Before 'La Classica di Primavera', Europcar directeur sportif Sebastien Joly was upbeat about the adverse weather forecast for the Sunday showdown.
"The rain? It's not a problem for us. Andy Flickinger [the team's second DS for the first of cycling's five 'Monuments'] and I talked to the riders about it just now and, according to them, the rain and the cold will allow them to do some real damage before the finish line. Some of our riders are used to hard weather conditions so it's almost an advantage."
Nothing could have prepared the riders for what eventually did happen, however. With heavy snow fall on the Passo del Turchino, the race was neutralised after 117km at Ovada with the riders entering team buses with layers of solid ice on their helmets for a two-hour transfer to the Ligurian coast. As well as the Turchino Pass, the famous climb of La Manie was taken off the menu, with the race restarting 126.5km from the finish in the town of Cogeleto.
An initial six-man break were allowed to set off with the same 7'10" advantage they took into the enforced break – but the escapees were all caught with 30km remaining ahead of the Cipressa climb.
Thomas Voeckler, fifth in Liege-Bastogne-Liege and fourth in Amstel Gold last year, and 2012 Paris-Roubaix runner-up Sebastien Turgot both rode on the front of the main pack as the race entered its decisive phase.
A six-man select break formed around favourites Peter Sagan (Cannondale) and Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Nissan) with the young German sprinter Gerald Ciolek taking the surprise win for his new team, MTN-Qhubeka. Turgot finished in the main chasing pack in 15th place, 14 seconds down on the leaders. The rider from Limoges was the second-best placed Frenchman, with Omega Pharma-QuickStep's Sylvain Chavanel just missing out on the podium in fourth.
"We were not interested in being in the first break in a race in which the main battle was always going to be against the cold and the elements more than anything else," said Joly. "The goal was to protect our two leaders and we pulled that off very well."
The shortened route of what is usually the longest one-day classic in the cycling calendar meant that the 2013 Milan-San Remo parcours was cut by 53 kilometres to 245 kilometres – with an enforced two-hour break for transfers.
"During the last 15 kilometres before the break at Ovada the sides of the road were covered with a lot of snow. The buses were also covered in snow. The conditions were extreme," stressed Joly.
Italian Davide Malacarne also finished in the main chasing group in 26th place, a handful of seconds ahead of Vincent Jerome, who came home in 39th.
Despite showing early promise, Voeckler struggled over the Cipressa and Poggio climbs to finish 13 minutes off the pace. Bjorn Thurau finished almost 12 minutes down, while Yohann Gene, David Veilleux and Jerome Cousin did not complete the race.