Three riders entered the 2021 edition of Milan-San Remo as heavy favourites: Wout Van Aert, Julian Alaphilippe and Mathieu van der Poel. Van Aert and Alaphilippe have won La Classicissima before whilst Van der Poel already has four wins on the road this season.
There would be a surprise result, though. After a late attack on the Poggio from Julian Alaphilippe (it had to come at some point), a fairly large group crested the climb together. A cagey descent followed where INEOS' Tom Pidcock came to the front to increase the rhythm, but well over ten riders were still together.
After some brief looking around, Trek-Segafredo's Jasper Stuyven exited the descent of the Poggio on the attack. He quickly found himself a few seconds up the road with 2km to the finish, to become the winner of a monument. Søren Kragh Andersen of Team DSM bridged to Stuyven and the two collaborated to hold their slender lead over the group of favourites.
Behind, there was a lot of reliance on last year's winner Wout Van Aert to close the gap. However, Caleb Ewan had carried out the climb of his life on the Poggio to stay with the best punchers in the world, meaning Van Aert had one of the peloton's quickest riders glued to his back wheel.
Into the final few hundred metres and with just seconds between the two groups, the fast chasing pack launched their sprint with Ewan and Van Aert leading the charge. As Kragh Andersen faded, Stuyven kicked to the line. Despite Ewan, Van Aert and Sagan closing quickly, the Trek-Segafredo rider held them off in fine fashion to win the first monument of his career. Caleb Ewan finished second for the second time, (he finished behind Nibali in 2018), with Van Aert crossing the line in third.
Here's our Milan-San Remo 2021 gallery.
This photo was not taken at a decisive moment of the race...
Mathieu van der Poel back wearing white shorts...
Staying focused throughout the 300km at MSR is crucial in preserving energy and staying upright.
The INEOS Grenadiers bossing the front of the peloton in the lead-up to the Poggio.
Jasper Stuyven celebrates as Caleb Ewan, Wout Van Aert and Peter Sagan just miss out.
What it takes to win a monument.
Jasper Stuyven celebrates the first monument of his career.
Images: Presse Sports / Offside