March 19, 2016

SAN REMO, Italy (AP) Arnaud Demare of France recovered from a crash to win the Milan-San Remo classic on Saturday, as another crash in the closing stages put paid to several riders' chances.

Demare avoided the chaos in the final meters to win a bunch sprint by half a bike length over Ben Swift of England and Jurgen Roelandts of Belgium.

Fernando Gaviria of Colombia, one of the favorites, fell in the final bend, knocking world champion Peter Sagan off his line. Demare's compatriot Nacer Bouhanni's bike chain cruelly came off with the line in sight, and he finished fourth.

There were other crashes in the latter stages, including one which Demare was caught up in, 30 kilometers (19 miles) from the end.

''This is incredible. There are days like this one in which everything works despite the occasional hiccup, like crashing at the bottom of the Cipressa,'' Demare said.

''I made it across at the bottom of the Poggio, and the entire way I felt fantastic. I became the under-23 world champion in similar conditions after crashing. I'm delighted to win Milan-San Remo. This is a big one and has been running for over a century. It's extraordinary. I'm extremely happy.''

He's the first French winner in 21 years.

The longest professional one-day race was lengthened still further, to 295 kilometers (183 miles), by an enforced nine-kilometer detour on the motorway after a landslide on the original course.

There was a break of 11 riders up front for most of the day but the last of the escapees was caught with 24 kilometers remaining.

Another break on the Cipressa was also eventually chased down and the group was together on the final climb up the Poggio.

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