Cavendish landed his second Italian win in a week
Great Britain's Mark Cavendish snatched a surprise photo-finish win in the Milan to San Remo Classic.
Cavendish, who took the final stage of the Tirreno-Adriatico race this week, narrowly outpaced Germany's Heinrich Haussler in the final straight.
It had been thought that several ascents along the 185-mile route would sap the 23-year-old's sprinting power.
But once the leaders were reeled in, the Columbia team rider tracked Haussler's burst before sneaking past.
Cavendish's team-mate George Hincapie led him into the closing stretch as Haussler turned on the power with a quarter of a mile to go.
But the 23-year-old's dogged pursuit gradually closed the gap and earned him the lead just feet from the line.
"It's the most beautiful day of my life. I didn't expect to win. I couldn't dream of anything better," said Cavendish.
"Hincapie helped me enormously, but the whole team stayed with me on the climbs. When Haussler broke away at top speed I was scared, but it makes the victory even sweeter."
Cavendish is the second British rider to win cycling's premier one-day race after Tom Simpson's victory in 1964.
Norwegian Thor Hushovd followed the pair home in third, while
, in his first European race since making his comeback, faded out of contention on an uphill climb shortly before the finish.
will miss several major races after suffering fractures and fluid between his lungs and ribs in a crash during the Milan-St Remo.
The 35-year-old, who has won two Tour de France stages, will miss the Tour of Flanders, the Amstel Gold Race and Paris-Roubaix, the Queen of the Classics he won in 2007.