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Van Aert edges Alaphilippe in tight Milan-Sanremo finish

SANREMO, Italy (Reuters) - Belgian Wout van Aert won the Milan-Sanremo ‘Monument’ classic, beating defending champion Julian Alaphilippe of France in a tight sprint finish after 305km on Saturday.

FILE PHOTO: Cycling - Tour de France - The 217.5-km Stage 10 from Saint-Flour to Albi - July 15, 2019 - Team Jumbo-Visma rider Wout Van Aert of Belgium wins the stage. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes

Team Jumbo-Visma rider Van Aert, who won the Strade Bianche classic last Saturday, was the only rider able to follow Alaphilippe’s brutal attack in the ascent to the Poggio, some seven km from the finish.

Australian Michael Matthews took third place.

The race was scheduled for mid-March but was postponed due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Van Aert could barely hold Alaphilippe’s wheel at the top of the Poggio but he managed to rein in the Deceuninck-Quick Step rider in the descent.

The Frenchman played it smart in the final straight, letting Van Aert start the sprint, but the Belgian eventually had a little more left in the engine on the Via Roma.

“On the Poggio I was on the limit. Alaphilippe went earlier than me and I could barely hold his wheel,” said Van Aert.

“I had to give everything to come back in the descent. He played the sprint good, too.”

Alaphilippe said the best man on the day had won.

“I’m disappointed but on the other hand I gave everything and Wout deserves his victory,” he said.

“I’m happy to be back in shape. Being on the podium in Sanremo is a testament to that.”

Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Ken Ferris

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