to halt the race after just 117km and move the restart to Finale Ligure, 126km from the finish line and bypassing the crucial La Manie climb.
The weather deteriorated as the riders rolled out of Milan and teams were soon racing through extreme conditions as they travelled south-west toward the climb of Passo del Turchino.
Organisers decided to neutralise the 298km-race in Ovada and team buses instead moved competitors 25km along the Ligurian coast where the day's six-man breakaway was allowed to resume with an advantage of 7.10 seconds.
The weather prompted Omega Pharma-Quick Step not to resume, denying Tom Boonen any chance of victory, with 2011 champion Matthew Goss and recent Tirreno-Adriatico winner Vincenzo Nibali also deciding to stand down.
Belgium's Philippe Gilbert, Ian Stannard of Team Sky and Russia's Eduard Vorganov launched a challenge on the leading group some 30km from the line to open a 27-second lead going into the final straight at Poggio.
Ciolek, Sagan and Cancellara then enjoyed a three-man tussle over the final 30 metres with the former edging over the line with a winning time of five hours 37 minutes and 20 seconds.
After sealing his first Classic success, the 26-year-old German told the South African team's official website: "It's unbelievable.
"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."
Stannard's sixth-placed finish, meanwhile, was Team Sky's best-ever showing at Milan-San Remo with team-mate Bernhard Eisel claiming 10th place from the bunch sprint to finish 14 seconds behind Ciolek.